Wrestling with God

by Rick Diamond, Relevant Books, 2003, 172 pages.
Reviewed by Jack Heppner.

“Wrestling with God” is written for those who have already become aware that most of the religious and cultural institutions of past generations do not connect to many postmoderns in life-giving ways. At the same time, it represents a challenge to the many who continue to cling to outdated and simplistic formulations that promise success and easy answers to life’s dilemmas.

Whether readers are already aware that something is wrong or suppose that everything is right in God’s wonderful world, Diamond challenges all to wake up to the realities that confront our contemporary situation. But he is quick to note that waking up and paying attention is a difficult thing because people would rather die than think…If you make people think they are thinking, they will love you. If you really make them think, they will hate you. (p. 34) That is so because careful attention to the way things are will inevitably expose the shallowness of most of what our lives are built upon.

Indeed, says Diamond, our entire culture is trying to keep us asleep. On the religious level, easy answers are pre-packaged to help make perfect sense of everything that happens – even if in the process we have to make God into a monster. And on the cultural level we are asked to simply believe that having more “stuff” will fill the emptiness a lonely society generates. Unfortunately most of us will not awaken unless we receive some kind of a jolt, experience a crisis or are fortunate enough to have teachers who prod us into seeing more clearly.

However, once we have begun waking up, claims Diamond, we must, like Jesus, go to the desert alone to find out who we really are. If you don’t end up in the desert, it is likely that you are still half-asleep. That is so because once we are stripped of all our easy formulas and the filters that keep realities out we will know instinctively that there are demons and Shadows to confront and surface layers of our lives to strip back. It is in the desert that we come to recognize that Jesus is not angry because we must fight demons and Shadows, but he is angry with those who refuse to admit that they have anything to struggle with.

To find our way through the desert it is imperative, says Diamond, that we learn to trust somebody or something. But we are conditioned by church and society not to be vulnerable, a prerequisite for trust to become active. We are trained to have everything under control – and it surely helps if we are rich, powerful and right. But trust implies weakness and unknowing, notions that are hard to maintain in a triumphalistic worldview. When we place our trust in Jesus in the context of the desert we find anything but predictability, as we have often been led to believe.

Jesus is wild, amazing, unpredictable. He touches people he shouldn’t; He weeps with whores and dances with poor people. He Heals what is broken. And he doesn’t talk an awful lot about doctrine. Instead, He talks a lot about faith – the kind that means you step out into the unknown. (p. 132)

Persons who have not been to the desert themselves, find that such a Jesus does not fit into their world. A Jesus who broke every rule and moral code he could find. A Jesus who is a threat to almost everything – except those who are broken, lost and open. A Jesus who refuses to see himself as an answer-giver – he only answered three of the 183 questions he was asked in the recorded Gospels. Diamond challenges his readers to embrace our struggles, because in doing so we make them holy.

To wrestle with God breaks us and heals us. It gives us a new name. It brings us back home – but not to the same mess we left. (p. 161)

This book will be highly disturbing to readers who have most everything figured out. As a matter of fact reading it could be like a tornado kicking them in their back sides – a kick that will send them sprawling in the desert. If that happens, I am sure Rick Diamond would be pleased.