Wrestling with God: Finding Hope and Meaning in Our Daily Struggles to Be Human

Wrestling with God: Finding Hope and Meaning in Our Daily Struggles to Be Human

by Ronald Rolheiser


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The bestselling author of The Holy Longing provides an inspiring message of hope and perseverance for all of us struggling with our faith in tumultuous times
The last few decades have rapidly birthed a modern world that would have been unrecognizable fifty years ago. As long-held beliefs on love, faith, and God are challenged by the aggregate of changes that have overhauled our world, many of us are left feeling confused and uncertain while old norms are challenged and redefined at breakneck speed.

In Wrestling with God, Ronald Rolheiser offers a steady and inspiring voice to help us avow and understand our faith in a world where nothing seems solid or permanent. Drawing from his own life experience, as well as a storehouse of literary, psychological, and theological insights, the beloved author of Sacred Fire examines the fears and doubts that challenge us. It is in these struggles to find meaning, that Rolheiser lays out a path for faith in a world struggling to find faith, but perhaps more important, he helps us find our own rhythm within which to walk that path.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804139472
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 188,371
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

RONALD ROLHEISER, O.M.I., is a specialist in the fields of spirituality and systematic theology. His regular column in the Catholic Herald is featured in newspapers in five different countries. He is the author of the prizewinning The Restless Heart as well as Forgotten Amongst the Lilies.

Read an Excerpt


In 1970 Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock, in which he argued that a person born in the year 1900 who lived until 1970 would see more changes in his or her life than someone who had lived through the previous nineteen hundred years. Hard to believe, but no doubt true.

But Toffler wrote that book nearly fifty years ago. The last few decades have brought about changes in our lives that we could not even have imagined in the 1970s. The Internet and an ever-exploding information technology have put a smartphone or a computer into the hands of almost everyone on this planet. Thousands of television channels and more than a billion websites bring the whole world to our living rooms and bedrooms. Globalization has reshaped virtually all of our communities in terms of ethnicity, culture, and religion. The ever-evolving sexual revolution has radically altered how our world sees love, commitment, marriage, and family. Political and religious extremism polarizes our communities and countries and encourages us to live in fear. Both faith and church attendance have fallen sharply in the last eighty years, leaving more people uncertain about what they believe in and fewer people walking through church doors.

We are like pioneers settling a new world nobody has lived in before. Our task, of course, is not just to survive, but to somehow thrive, flourish, and find meaning, happiness, and, not least, faith—something to believe in and to commit ourselves to in a world where nothing seems solid or permanent.

This quest sets before us a whole range of new challenges in terms of how we understand life, love, sexuality, family, country, religion, faith, and God. Traditionally, people looked to their churches for guidance on how to meet new challenges. Today, for all kinds of reasons, both good and bad, fewer people are turning to religion for answers. A certain distrust of churches seems to be part of our cultural ethos, and so more people are leaning on their own instincts and resources to sort through life’s big questions.

For the most part this search is honest, but seeking the road of faith and meaning without the classical road maps is fraught with almost insurmountable obstacles, namely, a culture that too easily surrenders to personal comfort, narcissism, greed, grandiosity, paranoia, fear, exclusivity, bitterness, unforgiveness, superficiality, pseudosophistication, blindness to inequality, and an empirical view of reality. For too many people today, nothing is under-the-counter, and mystery and faith are either ignored or viewed negatively as a naïveté. But we all need a faith, so in such a situation ideologies of all sorts quickly fill the void and become our faith. Sadly, we are mostly blind to this fact and, more unfortunate still, we unconsciously sacralize these ideologies with the exact reverence and obedience that a real faith asks of us. Soon enough they become our religion.

I say this sympathetically. We’re not a bad people. In our intent, we’re sincere, but no ideology carries the wisdom, balance, and challenge found in the great religious traditions, in the scriptures, in Jesus, and in what is best in our churches. A faith journey without a road map can lead us to many dead ends. God, of course, is infinitely patient and will no doubt look upon us when we have missed yet another turn and with forebearance say, “Recalculating!” My faith believes that all honest people will eventually find their way home, but I also believe that we can avoid a lot of blind alleys by seeking guidance from the deep wells of religious tradition. We have made ourselves religious orphans, partly out of sincerity and partly out of pride, and this has landed us in a place where we no longer have a belief, a faith, or a narrative big enough to give us hope beyond simple optimism.

I attempt in this book to provide a certain compass, a road map, a GPS, to help us in our search for not only meaning and faith but also simply a greater steadiness in life. It is written from a Christian perspective, but you needn’t be a Christian or even a person of explicit faith to read it and be open to its counsel. Faith is not to be confused with ideas about faith. Faith is deeper than religion and should not be identified with any one creed. As Jesus himself says, those who do the will of God on earth are the ones who have real faith. An explicit faith is not always needed to get to heaven or to attain happiness this side of eternity. Yet the great religious traditions still offer invaluable insight into how we might journey in faith and go about searching for life, meaning, steadiness, and flourishing.

This book was written with three audiences in mind: those who are unsure of what they believe in but are searching for meaning, steadiness, and some kind of faith to live by; religious persons who are wrestling with the answers that their churches once gave them, are finding them lacking, but still want those same answers to meet the challenges of their present lives; and those who want to deepen their faith and enter more deliberately and intentionally into the more adult challenges into which authentic faith invites us.

Real faith is not a set of answers; rather, it leaves us in mystery, in longing, in desire, but open to something bigger. Real faith gets us in touch with what the poet Anne Sexton once called that “gnawing pestilential rat” inside us. Our deepest desire is a gnawing disquiet inside us, a longing for Someone big enough to embrace our questions and hold our doubts.

Ronald Rolheiser
San Antonio, Texas
August 1, 2017

Table of Contents

Preface 13

Chapter 1 Wrestling for Self-Understanding Within a Complex Nature 19

Chapter 2 Wrestling with Our Erotic Energies 45

Chapter 3 Wrestling with Fear 63

Chapter 4 Wrestling with the Gospel Mandate to Reach Out to the Poor 79

Chapter 5 Wrestling with Faith and Doubt 99

Chapter 6 Wrestling with God 127

Chapter 7 Wrestling for Faith Within a Complex Culture 157

Chapter 8 Some Guidelines for the Long Haul 175

A Study Guide 197

Acknowledgments 215

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