Wrestling with God: Struggling to Make Sense of the World

Faith in God has not come easy for everybody.  The Scriptures themselves prevent some of God’s chosen people as not only wrestling with faith in God, but in Israel’s case (Genesis 32:24-32), wrestling with God Himself!  Protestant Professor Frances Young offers a brief history of this wrestling with God, which has become a metaphor for the modern humans struggle with faith in a world that often makes no sense.

Abraham offers Isaac

“Our condition is profoundly shaped by modernity. Since the Enlightenment, European culture has been struggling with the question of God. Wrestling with God’s existence or goodness began in earnest with the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Suddenly, for thinkers across Europe, it no longer made sense to speak of a created order ruled by a gracious providence when tens of thousands had apparently died senselessly. This could hardly be the best of all possible worlds, …

The dehumanized and industrialized genocide of the Holocaust not only demonstrated ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ but also called into question the idea of the biblical God who protected his chosen people. The advent of radio and television has revealed the sheer ongoing scale of human suffering and atrocity…  

Dachau Crematorium
Dachau Crematorium

God’s morality is in question, and the best option after Auschwitz appears to be atheism… So, over the past three centuries Europeans have wrestled with a God who turned out to be powerless…  Yet for some, including myself, wrestling with God has been a desperate plea for blessing, hanging in there like Jacob, and getting lamed in the process… My account of patristic interpretation had Gregory (Nazianzus) as its climax because he provides the clue to one way in which this story might speak. In the end it is the creature that is disabled, defeated in the attempt to know God. For the whole nature of God is beyond creaturely comprehension…

For at the heart of that struggle with God is an experience of loss of security and self-sufficiency, of being put in one’s place. In the end it is not that we judge God – rather God judges us; and that implies a need to reconfigure our notions of God. We imagine we are in control, we make up our minds, we decide whether we are religious or not, we choose whether to seek God or not. But the whole point is that we are mere limited creatures, vulnerable, far from in control, certainly not capable of grasping the reality of God…

 Aseitas simply means the power of a being to exist absolutely in virtue of itself, requiring no cause, no other justification for its existence except that its very nature is to exist. There can be only one such Being: that is God. And to say that God exists a se, of and by reason of Himself, is merely to say that God is Being Itself. Ego sum qui sum… Pondering the book of Job, that intense debate about God’s goodness within the Bible, I began to discern that the answer to Job’s questioning was simply the fact that he found himself in God’s presence. In God’s presence all the questions just fade away, as you realize the immensity of the infinite, divine reality with which you are confronted.” (Frances M. Young, Brokenness & Blessing, pp 49-51)

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