Catholic author and counselor Gregory Popcak’s new book, Broken Gods: Hope, Healing and the 7 Longings of the Human Heart (Image Books), probes into the deepest and even darkest desires of the human heart, unveiling what God wants us to know about our ultimate destiny and revealing a commonsense approach to fulfilling our true purpose in life.
Popcak offered the Register an inside look at this book before its release this June.
Dr. Popcak, please introduce your new book. What inspired you to write it, and how do you think it will inspire Catholics to view their ultimate destiny in a new way?
The ideas in this book — ideas that are widely acknowledged by faithful Catholic theologians but almost completely unknown to Catholic laypeople — completely changes the idea of what it means to be a Christian and why we follow Jesus in the first place.
Christians often talk about how we’re “broken” and how we need to be saved, but that doesn’t resonate with a lot of people. They think Christians mean that people are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad creatures and that God wants us to sit around all day in our awfulness feeling awful about ourselves. But that’s not it at all! Human beings are wonderful creatures! God himself pronounced us “very good” (Genesis 1:30) at the beginning of time.
And yet, as good as we are, we were made for so much more. We were made to be “gods” — perfect, immortal, utterly confident in who we were, where we were going and how we were going to get there.
Jesus himself says so in John 10:34, and the Catechism affirms it (460). Our first parents’ sin ripped all of that away from us, and we became, in a sense, “broken gods” — separated, lost in the cosmos, alone, naked and ashamed.
But God never gave up on his original plan for us, and he continues to work through all time and space to complete in us a work so wonderful we can’t even begin to imagine it. He intends to restore the divine light within us and make us the “gods” we were always meant to be.
In what ways do you practically approach this topic in your book, helping people bridge the gap between their brokenness and who God desires them to become?
We’ve all had the experience of going to confession and repeating the same sins, over and over. We hate ourselves for it. We feel guilty about it, and yet we’re powerless to stop it. Why? Because we’re going about the healing process in an entirely wrongheaded way.
Each sin, especially the deadly sins, represents a distorted attempt to fulfill one of the seven divine longings that God has built into every human heart. If we try to simply “not sin,” we also frustrate the longing that drives the sin in the first place, eventually causing us to explode and indulge again and again.
By contrast, if we simply indulge the sin out of frustration, we become obsessed with the sin because we never actually satisfy the underlying need driving it, and you can never get enough of what you don’t really want.
The best way to break this cycle of failure and cooperate with God’s plan to make us “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” is to identify the divine longing that drives the sinful behavior, embrace it and find Godly ways to satisfy the longing.
Broken Gods walks readers through this process step-by-step so they can stop running from their sins and start running toward their ultimate destiny.
You have written a number of books on a variety of topics. What is one thing that you find particularly unique about Broken Gods?
In retrospect, it seems kind of crazy to try to write a self-help book that explores the doctrine of divinization. But I think it really needed to be done. In my counseling work, I encounter so many people who are so tired of making the same mistakes over and over again, who are so frustrated with themselves (and maybe more than a little angry at God for “leaving them” in this mess) and feel so hopeless that they can ever change.
The techniques I teach in Broken Gods help people leave all that behind.
Readers will learn to love the parts of themselves they like the least and discover how to allow God to transform those broken parts into both occasions for hope and the engines of their ultimate perfection in Christ.
What message would you like to deliver to those who are considering reading the book?
Broken Gods isn’t just another self-help book. It reveals the stunning truth that God wants to satisfy every longing of our hearts in ways that both lead to total fulfillment in this life and ultimate fulfillment in the next. I really believe that in Broken Gods readers will find a treasure map that leads to hope for weary hearts, joy for troubled times and strength to live every part of their lives more abundantly.
Katie Warner writes from California and is the author of the upcoming book Head & Heart. Her website is CatholicKatie.com.