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Blog / How Your Hurt, Struggles, and Deepest Longings Can Lead to a Fulfilling Life: An Interview with Josh McDowell and Ben Bennett

How Your Hurt, Struggles, and Deepest Longings Can Lead to a Fulfilling Life: An Interview with Josh McDowell and Ben Bennett

Josh McDowellMany people today are burdened with unprecedented levels of anxiety, hurt, doubt, guilt, and shame. Medical and mental health professionals confirm that much of the dysfunction and disconnectedness we experience in life comes from unresolved relational and emotional wounds that leave us trying to fulfill God-given longings through unhealthy behaviors and relationships. What does the Bible say about the healing necessary to pave our way toward a thriving life?

Ben Bennett

Bible Gateway interviewed Josh McDowell (@josh_mcdowell) and Ben Bennett (@benvbennett) about their book, Free to Thrive: How Your Hurt, Struggles, and Deepest Longings Can Lead to a Fulfilling Life (Thomas Nelson, 2021).

How do people “crave a whole life” but live “a halting, halfway kind of life”?

Josh McDowell: After 75-plus years of combined ministry, Ben and I have seen so much brokenness globally affecting both Christians and non-Christians, and a lack of biblical and holistic solutions. People are dealing with anxiety, addiction, habitual sin, unhealthy relationships, and negative views of God and themselves. So many continue to struggle and not know how to get free or what the Bible actually says about how Jesus brings healing and freedom to our lives.

Buy your copy of Free to Thrive in the FaithGateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayThis has led many to crave a whole life but live a halfway kind of life. Ben and I know what this is like. Growing up I experienced sexual abuse and an angry and alcoholic father. For years I was angry, exhausted, and burning out in ministry until I dealt with these unresolved wounds. Ben faced trauma, family dysfunction, and developed mental health struggles and a porn addiction. He too was struggling to go on until he found real hope and answers.

We discovered time-tested biblical, psychological, and neuroscientific principles in our years of ministry, our own healing journeys, and in our research that we wanted to share with the world to help others be whole and free to thrive.

What are legitimate longings?

Ben Bennett: In our combined years of research, studying the Scriptures, and walking through healing ourselves, Josh and I discovered that God creates every human being with seven longings, or seven persistent cravings of their hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says “…guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Everything we do is driven by our desire to have these longings of the heart fulfilled. And when they’re fulfilled, we flourish.

How does the Bible depict these Seven Longings you describe in the book?

Josh McDowell: In the Bible, we see the Seven Longings:

  • Acceptance
  • Appreciation
  • Affection
  • Access
  • Attention
  • Affirmation of Feelings
  • Assurance of Safety.

For example, we all need to be Accepted–to be included, loved, and approved of as we are, no matter what. Romans 15:7 says to “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” We were created to experience these longings fulfilled in healthy, safe relationships with God and others, and to thrive as a result.

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What is the Wholeness Apologetic Model?

Ben Bennett: The Wholeness Apologetic Model is a biblical model, informed by psychology and neuroscience, that explores God’s design for a thriving life. It explores why we struggle, how we heal, how we experience freedom, and how to start to thrive again through Jesus, others, and practical solutions.

What happens when longings go unmet?

Josh McDowell: When we experience things like abuse, unmet needs, or a lack of the fulfillment of our Seven Longings, we experience deep hurt and unmet longings. Because we’re created to have these longings fulfilled, if they aren’t met in healthy God-given ways, we’ll develop symptoms–it could be anything from a deep sense of shame, constant anxiety, anger, unhealthy relationships, an addiction to porn or food, etc. There are many examples of this in Scripture–one is found in Job 3. After losing his health, wealth, and family, Job was so depressed he wished he had never been born and he cursed the day of his birth.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Evidence That Demands A Verdict Redux: An Interview with Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell]

How should we listen to our longings?

Ben Bennett: One of the key principles we talk about in the book is that our sin and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors are not random; they’re signals that when answered can lead to a flourishing life. How? Well, behind those things are deeper desires and the Seven Longings. Every behavior has a cause. When we discover why we do the things that we don’t want to do, we can start to find their fulfillment in healthier ways through God and others that actually leads to greater satisfaction.

So let’s give more time to questioning our struggles rather than just condemning them. Let’s listen to the longings behind our unhealthy behaviors. Let’s figure out what they’re about and invite Jesus and others in so we can have them fulfilled in healthy ways and start to thrive.

How should we see ourselves as God sees us?

Josh McDowell: We have to understand what the Scriptures actually teach about this. As Christians, we’re not merely “converted sinners,” we’re now saints (1 Corinthians 1:2). We’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). God the Father loves us as much as he loves Jesus (John 17:23). We’re made in God’s image with infinite dignity and worth (Genesis 1:27). God sees us as his forgiven (Psalm 103:12) and righteous beloved sons and daughters (1 John 3:1) who are of infinite value.

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What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Josh McDowell: Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” As a result of the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, anyone can receive forgiveness of their sins and begin a relationship with God and have eternal life. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives. Everything we do in our ministry is about the gospel.

Ben Bennett: Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” While I’m not Joseph, I resonate with his story and the fact that our God has a way of using the worst things to bring about greater good things. After all the trauma, mental health struggles, and suicidal thoughts I wrestled with, I’m thankful that God had greater plans—to redeem and use my hurt and struggles to help others know him personally and experience healing and freedom.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App Bible Audio App?

Ben Bennett: I’ve been using Bible Gateway for years. It has allowed me to go deeper in my studies, easily accessing different Bible translations and commentaries, benefiting me personally in addition to my ministry. I can’t thank you all enough.

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Free to Thrive is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.


Bio: Josh McDowell is the founder and president of Josh McDowell Ministry (A Cru Ministry). He has written or co-authored 152 books in 128 languages, including the multi-million selling More Than a Carpenter and Evidence that Demands a Verdict (named one the 20th century’s top 40 books by World magazine).

Ben Bennett is an author, speaker, and the director of Resolution Movement—a global movement helping young people overcome hurts and struggles and thrive in life. He has faced addiction, trauma, and other mental health struggles in his journey toward a wholehearted life.

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Filed under Books, Interviews