What Can I Do About My Unmet Desires?

man sitting alone on a bedSpouses of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) survivors speak of unmet desires in their lives. Also true is that survivors of CSA identify unmet desires in their lives. There’s more. The unrest in our Western society leads me to assume that most people have unmet desires.

. . . most people have unmet desires.

How about you? What deep ache in your soul cries out for fulfillment? Think about a struggle you are going through right now, then ask yourself, “What is the unmet desire in my life?”

Though desires can take an evil twist, our innate desires are not bad. The Psalmist David said it is God “who satisfies your desires with good things” (Psalm 103:5, NIV).

Marriage and family therapists Mark and Debbie Laaser identified Seven Desires; each is God-given. All seven exist in every one of us. We all have a God-given desire to be:

  1. Heard and understood
  2. Affirmed (affirmed by others for what we do)
  3. Blessed (blessed by others for who we are)
  4. Safe (security)
  5. Touched
  6. Chosen
  7. Included (in a community)

Some people enter marriage expecting their spouse will solely and sufficiently fulfill their seven desires. This expectation leads to disappointment, conflict, and eventual resentment.

Due to the long-term effects of CSA, marriages affected by CSA are especially vulnerable to disappointment and resentment. CSA distorts the God-given desires. Touch might not be a strong desire of a CSA survivor, given the intrusive touch of their perpetrator. Being chosen might seem conflicting to one who was “chosen” by their perpetrator. How can there be a sense of safety when the survivor, as a young child, assumed they were safe in the care of someone who was supposed to be trustworthy but instead sexually invaded their body?

Here are three recommendations to those with unmet desires or whose God-given desires have become distorted from past abuse.

1. Understand what fulfillment of our desires is and is not.

Let’s revisit the seven desires and add some clarity.

  • The desire to be heard and understood
    Being heard and understood does not mean I am right, and my spouse must agree with me
  • The desire to be affirmed (affirmed by others for what we do)
    If we seek or expect affirmation, we reveal a deficit in our life rather than a desire.
  • The desire to be blessed (blessed by others for who we are)
    CSA imposes shame which is the belief that “I am bad.” The survivor of CSA is therefore conflicted by words of blessing. Words of blessing must be spoken not to prop up but to build up over time.
  • The desire to be safe (security)
    Safety is not only about a place. Safety is about a person who is non-judgmental and offers acceptance.
  • The desire to be touched
    The desire for touch is not solely about sexual touch. Nonsexual touch can fulfill our desire for touch.
  • The desire to be chosen
    To be chosen is not for the purpose of what the chosen one can do for the other. Instead, to be chosen reveals the value of the one selected.
  • The desire to be included (in a community)
    This desire is the opposite of isolation, where secrets and shame exist. Community can threaten the survivor of CSA until there is the experience of safety.

2. Seek community.

God did not create us to live in isolation (Genesis 2:18). As His image bearers, God designed us for community. Community is necessary because no one person can fulfill all our desires.

Community is necessary because no one person can fulfill all our desires.

One of the support groups I facilitate recently discussed our need for community. The group listed what they agreed are characteristics of a community that serves to fulfill our God-given desires. The list is not comprehensive, nor will it ever be published in an academic journal. But it is a starting point.

  • Acknowledgment of those in the group that we are all messes
  • Honesty with ourselves and with one another
  • Non-judgmental – “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging” (Matthew 7:1-2, The Message).
  • Willingness to hold one another accountable
  • Desiring the best for others in the group
  • Vulnerability

Community begins with two people and grows from there. The beginning point for true community is vulnerability; one takes the initiative to reveal themselves in a way that would not be known apart from their willingness to reveal. The vulnerability involves risk because we will not know how others will respond to our revelation. Community begins when our vulnerable exposure is received without condemnation and is reciprocated with grace.

Community begins when our vulnerability is received without condemnation and is reciprocated with grace.

God comes to establish community with us. He comes to dine with us (Rev. 3:21). This leads to the third recommendation to those with unmet desires or whose God-given desires have become distorted from past abuse.

3. Discover that God meets all our desires.

Begin your discovery by hearing the words God has spoken.

  • Heard and understood
    “I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (Psalm 116:1-2, NLT).
  • Affirmed (affirmed by others for what we do)
    When our faith is in what God has done for us through Christ, our deeds are done out of gratitude for what He has done rather than for earning His favor. Nevertheless, He does have eternal reward reserved for us. “And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor” (1 Peter 5:4, NLT).
  • Blessed (blessed by others for who we are)
    “He will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great” (Psalm 115:13).
  • Safe (security)
    “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2, ESV).
  • Touched
    “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10, The Message).
  • Chosen
    “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4, ESV).
  • Included (in a community)
    “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV).

Hear the words God has spoken

Consider Christ, who existed in a perfect community with God in heaven, came to earth and was born as a human being. He suffered sin’s penalty for us so we might find our satisfaction in Him. God “satisfies your desires with good things” (Psalm 103:5, NIV).

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