Out of Exile: Day Seventeen – Unmet Needs

I’m looking at the losses that cause us to get stuck in exile. There are many but the last category I’ll discuss is unmet needs. An unmet need is any area of your life where a legitimate need exists but it goes unmet by God or those you look to for help.

When I moved off our farm and into ministry, I was so broke, any salary seemed like a fortune to me, so I was grateful for the salary I was given at my church. But it wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t live on it. 

My wifegets a husband that has been run over, then backed over, and then steam rolled.

I told them about my dilemma and they seemed concerned but they never did anything. So I started selling my plasma to help ends meet.  The senior pastor said he felt bad and they needed to do something about it. But they didn’t, at least at that time. After many months of requests, I was finally given a livable wage.

I cleaned out my files the other day and I came across a letter I wrote to the elder board telling them how frustrated I was that they hadn’t done anything about my salary. It hurt to look back and feel the pain of that time. Can you relate? If you are in ministry, I bet you can.

Not only do we hurt when our needs aren’t met, our family is hurt too. Our losses cause them losses.  Here’s how one pastor put it to me:

Coming home with heavy burdens have also brought struggles at home. My wife knows the difficulties that come my way each day and at times she gets a husband that has been run over, then backed over, and then steam rolled. Not much left, and perhaps not that enjoyable to be with. Life at home can become trying and my family gets what is left. Not sure how to describe all that was lost at home but I do know a significant amount of pain and loss has taken place at home…

Unmet needs go way beyond finances.  It might be time off. It might be the lack of friends. It could be a spouse that you aren’t connecting with very well. Or it might be a ministry that is less than stellar. You have no sense of accomplishment.

But remember, these are all primary losses. There are secondary losses associated with unmet needs. As is often the case, one secondary loss is a sense of control. You can’t make people meet your needs. It’s very frustrating. You feel trapped with no ability to alter your situation. You wonder how long it will go on? Will it ever change? That’s where the sense of “exile” kicks in.

Another secondary loss is respect. When your needs are ignored you wonder why people don’t care. How can they just look past your obvious need? Are you that insignificant? Is your work valued so little?

Unmet needs can also result in a loss of purpose. You begin to doubt your call. If your needs aren’t being met, maybe it’s because God doesn’t want you in that place. You might think he is withholding his blessing to get your attention so you will move on.

With these numerous losses the natural emotional response is anger, sadness and often fear.  It’s these emotions that create the feeling of exile. Have you experienced these?

What are some unmet needs that you’ve experienced in ministry?  What kind of secondary losses have followed?

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5 thoughts on “Out of Exile: Day Seventeen – Unmet Needs

  1. Marcia

    Having just come back from a retreat where our personalities were tested and evaluated, it appears I’m not so skilled at knowing what my unmet needs are. I wonder how many of us in ministry are like that – we’re more comfortable giving to others, meeting the needs of others than tending to our own needs. It’s certainly easier to push my own unmet needs below my consciousness than feel the pain. But that doesn’t make the needs go away, it just means that they leak out when I’m not looking. I can call it faith, when it’s really an unwillingness to acknowledge the pain of an unmet need. Ps 88 is a bleak, dark psalm that has no tidy, happy ending. David is so honest about his hurt and bewilderment at being “abandoned” by God! I love his transparency. And I also love that there is a Ps 89. There is another chapter to come.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      This is a great point. Too often we carry a bit of a martyr’s complex. When our needs aren’t met we say that it’s “our cross to bear” and then bury the feelings. We assume it’s a price of the calling and don’t let ourselves fully feel the loss, grieve it or attempt to overcome it. We try to mask it by serving more, helping more, etc. or we become bitter and find ways to work our discontent into every conversation. But the pain always comes out eventually: usually sideways. We aren’t kidding anyone, except ourselves. This a big reason I’m writing this series. I want people to SEE the losses and stop stuffing the pain and the dysfunction that surrounds it. Admit it, grieve, and if possible, DO something about it. If not, at least bring it to God and let him speak to your heart about the loss in a way that brings healing.

      Psalm 89 is definitely a breakthrough moment after the despair of 88. Ps. 88 is a prayer of exile. Thanks for pointing these two out. What do you think might be some of your unmet needs?

  2. F. Remy Diederich Post author

    William Blake:
    Joy and woe are woven fine,
    A clothing for the soul divine,
    Under every grief and pine
    Runs a joy with silken twine.
    Source: as quoted in A Third Testament

  3. Lisa

    I’ve come back to this day 4 times. Have done the onion posts. Written them and then deleted them knowing they were obnoxiously long. Peeling off the dead reminders with a few tears has it’s therapeutic process too. Pressing on. God Bless you on laying down your plasma. Men are admirably good at staying loyal even to their own harm. It’s a quality I respect but don’t always understand. Though when I look at Jesus and know what he did for me, I appreciate it very much!

    Thinking about plasma and blood we were surprised to learn that we could no longer donate blood after our over seas work. We served in a certain region that will prevent us from donating blood ever again. This was a loss for my husband, the man with a 10 gallon pin from the blood bank.

    Financially, our needs were always unmet. We really sucked at fundraising too. We were locked into a toxic little congregation where increase would not be an option. From housing , clothing to vehicles to no vacations and procrastinating repair plans. I had daily reminders that we should not expect our needs to met. It was a decade of driving hoopties, living in houses w/ code violations, finding clothes out of the benevolence room. My hubby had a very high tolerance for nonsense. Second and third jobs lead rapidly to secondary losses…family needs were put on the back burner, intimacy disappeared, companionship evaporated , wellness declined rapidly, insecurities and doubts increased and we found ourselves going through the motions to block the agony of it all. I know I was on the path of becoming a wayward wife.

    Emotionally, I was going there.. Mentally I was desperate..Spiritually I knew it was wrong and then came the perfect temptation in the form of a warrior. The chemistry was right. The opportunity availed itself and my hubby was hopelessly oblivious to it all. Praise God, the Holy Spirit (he was the only one stopping me) guided me… I counted the cost and did not yield to it. Turns out the temporary pleasure would not be worth all the drama of more loss. I repented of my thought pattern. I committed myself to being a better steward of my loneliness. Made the confession to my husband about where my anchor had drifted. I knew I didn’t want a divorce, I didn’t want my hubby dead. We needed a huge transformation. We begged God for it. Those were dark days and I’m glad to be past them. I would rather not repeat them but I understand the meaning of unmet needs and where they can test you.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Curiously, I was eventually denied giving plasma because of my asthma. I can’t remember the reason. My son also has asthma, and he wasn’t denied. I took it as God’s way of saying, “I’ll take care of you in other ways. Let this go.”

      I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your near miss with an affair. I’m sure you aren’t alone. There are many near misses that go unreported. Your honesty will help people who have been in the same place. It’s hard to stand by and see people take on loss that overflows to others. Someone just told me the other day that their father gave away his Christmas savings (meant to bless his poor family) to a family that was struggling financially as well. It crushed this man as a boy and you could see it still hurt him today. It was generous of the father but maybe he should have taken into account his children’s loss before he gave it all away.

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