Thursday, September 18, 2014

Distinguishing Between Needs and Desires in Marriage

You have some great questions and I am surprised that more readers did not ask them, because they seem so obvious.  You ask:Does God want to meet all our needs, including physical?” {Ken's response on his post about Conflict Resolution.}

You bet, and for that matter God makes a promise to us that He WILL meet ALL of our needs… does He not? But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” {Philippians 4:19} and again, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” {Matthew 6:33-34}.

We do have needs that stem from the physical aspects of our being. We need food, clothing, shelter, sex, and a need for safety. All things related to the physical are true “needs” and if they are not met our existence ceases. There may even be basic psyche needs, such as a certain amount of touch and tender care at a young age for the body and mind to properly develop. These things are true needs.

Fast forward now to an adult and tell me how many true needs outside of the physical realm do you “need” and how many of these things are desires. They may be strong desires. They may feel at times as if you might even die if you cannot get the desire for love and acceptance from others, but in reality these are not needs, but a construct of our own minds often placed there by the world.

Interestingly I was just finishing reading this article when I saw your comments and I recommend you take a moment to read the whole article, and try to digest it. A reader asked me if I had heard of Paul Tripp and the only Paul Tripp that I knew of was an old youth pastor of mine in Florida some 42 years ago. Sure enough, it was the same Paul Tripp and he has some great insight into this issue that you are inquiring about. So I can only assume that God is using this reader and me to bring you to Paul Tripp and his teaching for some reason J.  Isn’t that the way God works sometimes?

Paul Tripp writes ~

“But in a fallen world, where life doesn’t operate the way it should, there’s a difference between need and desire. Need means essential for life; desire means a strong feeling of want. Many of our desires aren’t wrong, as long as they don't rule us, but they’re simply not needs.”

“Do you see how dangerous this concept of ‘need’ can be? If you name something as a need that’s simply a desire, it can dramatically alter your life. You’ll feel entitled to it, you’ll demand it, and you’ll judge the love of others by their ability to provide it."

“It’s always best to allow your Heavenly Father to define what you need. Trust the Bible; you’re in good hands when it comes to your family privileges. As an adopted child of God, you’re entitled to heavenly grace as an heir of Christ" {Romans 8:16-17}.

Read the rest of the article, but the bottom line of my message is not to make anyone feel that their desires are all wrong, for they are not. But when we classify them as “needs” we then set ourselves up as entitled to have these desires be met by others, when in reality God may desire to meet those seeming needs another way, to meet them Himself, or remove them completely.

For many years I heard Lori say to me, "I need an intimate relationship!” I said, “Yes! I need one too, so what can I do to help us get there.” What we did not know at the time was that neither of us could fill the other's desires until we first gave up our own individual sense of what we needed from the other person and instead went about trying to please our spouse. It is in giving and doing for God and others that we live out our true identity as New Creatures in Christ, alive in Christ and complete in Him.

"Did you get the complete part?” Is this not the promise that we have from God that we are already complete in Him, and we need nothing to fill in our desires because He is to fill us up completely with His grace, His power, and His person. When the God of the universe lives inside of you… can you tell me how many needs you truly have that are not physical?

Herein lies the problem with far too many marriages and probably where you struggle in your counseling to wives. It is exactly where we were for so many years when Lori was sure that apart from my doing certain things like listening better to her, walking with her, being nice and kind and gentle with her, getting her flowers and gifts from time to time and writing cards and notes, that somehow she was broken. That the only way to fix her inner most needs was if her husband stepped up to the plate and became who she thought he should be. Yet her desires kept changing.

The problem is that when you have a broken cup of love needs that is constantly leaking your spouse is on a never ending treadmill to try to meet your demands. No matter how hard he/she tries he/she can never keep you filled up because you are leaking.

God has a plan for every leaking cup and that is not to fix it, but to kill it, and throw it out. Instead,  He buries us with Christ and raises us up with a whole new cup filled with His identity in Christ Jesus. Jesus says let me come inside of you and fill you up to the top and overflowing, once and forever, each and every moment you believe in my promises. He asks “Is my grace sufficient?” {2 Corinthians 12:9}? Are you complete in Christ? Does God supply all our needs?

The world say “no” you need more and you need it from others, but God says, “no” I want you to solely depend on Me and allow Me to meet not only your physical needs, but also give you the desires of your heart {Psalm 37:4-7}.

When a believer is self-seeking, looking to meet their own desires, even through their spouse, they do this in the flesh and are not walking in faith hand in hand with the God  of the universe who lives inside of them. There is nothing wrong with asking a spouse to meet some or all of your desires, but when your desires turn to needs, and needs turn to a sense of entitlement, then we become nothing more than Eve as she reaches for the apple believing that all that God has already given her is not enough. She thinks she knows better than God about her own needs, and besides, she wants that apple so badly. How can it hurt to demand that my husband do x, y and z and tell him that I need these things to have a great relationship?!

When we begin to realize that almost everything we think we need so badly are simply desires of our hearts, then we are willing to patiently wait on the Lord to fill up those desires or to take them away from us. I believe that a good 90% of what Lori thought were her needs from me have completely disappeared. She came to me one day and told me she finally figured it out. Figured out how we can have the intimate relationship she always wanted, and that was to stop trying to have me please her in a myriad of different ways, and instead change her focus to a life hidden with Christ where all the needs of her inner person are met in Christ Jesus. Where her role was no longer to have her needs met, but instead to try to please me by reflecting Jesus to me.

The results are hard to describe when we know who we are in Christ, accept that He is the one who will meet all of the needs of our inner person, and to patiently wait with a servant’s heart until the day Christ either fills up our heart's desires, or takes the desires away. Herein is why “win him without a word” works so wonderfully in turning marriages around, because God focuses the wife on her own behavior, and looking outward to meet the desires of others, with no more pining for unmet expectations of perceived unmet needs.

If you want to change the lives of those you counsel you must deal with them where they are at first, bad thinking and all. We know we cannot tell a broken wife that all she has to do is get her theology and doctrine straight and she will be healed.  We have to give her concrete things she can do to help move her and her husband forward in their relationship, all the while knowing that these things are but band-aids compared to the miracle cure of knowing who we are in Christ Jesus. One can use good personal relation's skills to coax and cajole their spouse into seemingly meeting some of their needs and feel better about the marriage. But at some point, we must also explain to them that their cup is broken and leaking, and the only way to stay full with all their desires met is to allow Christ to throw away our cup of needs, and replace it with Himself, and His Spirit. Christ never leaks, and we are always complete in Him. We may not feel like it from time to time, but that does not change the immutable Word of God on the subject. Does it?

Either we are New Creatures in Christ, alive to Him, dead to sin, and fully complete in Him, or God is not true to His Word, or we are none of His:

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in  you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” {Romans 8:7-11}.

The irony of the story is that if we are truly dead with Christ, dead things do not care anymore about the things of this world. All we should care about is how we please Him and serve others as Image Bearers of the most High. This is easier said than done, but I promise you the moment the believer knows that their broken cup of needs is transformed by the renewing of their minds by Christ Jesus, their lives completely and radically change. They stop looking inward and start looking outward as to how to be pleasers and not takers. Then what happens? Most of the time their marriage blossoms and God gives them the desires of their heart.

And what if their desires are never met? Then they can chat about this in paradise with Abraham and ask him if God is true to His word.

“Look around you,” Abraham will say. “For every square inch I walked looking for the Promised land is filled with the New Jerusalem. God may be slow in delivering on His promises, but he keeps true to each and every single one of His Words.”

First things first for those of us in Christ. All of our needs are met in Him, and from His full and abundant reservoir of the Spirit outflows the fruit of  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control {Galatians 5:22-23}.

Tell me again, what were those “needs” we were talking about? J Perspective rules the world and a perspective based on God’s Word places us at the right hand of God in Christ Jesus where all of our seeming needs no longer are necessary. For in that day, we live out God’s reality with Him. Is this not what our faith is all about and what it is pointing towards?