Emotional Health•Healing•Recovery • 4 minutes to read
At an early age, I was overwhelmed with anger, feelings of worthlessness, depression, and anxiety. I was bullied by my friends for my weight, music choices, and my faith in Jesus, leading to a deep sense of rejection in my soul. My father’s frequent aggression, outbursts of rage, and dissatisfaction with me led to feelings of inadequacy and fear for my safety. A lack of knowledge of God’s love for me and a lack of security in him led me to greatly fear what would happen when I died.
When I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), life felt close to unbearable. I began to doubt God’s existence, and I feared that he would reject me when I died. For almost a decade I obsessed about going to hell, sometimes praying upwards of twenty times a day asking Jesus to save my soul. I began to wish that I had never been born, because I thought that would have been easier than the torture and fear I experienced on a daily basis. I was caught in a brutal, hopeless, obsessive cycle of fear and suicidal thoughts.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, porn and masturbation entered the picture. I became addicted. I constantly felt ashamed of myself. I hated what I was doing and began to hate myself. But I couldn’t seem to stop no matter how hard I tried. I had developed a cocktail of compulsions that helped me survive the chaos, pain, and stress of life.
For years, I viewed all these issues as problems I just wanted to get rid of. It wasn’t until I began my healing and recovery journey as a young adult that I discovered these things were ultimately not my problems, they were my solutions to survive what I had been through. And not only that, these issues weren’t random, they were signals to be answered. They were signals for legitimate longings and desires that had gone unmet or had been outright rejected. Once I began to understand this, Jesus brought breakthroughs and freedom like never before.
See, God put within all of us desires—or heart longings—that drive everything we do. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Our actions, our thinking, our beliefs, the good choices we make, the bad…all of these are driven by our heart longings.
Throughout the Bible, there are Seven Longings of the heart that are wired in us. We can’t explore all of them (Josh McDowell and I explore them in depth in our new book, Free To Thrive), but some include acceptance, appreciation, the assurance of safety, and the affirmation of our feelings. We were designed for the Garden of Eden, where all of these longings and needs were perfectly met by God, ourselves, and others, and to thrive as a result.
But on this side of Eden, we all experience unmet longings. Rather than being accepted, we experience rejection in all kinds of ways such as abuse, criticism, or people’s disapproval. Rather than feeling safe, we experience danger and threats to our physical, financial, and emotional wellbeing. Rather than having our feelings affirmed, we experience people minimizing or brushing off our hurt, fears, and disappointment.
We are wired to have our Seven Longings fulfilled. When we struggle to find healthy ways to fulfill these longings, we will seek out unhealthy ways, or unwanted behaviors—any thought, belief, or action you’ve tried to stop but can’t. Our unwanted behaviors aren’t random, they’re signals to be answered. They’re signals that we have deeper longings we are attempting to fulfill. We see this throughout the entire Bible.
In Genesis 3, after sinning against God, Adam was naked and afraid so he hid.
In 1 Samuel 21-24, David had unmet longings for safety leading to anxiety when Saul was seeking to kill him.
In Job 3, Job had such unmet longings after losing his family, health, and wealth that he felt so depressed he wished he had never been born.
How do your unmet longings lead to unwanted behaviors? Maybe you:
- get anxious when you fear for your safety or worry about your future.
- watch porn to find pseudo-acceptance or love when you feel rejected or inadequate.
- perform for the approval of others when you feel unwanted or unknown.
Your unmet longings lead to unwanted behaviors. Even in your unwanted behaviors, you are attempting to fulfill your deepest, God-given longings. Yet, these longings will only result in the thriving life that you were created to experience when fulfilled in healthy ways.
So may I encourage you to go beneath the surface by listening to your longings. Ask yourself, “What longing is this feeling, thought, or behavior signaling?” or “Am I feeling rejected rather than accepted, in danger rather than safe, or unseen rather than appreciated?” and “What step can I take to experience the fulfillment of this longing through God and a safe person in my life?”
Oftentimes, two or three of the Seven Longings going unmet will be the most pronounced and bothersome in our present day. This often directly relates to these longings going unmet significantly in the past, which has led to deep caverns of unmet longings.
Thankfully, in his kindness and compassion, God invites us to begin to let go of our unwanted behaviors as we answer their signal. He invites us to begin to experience the fulfillment of what we were looking for all along through him and one another. As we take steps to go deeper into understanding our longings, how they have gone unmet, and how we can experience their fulfillment in the present day, we begin to heal, experience freedom, and truly thrive.
P.S. Ben Bennett will be speaking at the Pure Desire Summit, September 10-11, 2021. To hear him and other great speakers, register now!