One of our most basic drives is to find acceptance, significance, and security from something or someone.
When we’re babies, we rely on our parents for these things until we self-actualize in our pre-teen and teen years (most youth workers know the upside down world this causes). When we detach from people, places, or things that were giving us our acceptance, significance, and security, we’re driven to find a replacement.
Therein lies the problem: Where do we go to fill these needs?
We turn to social environments in hopes of finding fulfillment there. We change our behaviors and mask our feelings, essentially hiding who we really are in order to be accepted. We hide our emotions and try to perform at peak levels in an attempt to please—if not impress—all the significant figures in our lives, including but not limited to bosses, spouses, elders, our kids, the people we minister to, our neighbors, etc. We try to make them proud of us so that we might feel significant. We try not to show any kind of weakness, and we desperately claw our way to being the best at something—anything. That way we don’t have to feel insecure about who we are.
All of us are looking for ways to fulfill our basic soul needs.
What I’ve learned and what I’m still learning is that the only true, appropriate, and acceptable means to fulfill these needs is to let God fulfill them. Adam and Eve had these needs perfectly met in the garden of Eden, but this perfection was lost at the fall—after they were cast out, they and their children searched for ways to fulfill these needs, and we’re still searching today. Adam and Eve hid, covered themselves, and blamed the other guy, because of the division between God and man—the division between creator and soul.
You and I are no different. We hide our truest selves. We try to cover up our insecurities, doubts, and fears like makeup over a zit. We blame other people for our weaknesses, and in an effort to produce a false sense of acceptance, significance, and security, we judge and criticize these people for their shortcomings—we attempt to add value to ourselves by trying to diminish the value of others.
The soul’s most basic needs must be met.
If we’re trying to find fulfillment in anything or anyone other than the only One who can truly fulfill our needs, the motivation for everything we think, say, and do will be fear, anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, grief, etc. Any time someone says or does anything that directly or indirectly threatens our significance, acceptance, or security, we’ll respond out of one or more of those negative emotions. This response has the potential to destroy relationships and—in extreme cases—lives.
I looked for significance in what I did for others, and as a multi-vocational youth pastor, pastor, and church planter, I looked for security through the jobs I worked. I’ve never experienced anything more disorienting, disenchanting, and discombobulating than when God decided to take these things away from me. In addition to being a pastor, I worked as a mortgage processor, and I lost a new job every six months. I didn’t quit, and I wasn’t fired—each and every one of these companies went out of business!
Talk about feeling insecure—after the eleventh job in five years, I started feeling as if I were the “Meet Joe Black” of the business world: when you see me coming, get your resumes ready and update your online work profiles! I experienced a really painful time in my life when yet another business closed, which led to a 10-month stretch of unemployment. During this time, we had to close the church I had planted and tried to cultivate for three-and-a-half years. Adding insult to injury, we found out a few weeks later that the reason we had to close was because of one of our supporting pastors planted another church and was approaching our members and telling them it was the same church with a different pastor.
During this 10-month period, I became very depressed.
Between closing a church and collecting unemployment, it felt as if my whole world had turned upside down . . . but I was eventually able to see this as a blessing. For the first time in my life, all the lies about those things I felt gave me security, acceptance, and significance were exposed and brought into the light. I realized that my security doesn’t come from a job or from how much money I make—God provides for my family and me. On unemployment, I made a fraction of what I made at my jobs, yet we managed to make all our ends meet.
God eventually opened a door that allowed me and my wife to be hired at the same church. I was hired for full-time ministry, and she was hired for half-time ministry. We no longer needed secular jobs to provide for our financial needs. This seemed like an amazing gift. However, my wife and I ended up going through three years of an even worse ministry experience than before. I’m glad to say that today we’re in one of the healthiest ministry situations we’ve ever been in, and I’ve come to understand that all of my striving and all of my attempts to earn a pastor’s acceptance or create my own significance and security only served to empty my soul.
When I chased these things, I was constantly left feeling disoriented, confused, ashamed, hurt, abused, and scared. My worth and my value became shrouded in lies. Satan came to seek and devour—Jesus came to seek and save. Satan came to steal, kill, and destroy—Jesus came to give abundant life. Satan’s lies are subtle and have a hint of truth that makes them harder to recognize. Knowing and believing God’s truth is the only way to break through Satan’s lies.
Through all those painful years, God wanted to break into my soul and pour into me all the acceptance, significance, and security I would ever need. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I finally let him, and he’s been filling me ever since. I can tell you from personal experience that it makes all the difference in the world!
Why bother looking anywhere other than to God to fill your soul’s most basic needs?
You’ve trusted him with your eternal soul—you can trust him to give you everything you need to live a life of victory over insecurity, rejection, and insignificance. He began a good work in you, and he will be faithful to complete it. Psalm 139 tells me that you are God’s favorite topic—you’re always on his mind. God is crazy in love with you. Receive all you need from him, and find rest for your soul.
Andy Hastie is a youth and associate pastor at a church in northern New Jersey. He has more than 16 years of ministry experience as a youth worker, youth pastor, senior pastor/church planter, and associate pastor. He works closely with the children’s ministry as well, because his wife, Darea, is the part-time children’s/special needs/family ministry director. They have a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Gianna. Find him on Twitter @AndyHastie30.