You face unlimited distractions that keep you from looking at yourself and your circumstances, don’t you? You use these things’ like work, sports, food, sex, or stuff’to try and meet legitimate needs in unhealthy ways. In other words, when you crave something you know isn’t good for you, you do so because you’re using it as a substitute for something you legitimately need but that you find has been difficult to acquire or achieve.
For example, men with an insatiable desire for status or possessions often have an unmet need for love but are afraid to take the risks that intimate relationships require. Instead they invest their time, money, and energy in inanimate objects’things that cannot surprise, disappoint, or reject them. Other men continually demand perfection in others. More often than not, they’re struggling with their own feelings of inferiority’and ultimately, with their own need to be forgiven.
Any intense ‘need’ or desire for a particular activity or relationship is a warning flag that you need to look at it more carefully. You may not know you’re using that activity or relationship as a substitute, but if the thought of losing it makes you fearful, you need to explore the reason why.
My point, men, is this: You have legitimate needs. And an important part of seeing and living the truth is finding out what those true needs really are and realizing that your heart won’t be satisfied by counterfeit substitutes.
When Esther started dating Robert, she felt there was something different about him. He was quiet and stoic, and never got excited about too much of anything except when it came to his favorite West Texas football team. When they were playing, he became a different person, full of energy and expression. But other than those games, very little sound or passion came from Robert.
One day Robert took Esther out on a ski boat. He had flowers and wine. And after dinner he held her hand, and while processing said three words she’d never hear again, ‘I love you.’ Esther said yes to a life of quiet devotion.
Don’t get me wrong: Robert was a good man. He was faithful, hardworking, and generous with his wife. He cared for her when she was sick and listened intently when she told him of things that happened to her. But until the day he died, he’d only said, ‘I love you’ one time’the night he proposed to her.
Robert’s an extreme case of a man’s difficulty in expressing himself. But Esther and Robert’s story isn’t that far out when we consider the number of men who struggle to communicate with the women in their lives.
Do you choose to express you feelings by working hard, remaining faithful, and being a good father and husband? Your wife may appreciate these efforts. But remember: she still longs to hear you verbalize not only your love but also what you think about and feel.
David Sper writes in his book Designed for Desire, ‘The root of all sexual perversions and immorality begins with the desire to relieve one’s pain with pleasure.’ It’s natural for us to be seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. So when pain doesn’t go away when we try to satisfy our cravings, we seek bigger and bigger pleasures to satisfy them ‘ to override and erase our pain.
Every sin is the result of an appetite going astray and seeking fulfillment in something other than what God intended. First, we experience that something is missing inside. Then we begin seeking ways to compensate for the void. This becomes especially destructive when we try filling an emotional or spiritual void with something physical.
We want to believe the reason our appetites get out of control is that we’re deprived of something we really need. We may say, ‘If I just had enough money to pay my bills, I wouldn’t need to drink like this.’ Or, ‘If I had someone to love me, I wouldn’t need pornography.’ Harry Schaumburg writes, ‘When people seek a taste of heaven by their own means, they create a living hell of uncontrollable desires.’ He’s absolutely right!
Men, seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness is something you need to learn how to do. The Bible tells us to do it first! Otherwise, you’ll misdiagnose your problem and seek the solution in sin. Learn to direct your temptation to a redemptive end by letting it drive you to Christ.