The trouble is, there is a whole culture in the Christian world that values desperation as a virtue; that says God answers those people who are most desperate. I’ve heard preachers remark on the qualities you should have that will bring release from what ever it is you want release from, and the primary quality suggested is desperation. They would tell a story of an incredible answer to prayer and then say it was answered partly because that person was desperate. And that would encourage me to dig deep; to discover my own gaping barrenness. Falling into that void would inevitably fabricate desperation; the thing that God supposedly rewards with his lavish love. But is desperation how you get God to do what you want?
I am particularly susceptible to this line of thinking because I am a four on the enneagram. “The enneagram is a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.” (Wikipedia) In enneagram speak, a four’s primary “passion” is envy, but a better word than envy would be longing. The primary “fixation” of a four is melancholy. So, this is what happens (to me) when you put longing and melancholy together and pair it with trust and confidence in what is being preached from the pulpit about the merits of desperation…you get depression, because the thing you so desperately long for is never realized to the full extent that you believe it should be.
Occasionally worship leaders will unconsciously reinforce this attitude by crying out, “MORE! God we want more of you!” What? Wait, there’s more? I thought we were doing pretty good here. Should I want more? It seems like everybody else wants more. Then the music builds in intensity, the drums pound out a heartbeat that slowly but steadily gets louder and louder, the bass guitar pumps in sync, the electric guitars and keyboards follow and the voices go off script with sweet pleading…and that elicits a congregational emotional response and we all feel like we have “more of God” now. But does God parcel himself out like that?
The message that says desperation is a good thing seems cruel to me, like God is saying, “you’ve got to work yourself up into a frenzy of yearning and longing to the point of desperation and then, maybe, I’ll let you feel my presence.” I had believed this. I emulated people who operated this way. I played on those worship teams. I wrote songs and sang them for other people and those people were inspired to be desperate. I’m sorry. This is not holiness. This is neurosis.
Don’t get me wrong. Worship of God is a beautiful thing and can be emotional in a good way. For me, simply the thought of God can suddenly produce joyful tears, and sometimes a longing. But when that longing turns into desperation, depression is just a sigh away. What I’m trying to say is that encouraging desperation might not be healthy…for people like me anyway.
I found out recently that having extreme distaste for what you’ve just come out of is normal and natural, even though it served you well while you were in it. In Israel in 2011, after reading The Rest of the Gospel; When the Partial Gospel has Worn You Out, (by Dan Stone) I came out of a state of desperation. I was DONE being desperate. Now desperation was distasteful to me… extremely! It was difficult to be in the presence of desperate people, people who cried out and begged and fell passionately prostrate, tears streaming, drums banging, hands reaching, and asking for more of God. I could barely endure it.
Would a loving Father require desperation before he would acknowledge his own child? Isn’t God always present, right here inside of us? The energy of God residing in the matter of humans? Maybe we are also inside of God like a fish is inside water.
Jesus prayed, “the goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you. So might they be one heart and mind with us…I in them and you in me.” Christ incarnate in us!?!
My worship, the music I make while contemplating God, is now simply a focus on the peaceful being of God… who is being itself. God… in whom we have our being. My worship has become more like a contemplation of the union of our spirits… all of us, with the Spirit.
Amen, which literally means, so be it.