Choosing to Not Run From Desperation

It was hot and humid. Our family of five had just joined YWAM ministry staff and purchased an old mobile home in East Texas. But, within a few weeks, the worn central air conditioner died. The repairman said it would take at least $1200 to replace it. At that time, we barely had money to put gas in our car and buy food. Doubts bubbled up and then plagued us over whether we had really heard God when we joined the mission and committed to “live by faith.” Working in YWAM was turning out to be more difficult than we thought. Everything felt so hard—living circumstances, ministry expectations, working relationships. Things were not coming together as I believed they should. My wife was giving me the look that said, “It’s the last straw. I can’t do this anymore.” And did I mention that it gets hot and humid in East Texas?

This went on for months. Self-condemnation weighed heavily. I was a terrible husband, father and missionary, probably ruining my family. I sent out a letter to our friends and supporters asking for help with our A/C unit, but in the end received only $25. And just as the heat of summer was intensifying and we were discussing leaving the mission, one more unexpected thing happened.

We were crying together one sultry evening when our air conditioner suddenly started working. At first we thought it was the final gasp before oblivion, a closing taunt. But days, then weeks went by with the central unit faithfully purring and cooling our little home. Eight years later when God provided a bigger house, that very same A/C unit, with no mechanical intervention, was still producing cold air!

A lesson learned: God heals air conditioners.

Other Lessons

This little miracle became a reference point for us. Not only did we see that God provides, we saw that He doesn’t always do things the way we think He should. In addition, I heard Him saying that He was with us and that circumstances were never to be what defined our identity and calling—a lesson I’m still working to fully apply. 

But what shook me the most was the realization that God uses seasons of desperation to shape and show us who He is. Desperation has the potential to purify us of that which distracts and prevents us from seeing God’s true character. It can help me determine what’s truly important. When pursuing God, desperation is my friend.

As a kid, I remember being held under water at a lake by an older and stronger cousin who thought it funny to see me thrash about. My burning lungs turned me into a wild child. By the time he released my head, his arms were scratched and bleeding. Desperation focused all my thoughts and energy on the one thing I suddenly knew was most important: oxygen.

God is my oxygen. And I so often don’t see that reality. He simply wants me to know it and seek life from Him—His life—above all else.

What Precedes a Miracle?

Look through the stories recorded in the New Testament Gospels. What did all the recipients of Jesus’ miracles have in common? 

  • Take the man with leprosy mentioned in Mark 1:40-42. In a society with laws prohibiting those with “unclean” skin diseases approaching those who were well, this man boldly came close to Jesus and asked to be healed. What drove him? Desperation for companionship and family connections.
  • There was Jairus, the synagogue ruler who dropped all Jewish-religious-leader pretensions and fell on his knees begging Jesus to heal his daughter (Mark 5:21-43). He was desperate to keep his little girl alive.
  • There’s the story of the blind men calling out to Jesus when the crowds around were telling them to be quiet. They were desperate for a more dignified way of life where they could see (Matthew 20:29-33).
  • And there’s the Syro-Phoenician woman, intensely desiring her daughter’s freedom and yet not put-off by what sounded like harsh comments from Jesus (Mark 7:27).
  • They all ended up receiving something, though maybe not in the way they expected. When hope in everything else was gone, they reached deep into their hearts and found a tiny mustard seed of faith that was enough to push them toward Jesus.

Content with “Junk Food”?

Then there are Jesus’ words: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6 ESV). Is there anyone who enjoys feeling hungry or thirsty, especially if they have no idea when they’re going to get relief? On the contrary, we work hard to avoid these sensations. To be intensely hungry is something, it seems, no decent person should wish on another. Yet Jesus said this kind of desperation opens the door for true blessing. Seasons of hungering and thirsting come before the blessing of long-term satisfaction. And He knows what our souls are TRULY hungry for, more than we know ourselves.

But to prevent the desperate feeling from becoming too intense, we often give up. We find “another way,” or convince ourselves that we’ve been expecting too much from God, or even decide to stop believing in Him altogether. Shifting to something other than what God has promised takes our minds off our desperate state and provides relief, at least for the short-term.

 We settle. 

Rather than waiting for the sumptuously nutritious meal we’ve been offered, we satisfy ourselves with a quick fix—the spiritual equivalent of junk food. It takes the edge off our hunger but leaves us sickly and dull to the things of God. We never taste the goodness of what our Heavenly Father had in mind, and we stop hungering for His will. We relieve our stress by feeling a little more in-control of our lives, but at what price? No longer hungry, we’ve chosen the path of spiritual malnourishment.

Hold On!

Christine and I were ready to give up and take the “junk-food” option. We were confused, depressed, and feeling sorry for ourselves. Our broken air conditioner represented everything that felt wrong and too hard in our lives. It also confirmed our feelings that trying to obey God wasn’t working. We desired relief from the discomfort more than the fulfillment of God’s word. Life was looking easier and tastier in another “food line”—which happened to be any other place than where we were at the moment.

Little did we realize that the malfunctioning air unit was an opportunity to see God and live our lives in a new life-giving way. It was something we had been praying for but couldn’t see it as an answer because it was not packaged the way we expected. We just had to choose to not give up. Authentic nourishing food was coming!

Perseverance is not learned in a classroom or from a book. Yet it is one of the most important qualities of a Jesus follower. You just have to do it! Many of the most wonderful things God has for you are still in the future. You can let today’s feelings of confusion, emptiness, or lack lead you to hunger even more for what He has promised. Or you can let them derail you from the track He has you on, and try to satisfy yourself with “food” of your own making. 

You get to choose how to respond to the moments and seasons of desperation. But no matter how hard things feel today, He’s there to nourish you if you’ll just hold on and not run away.

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is get up in the morning, put your clothes on, and take the next step. The refreshing air of His presence is coming. Choose to show up for what God has for you today and ready yourself for the good He has prepared for your future.

Response:

  • What has God promised that I’ve given up on or no longer have a hunger for?
  • Where in my life do I want to give up? What would it take to go on another day?
  • When in my life has desperation pushed me away from God? When has it taken me closer to Him? What makes the difference?
  • Jesus, what do you want to speak to me today in my place of desperation?

(Edited and reposted from December 4, 2019)

One Comment on “Choosing to Not Run From Desperation

  1. Hi Jeff This shows we need to trust God in all things. He is always there for us. Thank you. Sharon

    Like

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