There’s No Shame in Desperation



I don’t know what comes to mind when you hear that word, but it takes me back to high school when the worst of all insults was to label someone desperate for a significant other.  The word has a negative connotation as it often refers to a helpless situation.

For overachieving perfectionists like me, the last thing we want to be is desperate.  Autonomy is the name of the game and having it all together is the goal.  There’s no room for weakness within that mental framework.  Masked desperation, though, is still desperation.

Not long ago I read James 1:5 which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  After looking up the word “reproach” to make sure I understood James’ point, the familiar verse taught me a much-needed lesson: God will never shame us for being desperate for Him.  You and I can take a deep breath.

According to James, when we ask God for wisdom, we won’t be met with disapproval or disappointment.  He won’t be upset because we can’t figure life out on our own.  Our loving Father delights in giving good gifts to His children, and He’s not surprised or repulsed by our need for Him (James 1:17).

It’s been an enriching exercise to think about how Jesus responded to desperation during His earthly ministry.  Of course, Jesus doesn’t always give us exactly what we ask for, but He always lavishes on us precisely what we need.  When He was approached by a Roman centurion whose servant was paralyzed, Jesus marveled at the officer’s faith and healed the servant (Matt. 8:5-13).  An influential ruler once bowed before Jesus and begged for his recently-deceased daughter to be raised from the dead, and Jesus granted his request (Matt. 9:18-19, 24-25).  Unable to get to Jesus because of a crowd, a group of friends removed the roof from a house and lowered a paralytic down in front of Jesus who made him well – spiritually and physically (Mark 2:1-12).  There’s also the story of the Samaritan woman whose desperation for men had ostracized her from society.  Unaware of her primary need, Jesus graciously confronted her and offered the deep satisfaction only He provides (John 4:1-42).

These events point toward Jesus’ ultimate response to humanity’s desperation.  The Apostle Paul painted the scene like this: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:1-5).

If you ever wonder how God responds to desperation, look to the cross.  Other people may look down on your helplessness, but God never does.  He won’t prey on your weakness; instead, He’ll give you His strength.  Yes, He’ll expose your sin, but He also offers full forgiveness and complete cleansing.

Desperation can be a dangerous way to live if, like the Samaritan women, we don’t recognize Who we really need.  On the other hand, desperation for God honors Him because it’s an accurate assessment of who we are and who He is.  In a sense, the story of the Bible is about God’s costly initiative to rescue humanity from the most hopeless and helpless of conditions.

There’s freedom in admitting we can’t face the ups and downs of life on our own.  It’s liberating to confess we need wisdom from God to navigate the challenges of living in a broken world.  And as recipients of His amazing grace in Jesus, we can rest assured that He will never be disappointed by our acknowledgement of how much we need Him.  In fact, He’ll be glorified by it.

8 Comments on “There’s No Shame in Desperation”

  1. I read a testimony from a person in recovery from alcoholism once who said he prayed a “feeble” prayer once and it was answered. The “feeble” prayer was “God help me!”. I thought about the first time I earnestly prayed that very prayer at probably the most desperate point of my wretched life, recognizing my total depravity and weakness and God’s awesome power and holiness, and, looking back on that moment, how that was definitely no “feeble” prayer. Thanks for reminding me of that moment of desperation and what grace was shown to me.

  2. Once again you share beautiful truth that I need to hear. God doesn’t prey on our weaknesses, but gives us strength. Love that!

  3. This just spoke depths to me: “desperation for God honors Him because it’s an accurate assessment of who we are and who He is.” Thank you!

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