What I Really Need Most
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)
Making a decision to follow Jesus over 30 years ago changed just about everything in my life; I truly desired to follow Jesus with all of my heart, and the people closest to me began to notice a change almost immediately. However, there was one area of my life that seemed to actually get worse instead of better. I secretly struggled with my sexuality, and in the age of AIDS in a small Midwest community with a powerful religious identity and parents who were well-known in the community (my mom through her work with Coffee Break and the Crisis Pregnancy Center, my father as a beloved teacher at the Christian High School) it was a secret that hung above my head like an invisible gallows. However, I was a Christian, and being a Christian meant God would take away my problems if I was strong enough in my faith!
It will come as no surprise that my theory about God taking away all my problems didn’t come to pass (at least not in the ways I thought God would work). As I entered my college years, it seemed “everyone” (lie #1) was happily coupled and heading towards a life of contented fulfillment via marriage, and there I was, all alone… It seemed “everyone” else knew who they were, and where they were going; who was I? What was God’s plan, and how could I really be a Christian if I wasn’t victorious over my struggles? Slowly I began taking matters into my own hands, thinking that maybe a little taste of my forbidden fruit might “scratch the itch” just long enough to get me by until my healing finally came. Instead I opened a Pandora’s box of feelings and emotions I couldn’t control, and by the summer of 1995 I gave in to the darkness completely.
Pain is a funny thing, isn’t it? It can drive us towards our Savior or trick us into trying to figure out things for ourselves, or abandon Jesus altogether. Aren’t we glad Jesus doesn’t abandon us?!?
Those of you following the life of Lysa TerKeurst know she’s been on a very difficult path, one filled with pain, disappointment, and confusion. In her devotional “What I Really Need Most,” she says:
In Proverbs 13:12 we’re told, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Deferred in this verse refers to a hopeless situation that feels long and drawn out. It’s the seemingly unending and disappointing kind of season that can leave us tempted to look at our lives and question, Why is God withholding this from me? Since He’s not intervening, I’ll just try to fix it myself in my way.
That’s the choice I made almost 25 years ago - in the absence of the answer I thought I needed and deserved, I went my own way, which sadly led to more pain and suffering (some of the scars I still deal with to this day). I get it though; when the agony and suffering of this life is literally screaming in your ears 24/7, it seems like the right thing to do - so if you’ve gone there, or are there right now, I make no judgments because I’ve been there too.
So what’s the answer? Lysa sums it up in one word we all know well - trust. I loved this statement from Lysa - We don’t have to know the plan to trust there is a plan. We don’t have to feel good to trust there is good coming. We don’t have to see evidence of changes to trust that it won’t always be this hard.
I still can’t help but smile when I think about the way God ultimately brought about the changes I desired - it happened one day in February of 2009, when I was wrestling with God while washing dishes in my Seattle flat. In a moment of clarity I prayed, “Father, I’ve done everything I know to do to try to change this part of my life, and I can’t. I surrender this to you; I promise to honor you with my life and sexuality - if that means a life of celibacy and intimacy with you, I’m ok with that. If change is going to happen, I trust you to do it.” For the first time in decades I felt God’s shalom - and then 2 weeks later I met the woman who would become my wife!
A concerned friend once told me, “Ryan, you don’t have to find the answer for everything.” She was right. Sometimes we just need to stop, drop our desire to control, and roll into the arms of our Savior.