By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, this sentence, which appears in the first chapter, is the most famous in the book Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.
Desperation is a mental state that usually causes extreme or rash behavior. So why would someone live in it…quietly as Thoreau states?
Why don’t they change their situation?
Sometimes marriages can be this way. Couples, after the kids are gone, can get into a state of peaceful coexistence. They live together but are not fully enjoying their marriages. There isn’t a reason to leave and yet living together is not very fulfilling. They don’t love each other but they are used to each other.
This happens in careers where people are making good money but feel bored and stuck. They make enough money to enjoy a life free of worry, yet they know there is more opportunity that they are not taking advantage of. The words of a comedian I cannot remember seems to sum it up, “It’s better to be employed than amazing.”
Then there is health. In the marketing world, it is said that hardly anyone will pay for preventative health products and services, but a person will empty their bank accounts to take care of an acute life-threatening disease. This is largely why health insurance companies will provide some wellness program benefits to help prevent more serious health issues.
There is a famous verse in Revelations 3:16, that speaks of being lukewarm and maybe it can speak to this idea of quiet desperation.
You know what lukewarm is like right? It’s when you drink half of your can of cola and then forget about it only to pick it up hours later to find out how really bad it is.
But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelations 3:16 NLT.
I equate a life of quiet desperation much like being lukewarm. Yuck!
Now to be quite honest, I’ve lived for years with parts of my life as lukewarm. Lukewarm actually means self-righteous.
Lukewarm sounds like, “Well, it’s not that bad!”
It’s a feeling of everything seems to be okay…so I must be alright. The bills are paid, retirement accounts are inching up, kids are on schedule for their life and our health is good. Life is great.
I have a fairly optimistic outlook on life, but there are times I need an honest self-evaluation. No one can be completely objective about his or her life.
It’s very important to have folks that you give unconditional permission to be brutally honest with you when they feel you are wandering off into the proverbial weeds of life.
What’s so deceptive about deception is it’s so darn deceptive (pardon the tongue-and-cheek). And the reason blind spots are called blind spots is because you can’t see them.
I don’t believe Jesus was being mean-spirited in Revelations 3:16. What I do believe is that he was concerned. In the same way someone close to you may ask you about your health, how you spend money or the condition of your marriage. These are the very private matters of our lives that we usually don’t want to talk about.
Yet these are the places we, blindly, can get into trouble without realizing it.
Most goods habits that lead to a great life are easy to do. But they are also…easy not to do.
A little humility is good for the soul and can bring better self-awareness that can save a marriage, fortune and even health.
I have found three ways to maintain a healthy dose of humility.
One is to pray daily and ask God to for help. I like the Serenity prayer.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
A second way is to have folks in our lives that we talk to regularly who will keep us honest with ourselves.
But he gives us, even more, grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”
James 4:6 NLT
The third way to humility is…sad. It has a name…pain. Pain can come from living in pride without dependence upon God and without caring, honest relationships.
So, if you are in pain and desperate…you have a gift. Use its motivation to change your life. Reach out to God through prayer and reach out to someone else. Reap all the benefits of that pain to make your life better while you have the strength and motivation.
To your spiritual health,
Alex E. Anderson
Senior Associate Pastor at
Bayside Community Church
Author, Dangerous Prayers