The Question of Motive

Every counselor or therapists approaches a session with a counselee with a certain set of presuppositions, a paradigm if you will, by which they understand the person. This points to the need for a model—a biblical model—by which we view behaviors, so we can help the person to gain victory over sin and emotional problems and allow the person to move forward in their relationship with God that He may be glorified in and through the person’s life.

Most Christians would agree there is massive evidence to support my thesis which is:

Man’s soul has been so severely damaged as a result of the fall, that man now has a hollow core inside, and as a result of this hollow core, man is on a quest to fill this emptiness and man’s desires for fulfillment permeate everything man does in life.

Now, that is a huge opening statement, so let me proceed to unpack and support this statement by beginning with some evidence. Beginning with the way Satan tempted Christ in Matthew Chapter 4.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

–Matthew 4:1–11

We must keep in mind; this temptation comes as a result of the fall of man into sin. If we look at this scene, we have Jesus who has fasted for 40 days and nights and He becomes hungry. Now, this hunger Jesus experienced is the same hunger we experience when we need nourishment and it is a basic physical need. Lexicons are careful to explain that this sort of hunger is not unlike our own and has nothing to do with what comes next in the story with the temptation of Christ.

It should be noted how the temptations of Christ presented three main forms of spiritual idolatry:

  • Material possessions (Matt. 4:3),
  • Prestige and self-esteem (Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:9) and,
  • Power (Matt. 4:8-9; Luke 4:6-7; cf. Jas. 4:6, 10).

Any one, or all, may become a personal idol to a person. At the same time, it should also be recognized that these, although idols to men, were not idols to Christ, but Christ, as the champion of mankind, was subjected to the same temptations of man which He overcame victorious in his triumph over the flesh and Satan.

But I would like to draw attention to the potential outcome of each temptation, for the nature of the outcome shows what weakness of mankind Satan was trying to appeal to.

Now, why do you suspect it was these specific fleshly temptations and weaknesses that Satan chose to try to exploit with his temptation of Christ? Right, these are our weaknesses. And what I’d like to discuss are the basis for these weaknesses as a means of understanding why these are the weakness and temptations for human beings like us.

Viktor Frankl

Years ago, in Austria, during the time of WWII, there was a Jewish psychologist named Viktor Frankl, who was arrested in 1942 and Frankl and his family were sent to the Theresienstadt Ghetto and later to Auschwitz1 which was primarily a death camp. Because of his studies and interests in human behavior, he observed and documented the behavior of the people who were being held prisoner in these death camps. Due to the extreme and inhumane circumstances, his studies proved invaluable to the study of human behavior for years to come. One of the more resounding theories that came out of Frankl’s studies were his ideas about primary or fundamental needs as a motivation for human behavior. These ideas have been embraced by many secular, as well as Christian psychologists and counselors alike, because they can be supported by Scripture.

The outcome of Frankl’s studies produced the theorem that human beings have two basic primary/fundamental emotional needs:

  1. Significance or meaning, and
  2. Security or unconditional love

Frankl writes,

Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning. There are some authors who contend that meanings and values are “nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations and sublimations.” But as for myself, I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my ‘defense mechanisms,” nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values!2

Frankl goes on to write about a public-opinion poll that was later conducted in France that revealed that 89 percent of the people polled admitted that mankind needs “something” for the sake of which to live. Moreover, 61 percent conceded that there was something, or someone, in their own lives for whose sake they were even ready to die.3 Frankl states,

As a primary motivation, the search for meaning must be fulfilled for the sake of our psychological well-being. If we fail to find the meaning we’re looking for psychological disturbance in the form of apathy, depression, and even anger will result. This failure to find meaning, and the psychological disturbance that follows, is prominent in modern society.4

The needs for meaning/significance and security are equally important to both men and women; however, men often display the need for significance in more pronounced ways than women. Conversely, women, will often display the need for security more than men. However, each need is important for all human beings and these needs must be fulfilled; otherwise, the person will emotionally wither and die.

Significance

First, significance is the need to be recognized or appreciated and meaning attributed to the person’s position or existence. It is the need that drives people to compete with one another and it is the drive that motivates people to take positions that draws attention to them, such as positions of authority or prominence, or on stage speaking or entertaining in some way. It is an overwhelming emotional need or drive for meaning and purpose that can provide motivation for a person to do practically anything to be noticed in fulfillment of this need.

Security

Secondly, is the need for security. A person must feel that they are loved unconditionally; that is without condition, aside from performance or the fulfillment of another person’s material needs, or the person will wither and emotionally die. This is a basic fundamental human need that must be met in the life of every person to sustain emotional well-being in the individual.

A man may achieve significance by knowing that his family depends on his income to survive and maintain their current lifestyle, but if he does not receive love from his wife and family apart from his contribution to the family bank account, then he may begin to feel used and unwanted like an old shoe and he will act out accordingly. The same goes for women. They must know that they are loved apart from their work or it will lead to disruption in the marriage and trouble in the home.

Longing for Impact

We all long for something similar. Maybe the word adequacy best describes it. We want to know that we are capable of doing a job that needs to be done. We want to leave a mark on our world, a real and enduring difference that matters.

We experience this desire for impact in many ways. Larry Crabb uses the examples of inspecting a newly waxed car or a freshly cut lawn provides a measure of legitimate satisfaction: “I did it. Because I expended energy, things look better. I made a difference.” But there is a problem with the limitedness of this impact.5

For example, the dishwasher’s observation that clean dishes are quickly soiled reduces the pleasure of getting them clean. Short-lived impact is not terribly exciting. We desire an impact that is important and lasting. Impact ranging from the trivial (well-trimmed lawns) to more important matters (business success or family harmony) provides different degrees of satisfaction, but never enough, so we continue to strive for lasting impact and meaning.

Defining Significance / Meaning

Larry Crabb defines this thirst for impact as a desire to be adequate for a meaningful task, a desire to know that we are capable of taking hold of our world and doing something valuable and well.6

Because we are dependent (finite) beings, our capacities are experienced as opportunities for fulfillment that drive us to resources outside ourselves. I am not sufficient for myself. I cannot supply myself with relationship or impact.

We will talk more about our limitations when we talk about identity, but for now, we simply need to know that we are not capable, in and of ourselves, to satisfy our own fundamental needs—they need to be filled from outside ourselves. This is why recognition from someone who is important to us or deeply respected is a highly treasured thing to us, and at times, can be transformative in our lives.

J.R.R. Tolkien, in his book The Two Towers wrote, “The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.”7 This is exactly right. To have someone we highly esteem speak into our lives is like treasure—it’s like adding fuel to a fire for our self-perception and identity, and it is a very necessary part of our emotional and spiritual development.

The Doctrine of Man

One of my pet theological interests is the study of Theological Anthropology, which is the study of humanity in Scripture. Because we are fallen beings, our capacities have become desperate longings energized by a fear that we will never find the satisfaction we desire. Had the Fall not occurred, we would know nothing less than unbroken fellowship with God. Our affective experience would be fullness rather than emptiness, joy rather than a chronic ache, and complete relationship rather than aloneness. But the Fall has happened, and the resultant hollowness of our core motivates us to find fulfillment. We cannot escape the longing. To pretend it isn’t there is to invite its unnoticed tyranny.

All of us pursue, in one degree or another, avenues of fulfillment that have nothing to do with God. Apart from the Spirit’s prompting, none of us would ever seek after God because of the inherent human drive toward self-sufficiency to achieve significance. In Jeremiah 2:13 the prophet indicts God’s people for depending on broken cisterns in their efforts to quench thirst, cisterns that they made for themselves, but they hold no water. Nothing that human beings can control will ever provide deep satisfaction. Yet we insist on trying to control our own lives. And that fact defines our foolishness.

But our foolishness is not immediately apparent. Even wells with holes in them can hold some water for at least a while. Temporary satisfaction is available in the pleasures of sin as we build up idols in our lives to take the place of God and appease our emotional needs.

Satan is the Master of Counterfeit

Satan is the master counterfeiter. He provides almost limitless opportunities for illegitimate but very convincing satisfaction. He capitalizes on our desperate desire for a quick fix to blind us to the long-term emptiness of following him. There is no worse pain than an empty personal circle — we feel empty, worthless, unloved, and useless. And that pain demands relief. Satan warmly cooperates with our demand by offering us the means to feel better in a hurry. He invites us to become consumed with the purpose of finding relief. When he hooks us, we quickly feel the strength of sin’s enslavement.

Life then becomes an effort to gain love and to find means of impact. The purpose of loving God and others and the mission of promoting God’s program gets swallowed up in self-centered preoccupation with our own self-fulfillment.

The Biblical Basis for the Hollow Core Motivations

As I said earlier, Viktor Frankl, who originally advanced the concept of fundamental human needs, was a psychologist. However, he was also a Jew and possessed biblical knowledge and faith in God. Therefore, he held to a biblical worldview and knowledge of the spiritual aspects of human nature. As such, Frankl’s assertions can be supported by Scripture, and we can find illustrations of the hollow core concept and fundamental human needs throughout the pages of Scripture.

Now, it must be said, it is not necessarily the fundamental needs that are the problem, in and of themselves, but rather the way these needs serve as motivation in the heart that result in harmful and sinful behavior. James writes,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

–James 1:13–15, NKJV

The Greek word for “desires” is the word epithymia, which is a difficult word to translate and define—most frequently in the NT it is translated as “lust;” however, for most of us who are looking for a deeper understanding of what is happening within us and how to overcome our sin nature we need to look a little further into the meaning of the word.

Epithymia, when we look at the way it is used within context in the NT, and the extra-biblical Greek classics, what we find is that the definition must be more nuanced and it is more adequately defined as, “an inordinate, displaced, over-exaggerated, self-indulgent craving—a strong desire for wickedness or evil (that displaces or over takes proper affections for God).8

Now, with a definition like this, it is so telling of what exactly happens when the fallen nature of mankind kicks in to fulfill these needs of meaning, significance and security. The culmination of this motivation is sin as ugly as it comes. As we go through this, you will become acutely aware of the insidiousness of sin and just how depraved fallen human beings have become.

In nearly every instance, what you will find is the person who is struggling has an inordinate love—meaning their love for God is not supreme and they have placed something else in God’s place. In other words, they have idols they have idols surrounding them.

Jay Adams, the man who is really considered to be the founder of the biblical counseling movement in evangelicalism, consistently asserted that humans are idol makers and most problems in life will find their root in man’s inordinate love for the things of the world.9 I have never whole-heartedly agreed with Adams on other issues, but on this basis, I believe he was correct.

Due to man’s fallen sin nature and his quest, his motivation, to fulfill these fundamental needs being so strong, man will do practically anything to quench the thirst for fulfillment of them. And he will do this at the risk of breaking covenant with God.

The Hollow Core Motivations Illustrated in Genesis

The need motivations are clearly demonstrated for us throughout Scripture. The first of these is in the book of Genesis with the fall of humanity in (Genesis 3:5-6). In the Genesis narrative the idea was introduced into the heart of humanity that they can be like God—that they will have some secret knowledge that only God possesses—and they will gain some sense of meaning and significance that they had not yet realized for themselves.

A little later in human history we find the fundamental need of significance illustrated for us again with the narrative of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:5-10).

Abel was a keeper of flocks, whereas, Cain was a tiller of the ground and each brought and offering to God from the first of their flocks and produce. But the Scripture tells us:

Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. “When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.’

–Genesis 4:4–12

Most commentators identify the cause of Cain’s jealousy as typical sibling rivalry causing strife over whose sacrifice was acceptable to God, and then commentators debate the nature of the sacrificed elements, but what I want to draw your attention to is the motivation, for we see really a couple of things going on here that motivated Cain to enter into sin and kill his brother.

First, Cain was upset and angry because God accepted his brothers offering but had no regard for his. Anger and resentment occur in the heart when one believes they have been deprived of something they were entitled to or deserved. So, the question must be asked, “What if Abel never existed and Cain was not in competition with his brother, do you think Cain still would have been upset if God had rejected his offering?”  I wager he would not have been upset, but because he was trying to “one up” his brother in his quest for significance and be greater than his brother he became angry and his resentment got the best of him.

C. S. Lewis, talking about this sort of thing in Mere Christianity essentially makes the argument, we’re not really proud of having money, we’re proud of having more money than the next person. We’re not really proud of being smart, we’re proud of being smarter.10 Similarly, the biblical narrative pits the brothers in competition against one another with their sacrifices, and when Cain’s sacrifice was rejected by God, resentment set in. Anger is resentment and resentment only exist when we feel we have been deprived of something that we believed we were entitled to or deserved. This is clearly Cain rising up to defend his significance.

Secondly, Cain was given a choice. God goes to him and warns him about the resentment and sin in his heart and encourages him to overcome his emotions and anger (Gen 4:6-7). At this point, Cain clearly makes a choice to negatively react to his emotions and sin by murdering his brother.  In other words, he places his will over and against the will of God for his life, and he placed himself in God’s seat and asserted his own will over God. And this is the general course these motivations follow in the lives of people today that lead to sin and destruction.

The Hollow Core Motivations Illustrated in the New Testament

The need motivations are also illustrated for us in a number of places in the New Testament as well. I will only point out a few, but there are many.

First, in the gospels with the disciples’ argument over which one is greatest (Matt 18:1-6).

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

–Matthew 18:1–4

Jesus’ response to the disciple’s inquiry about greatness is for one to be changed, converted or “born again” (Jn 3:3), and become “as a child” (Matt 18:3). The very question of greatness raised by the disciples is indicative of their hearts and desire to rise to prominence even in God’s kingdom.

And then there was the request by the mother of the sons of Zebedee for the sons:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.’

–Matthew 20:20–21

No doubt, all mothers wish the best for the children and hope for their success. But while the request appears to be understandable from the parental point of view, it too evidences the hollow core motives of the heart and the desire for significance.

Another place this motive of the heart is evidenced is in the book of Acts with the deception of Ananias and Sapphira. The Scripture tells us that those who had money and possessions would sell them to feed the poor in the church. And there was a particular man named Barnabas who had sold a tract of land and given the proceeds to the apostles to support the community of believers. Now this preface to the story is really important in order to understand what happens next.

The biblical account reads:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.

–Acts 5:1–11

Now, it is obvious the reason Luke tells us about Barnabas in the preface of the story is so we will understand Ananias and Sapphira were trying to emulate what happened with Barnabas when he gave his money to the apostles. It is apparent that everyone knew what Barnabas had done. Luke knew about it and it is obvious Ananias and Sapphira knew about it; otherwise, Luke would not have mentioned it in his account. Ananias and Sapphira conspired to lie to the apostles and God concerning the sale of the land and the amount of money they received because they wanted the apostles to think they were more generous than they actually were. Unlike Barnabas, they only appeared to be generous and graciously giving from the proceeds in order to gain undeserved honor and significance from the leaders of the church.

With this, once again we find the central characters in our story are motivated by these same hollow core need motivations, and in their quest for significance and meaning it let them to enter into sin. You can see how the characters were motivated by their need for significance and their inordinate passions that caused them to choose the sin over and against God. Therefore, through the biblical narrative the concepts of inordinate passions and idolatry come into full view through the need motivations leading to sin.

You will find the fundamental need motivations at the root of nearly every emotional and spiritual problems today.

Anger / Resentment. The Christian man who has unresolved resentment: Resentment is another word for anger, and it stems from having the underlying notion of being deprived of something that he believed he deserved. This is the same problem emotion as Cain that led to his sin and killing his brother.

Sex Addiction. Sex, pornography, fornication and adultery can also be a manifestation of the drive to fulfill the fundamental needs. In many instances, with further questioning, what will be discovered is the person who is addicted to sex or leading a promiscuous lifestyle will really be trying to fulfill their need for significance and meaning through the conquest—that is to power over the person. With each new sexual partner, they feel they have gained some sense of victory. In other cases, a promiscuous lifestyle is the result of shame and feelings of inadequacy. In each instance, the sexual behavior is the result of the person proving to themselves that they truly are worthy of having another person. Unfortunately, once they have the other person, they quickly move on to another because the thrill does not last and does not sufficiently meet their emotional need.

As a cautionary note, this is also another reason why people should not rush into relationships, and specifically why they should wait to have sex with the other person. 1 Cor 13:1 says, “Love is patient…” Love waits, and you really do not know the love is real until it has been proven by waiting.

I am convinced that many couples confuse the feeling of fulfillment of the fundamental needs with feelings of love. New relationships are exciting. To find that someone else finds you desirable is exciting BECAUSE it fulfills the fundamental needs; therefore, it is often confused with love, so waiting is the best policy.

Substance Abuse. Substance abuse is a little trickier because there is also the chemical dependency that goes with it. But often these same fundamental needs may be at the root of why they started their alcoholism or drug use. Substance abuse is multi-faceted, but most often you will find they are using drugs or alcohol to medicate to deal with emotional pain. They may say they like the way it makes them feel, but that means a lot of things and under it all is emotional pain. Frequently it is the trauma of a painful existence at the root of their drug abuse.

Bazaar & Outlandish Behavior. We find a number of people doing outlandish acts with clothing and decorating their bodies in such a way as to gain the attention of others. Much of this is to gain meaning and significance and the attention of others to fulfill their empty core and emotional needs.

Homosexuality.  Homosexuality can be linked to a person’s lust, but the motivation can just as easily be viewed as an effort to meet their needs for meaning, security and love. Also, society today has presented homosexuality as another option for a place of belonging, so there are many today who find themselves attracted to homosexuality to find connection and fulfill their emotional needs when in reality they are not necessarily attracted to others of the same sex. Others in the homosexual community are motivated by their need for recognition and attention, and this further supports the paradigm of how we view the deeper cause and deception of sin motivating certain behaviors. We will talk more about some of the cultural influences further exacerbating the sin of homosexuality when we talk about identity.

The Innermost Being

In John 7:37 – 38 Jesus invited all who were thirsty to come to him. He promised that for those who come he would fill a central part with life — unique, deeply satisfying, permanent, and available only in him.

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

That life, Christ said, would penetrate into the core of our being. Somewhere in the center of human personality is our innermost being, a deep part within us from which God causes living waters to flow.

The word Jesus used to refer to this deep part within is the Greek word koilia. Some translations render the word as “belly” because sometimes the Greek word means an open space of cavity of some sort. For example, in Matthew 12:40 where we’re told that a fish’s belly housed Jonah for three days and nights. But the same word can be used metaphorically to mean a void, an empty space that desperately longs to be filled.11 Each of us have what Christian Psychologist Larry Crabb refers to as a “Hollow Core” in our personality, a central part that is empty but yearns to be filled.12

To the degree that this Hollow Core is full, we experience a profound sense of wholeness, an unspeakable joy, an energizing conviction that life makes sense, that we fit, that what we do is important. But when the Hollow Core is empty, or more precisely, when we feel the emptiness —our souls are torn apart with an unbearable ache, a throbbing loneliness that demands relief, a morbid sense of pointlessness that paralyzes us with anger, cynicism, and frustration.

The Lord appeals directly to this deep ache in our core, promising to do for us what no psychologist can ever hope to do.

Jesus offers us deep, thorough, lasting satisfaction that affirms our identity and at the same time frees us from self-centeredness. Christ offers life, a Full Core.

Two other passages shed important light on the Hollow Core and how it functions. Romans 16:18 speaks of people who are slaves, not of Christ, but of their own innermost being (koilia). In Philippians 3:19 Paul warns his readers about enemies of the cross whose god is their appetite or innermost being — the same word again.

Apparently, this dimension in our personality is a force to be reckoned with. Either it is the place where God’s Spirit fills us with a vital, rich life, or it becomes a monstrous power that relentlessly controls the core direction of our lives. When Christ’s invitation to come is ignored, we eventually become driven people, hopelessly committed to a futile search for fulfillment but only God can fill this void.

Nature, whether physical or personal, abhors a vacuum. Internal emptiness becomes an absolutely compelling force that drives people to sacrifice anything, eventually even their own identities, in an effort to find themselves.

The search for identity is real, and this is why we will be drilling down on that topic. Image-bearers were designed to enjoy their clear identity as happy persons who belong to God. Fallen image-bearers, however, are incredibly foolish: we look for fullness every place except where it can be found. “No one seeks after God” the Scripture says. We all “drink from broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). The result is a life lived entirely in the service of oneself, a mad pursuit of whatever holds out the hope of fullness.

Everything people do is moving in a chosen direction. Behavior is never static but always dynamic; behavior is always behavior-in-motion. We all go after whatever we think will give us what we want. To understand people deeply requires that we realize that

  • all behavior is moving in a direction toward a chosen goal;
  • without the fullness of Christ filling our innermost being, we are motivated to move in whatever direction we think will relieve the emptiness of our Hollow Core.

A model of counseling that fails to come to grips with the Hollow Core (these fundamental need motivations) is problematic and perhaps even unbiblical. Symptoms may be relieved, feelings may become more pleasant, a counterfeit sense of well-being may be enjoyed, but if the horrible reality of a Hollow Core remains unchanged, counselees remain slaves to the god of their own longings for satisfaction.

I believe this explains why there are so many in the church today who, while still attending church, have resolved to sitting on the sidelines and have given up any hope of ever moving forward with sanctification and transformation of their inner being.

We must attack the core problem in the human personality, the real culprit behind all nonorganically caused human distress which is: a steadfast determination to remain independent of God and still make life work.

Counseling and/or discipleship that is biblical addresses our arrogant denial of dependency on God. It brings us into touch with the truth of our utter dependency by stripping away all pretense to independence which is a painful process that is absolutely necessary if true spiritual maturity is to be realized.

Questions for Reflection

  • In what way does your behavior, past or present, reveal efforts to fill a hollow core and/or a quest for significance or meaning?
    • When you enter a room with people, do you seek the affirmation and attention of others?
    • Have you chosen activities, career or vocation that draws attention to yourself?
    • Do you spend an inordinate amount of time on social media seeking attention from others?
  • Recognizing that trying to fill a hollow core with anything other than God is destructive and sinful, what steps do you need to take toward repentance? Future articles will help to guide you with this process

  1. Worth Books, Summary and Analysis of Man’s Search for Meaning: Based on the Book by Victor E. Frankl (New York, NY: Worth Books, 2017).
  2. Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Trans. Ilse Lasch (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1942), 102.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Larry Crabb, Understanding People: Why We Long for Relationship (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).
  6. Ibid.
  7. R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: One Volume. HMH Books, p. 682. Kindle Edition.
  8. ἐπιθυμίαWilliam Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 372.
  9. Jay Adams, The Biblical View of Self-Esteem Self-Love, and Self-Image (Eugene: Harvest House, 1986).
  10. Lewis asks, “What is it that makes a man with £10,000 a year anxious to get £20,000 a year? It is not the greed for more pleasure. £10,000 will give all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy. It is Pride—the wish to be richer than some other rich man, and (still more) the wish for power. For, of course, power is what Pride really enjoys: there is nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers.”  C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 123.
  11. σπλάγχνα, ων; κοιλία, ας; νεφρός, οῦ: the psychological faculty of desire, intent, and feeling—‘heart, feelings, desires.’ It would be possible to treat σπλάγχνα, κοιλία, and νεφρός in this figurative sense in Domain 25 Attitudes and Emotions, but these meanings have been assigned to this domain of Psychological Faculties since the meanings involve aspects of personality which function as agents or presumed locations of psychological dispositions. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 323. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 323.
  12. Lawrence J. Crabb, Inside out, Rev. & updated, 10th anniversary ed. (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1998), 87.
  13. All Scripture cited is from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close