‘Wish Fulfillment’ or ‘Wish Fulfilled?’

John 14:1-7 (ESV)
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Just because I really, desperately want something to be true, that doesn’t make it true. But it doesn’t make it untrue, either.

In our often-heated, frequently-foolish and ongoing societal debate about the existence or non-existence of a loving and personal God, namely Jesus, what often gets lost amidst all the emotions and clever word games is the very obvious fact that what happens to be going on in the heart and mind of any one individual (myself included) has very little to do with what is, in fact, true.

In the secular view, suffering always wins.

In the secular view, suffering always wins.

As a rule, we tend to ascribe far too much importance to what we happen to think and (especially) to what we feel. Thoughts and feelings can be helpful, of course, good indicators as to what is going on in our souls…but they should never be accorded determinative or authoritative status.

Not all that long ago, like most normal people, I took great offense whenever the words and teachings of Jesus contradicted what I already “knew” to be true. And then, due entirely to the grace and mercy of God as manifested in the life of one sinner, my position has since shifted such that (more often than not) I find myself grateful for those times when Jesus makes my dinner parties feel awkward and uncomfortable. The “intrusion” of Jesus into an otherwise-comfortable life signals many great truths:

  • Jesus has not given up on me. He is still teaching me, and He knows that I simply will not pay attention to the lesson without His first disrupting my desire for a trouble-free life. I have not been left an orphan.
  • Jesus is still secure on His throne, sustaining the world by the power of His Word. He is speaking yet today by His Spirit, and (most clearly) by His Word. His ultimate judgment against me will be His silence.
  • Jesus has a better plan. My life is marked by a desire for all of the pieces of the puzzle to fit neatly together. In His mercy, Jesus feels completely free to walk in and overturn all of my efforts to be self-dependent, self-willed and self-deluded.

Far too often, I have tried to listen patiently as hardened skeptics approach the object of my faith, namely Jesus, as some sort of psychological misfire, a needs-based Freudian projection; Jesus is positioned as some sort of sad, sorry and delusional form of “wish fulfillment” that I have tragically latched onto as some sort of compensation for the very real losses and emotional pain of my life – never mind that these very same losses wash up on the shore of every life, believer and unbeliever alike. Perhaps, the skeptic/armchair psychologist continues, I have some sort of lingering issues associated with various unfulfilled aspects of my relationship with my own, earthly father? Thus, the need to “invent” Jesus?

Probably every Christian believer has heard some variant of that “scientific explanation” for our faith and (rightly) sensed that the overall tone of these comments is personally scornful, intended to shame a believer into thinking more along the lines of his or her unbelieving friends. The temptation to walk away and “not look foolish” (1 Corinthians 1:25) may cause us to downplay our faith, or worse, go dark on it altogether.

It’s more helpful, I think, to turn this sort of inquiry on its head: “Yes, that’s right, Jesus is the single-greatest wish fulfillment I could ever ask for. He has promised that He will wipe away every tear, that He has made a place for me – and for you, too, if you will have it. His words bring life and hope to my heart, enduring comfort that I have been unable to locate anyplace else in this violent, hate-filled and shattered world. Where else would you have me go with the deepest desires of my heart?”

With regard to helping all of us discern the location of Truth, Jesus said some pretty strong things, statements that would be absolutely outrageous for any person of conscience to say out loud…unless of course those words He offered had the “added benefit” of being true. When confronted with setbacks, and disaster, the foundational question at hand is not “What should I do?” but rather “Who should I believe?”

On Sept. 30, just one day before yesterday’s tragic massacre in Las Vegas, pastor and author Tim Keller posted the following Tweet: “In the secular view, suffering always wins.” It took less than 48 hours for the truth of those words to be brought home once more in yet another episode of senseless, evil bloodshed. Perhaps it’s something other than “coincidence” that the words and teachings of Jesus are fulfilling, that they line up with the deepest wishes inside my heart and speak directly to the mourning and sense of futility that threatens to overwhelm?

John 6:66-69 (ESV)
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Romans 8:38-39
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 Comments

  1. Tawnya said:

    This was a great post! Thank you so much! Just what I needed to read today!

  2. Warren Mayer said:

    Tawnya, thanks so much for the encouragement; I am glad that what I had to say spoke to your heart.

  3. Robb Bong said:

    Thank you Warren for sharing your insights as well as your personal testimony of grace in your life . You have raised some serious points of Truth in your blog and I must confess that I have read and re-read this several times with great admiration of the workings of the Holy Spirit within you. I told you a couple of weeks ago that I have been enjoying your posts. Thanks again for those as I look forward to the next offering.

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