The church is home to many catch cries, banners and phrases. Some of them can land Christians in hot-water for using “Christianese”—insider language that boxes out newcomers. Then there are the catchphrases that come under fire from within the church community for one reason or another.
One such catch cry I have noticed in songs and church ministries is the idea of being “desperate for God.” The very phrase echoes in my heart as being true—something God wants us to strive for; a truth I believe comes straight from the Bible.
I first want to make one thing very clear, though: I do not believe that this statement refers to being desperate for God to show up. While the Bible is littered with calls for God to come down, show up, attend and innumerable other variations on a theme; I trust in the words of Jesus that say, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20) and the words of God to the prophet Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Being desperate for God isn’t about acquiring His presence in our lives—we must already believe that God will always be with us and the Holy Spirit will accompany us everywhere. It’s about knowing He already exists in our lives—this desperate need for God stems from already having a relationship with Him, and wanting more
Specifically, we can trace this desperation for God back to David, who wrote Psalm 63 while he was in the Desert of Judah.
David’s language in Psalm 63:1 is not only poetic, but desperate. The NIV and similar other translations have David “earnestly” seeking God—David’s “whole being” thirsting and longing for God. One translation says that not only did David “eagerly” seek God but that his body “faints” for Him.
The sons of Korah had similar things to say in Psalm 84, saying that they “long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:2)
These verses do more than show Old Testament writers who were desperate for God—they show men who were desperate for more of God. In Psalm 63, David immediately exclaims that God’s “faithful love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3), clearly showing that he already has a relationship with this God he “faints” and thirsts for.
These are not people seeking God for the first time—these are children seeking more of Him.
There is an unsurprising lack of poetry throughout the New Testament, so finding similar language in the days after Jesus is trickier. But one need only look to reminders to “seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6) and “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) to see that God never provides us with an end-date to seeking Him. We are to do so continually, through all of our days here on Earth, until He comes again or we are taken to Him.
What being desperate really means
Many people dismiss this desperate longing for more of God by relying on a dictionary definition of “desperate.” The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “feeling or showing a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with.”
This does not sound like the sense of hope we know God provides His children. But any English teacher or student will surely be able to point to the fact that words have multiple definitions, or variations on a definition. Such is the case with “desperate” which, according to the Oxford Dictionary, also has a predicative definition which reads; “(Of a person) having a great need or desire for something”, such as a drink of water or relationship with people.
This is the desperation that we should have for God—a great need or desire for God.
Jon Bloom, author and co-founder of Desiring God, writes that “the lack of a sense of desperation for God” is deadly. Bloom speaks specifically of the easy lifestyle in America “in which it costs the least to be a Christian” compared to the “hard struggle with sufferings” (Hebrews 10:32) that many missionaries face day to day. “If we don’t feel desperate for God, we don’t tend to cry out to him.”
And this leads to spiritual death.
Being desperate for more of God should be the cry of every Bible-believing Christian. We should want our cup to overflow with God’s presence and existence, and we should be ever seeking more of Him. Spiritual death comes when we think we have enough of God, when we think our cup is appropriately filled.
To avoid the ruination of our faith, we should follow in the path of the Psalmists and ever be longing for God.