“Often the very desires that lead to our ruin start as healthy longings.” We begin our young lives wanting love, affirmation, attention, nurturing, care, and the like. Then we are raised by less-than-perfect people who are unable, or sometimes unwilling, to meet our needs for these things. At this point, we are faced with a choice: where will we turn to have our needs met? And while we’re deciding where to turn, we are believing that these desires are good, just misguided and need to be met in healthy ways. So, we are determined find a different healthy way. And while there are “…certainly natural desires, there are no neutral ones…”
We are given plenty of options to fulfill our needs. For instance, we can find other people to give us what we crave. These people can be healthy (caring, loving, selfless) or unhealthy (preoccupied, selfish or needy themselves). Or perhaps we think no I don’t need people to meet our needs because they will fail us so we don’t depend on them. I know I have said it is better to not ask and not receive than to ask and not receive. Unfortunately, this attitude will inevitably lead us to express our needs in ways like manipulation, addiction, control, or isolation.
Or maybe it’s not people we have a problem with; instead we look to substances like food, alcohol legal or illegal drugs to make us feel fulfilled. Or we might try doing things like engaging in exercise/sports (sometimes excessively), sex (sometimes excessively), masturbation, pornography, playing video/computer games, playing musical instruments, or simply working a lot. Some of these activities in-and-of themselves can be good, but when performed to fill a need that should be met elsewhere, then they become not so good. So the issue is motivation. Our desires can become excessive turning it into lust, which is an insatiable desire.
So we turned to people or things and then we were left probably worse off than when we started. Now the grumbling begins. Paul Tripp says, “Grumbling is the background drone of a discontented heart.” Wilkerson says, “A grumbling heart under deprivation becomes a greedy heart under abundance.” So, consider these three questions that Wilkerson also asks.
“Anger makes a judgment that something is wrong, unfair, unjust” or just stupid. We feel entitled to have the people closest to us meet our needs so we complain when we don’t get it. For instance a husband might feel entitled to sex from his wife and the wife might feel entitled to affection from her husband. Anxiety can appear in many forms from preoccupation, hypersensitivity, perfectionism or at the extreme paralyzing anxiety and phobia. Anxiety makes us second-guess ourselves, worries there’s never enough of whatever brings us comfort (food, “money, attention, time, affection, leisure or success.”) We sit on the edge wondering what we will lose next. Escape is interesting because when it’s healthy, it should bring us back to reality – not keep us from it. “If you find yourself regularly escaping, what are you running from? What is difficult, uncomfortable, or painful that you want to avoid?” Some of us have had very difficult pasts and we can feel entitled to some relief from the suffering we’ve endured.
When God sent the Israelites into the wilderness, “It was not just a test to see if they could follow instructions but a test to see if their hearts were inclined to be in covenant people.” They had to trust him each day for food and water. If they tried to keep uneaten manna overnight it would be rotten in the morning. We can empathize with them thinking, it’s not bad if they wanted to try to provide for their family or to ensure there was some in savings. But God asked them to trust him for their food, so it should a lack of faith and trust instead of good stewardship because their motivation was based in fear (on their terms), not faith (on God’s terms).
Unfortunately, “… we cannot simply will ourselves to be satisfied in Jesus.” We can’t have an appetite for him when we are be sated with other people or things. Sometimes even our cries for help are actually just “more selfish demands for temporal satisfaction…” So know that “A sinful desire is never satisfied.” That “we must cultivate an appetite for Christ, who alone is meant to satisfy our souls.” And not to entertain any temptations. We sometimes sit back as temptation comes our way and look at it “… as if it was no big deal”, but it allows a conversation to occur that gives an opportunity to be drawn in. We say we want freedom, yet we toy with what starves our freedom.
(All unmarked quotes are from Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry” by Mike Wilkerson.)