Desperation

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation … —Henry David Thoreau

I can’t seem to escape the relentless pursuit of Desperate Housewives. Every commercial break during one of my favorite shows, there they are. Taunting me and inviting me to join them for a whole hour of mind-numbing, bubble-gum entertainment. The plot: housebound women and hunks hooking up. How original. Desperate Network may have been a better title for the show. But the title sparked a couple of questions for me: Just what are the women on the show desperate for? Attention? Sex? Ratings? And is desperation itself wrong?

I think that Thoreau was right. Most of us are desperate to some degree. But perhaps the extent of our desperation is not most important, but rather the object of our desire. I think that most of us would agree that the housewives in the show are misdirected in their desires. I haven’t seen the show, so I don’t completely understand what these women want. But if it involves sex and possessions (like the commercials lead me to believe), I think it could be a long-running series. I know from enough real-life experience that yearning for another thing or person to satisfy our longings will only supply temporary satisfaction. We will always need something else.

By this time, I am sure that most of you reading this have some idea where I am going. There is no question that sin and the resulting imperfection of our relationship with our Creator have left us wanting. I do believe that God alone and a restoration of relationship with Him are the cure for human desperation. But in my experience, even in my closest moments with God, I find that there is an ache for something more. I find that I can’t maintain the intimacy with Him that I truly want to have in every breathing moment.

I find some comfort in the fact that David could relate to this need for something more. In Psalm 42, David compares his soul’s longing to the panting of a deer. I have never been close to a thirsty deer, and I suspect a panting deer is pretty dry. David was described as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), yet several times in this psalm he questions his soul about its desperation for God. (I wonder what this sounded like set to music.) David never gives us an answer to his despair but resolves to praise God anyway and, in imitating David, so should we.

I am led to the conclusion that for those who know Christ, death is the end of life as we know it, but it is one of God’s greatest gifts. The death of our bodies will usher in the fulfillment of our deepest longing. Heaven will be the completion of our restoration with God Himself. No distance between God and ourselves. Despair destroyed forever. No more limits on our relationship to God.

I think that the apostle Paul knew this desperation too. He interrupted his great monologue on love to affirm that he would “someday know fully just as [he] also [has] been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

I can’t wait.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

—C.S. Lewis

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