“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” –“Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” The Weight of Glory CS Lewis (pgs. 94-95)
“Every sinful behavior is rooted in a legitimate God-given appetite” –Thomas Aquinas
It is a question often asked in WGA circles. “Does God care about my longings, my physical and emotional needs, and my deeper desires?” What could an outcome be if I trusted and believed He cares deeply for me, my needs and desires? Perhaps it would be easier to surrender my sexuality to the sacred boundaries God places around this facet of life. And in doing so, I would thrive and flourish. This is definitely some food for thought. It is an important question and worthy of pausing and unpacking more.
Are Desires Good or Bad?
For most of my Christian life it seems I’ve always been in a daily battle with my desires. I try my best to manage them, letting the good desires endure, while attempting to stomp out the not-so-holy ones. You’ve got to stay on top of those evil desires, I often think. If you give them an inch, the next thing you’re in Vegas doing all sorts of hedonistic pleasure seeking. In spite of the marketing ploys, we know that “what happens in Vegas” doesn’t necessarily stay there. Left to myself, I feel as though my evil desires will overtake and carry me away. Have you ever felt that way? But wait!—according to the CS Lewis quote above, my desires are not so strong and powerful to undo me. They are TOO WEAK—I’m not wanting enough and settling for much less than what God desires for me.
And wait again!—Thomas Aquinas says at the root of all the sinful desires are legitimate God-designed needs. When I’m missing the mark or settling for less, somewhere behind all the messes are still authentic longings He created. But what are those? It’s taken a long time to even begin to put words around all the deep yearnings I wish to have realized in my life. I desperately want love, for it to stick and stay and not run out of the sieve that is my heart so quickly. I want to know I’m significant and my life has purpose and I yearn to be enjoyed and delighted in—to be seen and truly known.
Biblical Metaphors on Thirst and Hunger
Still, as I re-read my shortened list of desires, words fail at conveying the depth of longing behind them. But you get the gist. To add to this difficulty, why are there times when I get glimpses of God’s fulfillment within my desires? Conversely, why are there seasons when I feel like I’m in a desert starving as though He doesn’t care? Thankfully, this is exactly where God and scripture intersect the dilemma.
Have you noticed how we communicate about our needs, longings and desires? We find ourselves using words like hungering, craving, yearning, thirsting and even Thomas Aquinas speaks of our “God-given appetite.” Scripture is filled with many such food and water parallels. As God works, shapes, and forms His people there are seasons of feasting and fasting. There are also rhythms of deprivation and then God graciously fulfilling those needs. Hunger and thirst become the tangible metaphors God attempts to use to get our attention. Those physical places of “hollowness” can help us understand the deeper places of hankering on a “soul-ish” level in us.
Isaiah 55:1-2 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (NIV)
And after Jesus has fed the 5000 he says in John 6:27– “You’ve come looking for Me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides.” (The Message)
Jesus Himself says He is the Bread of Life and Living Water—remember what He says to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:10—“If you knew the generous gift of God and who I am, you would be asking me for drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” (The Message)
He Does Care
In these scriptures and many more, Jesus again and again zeros in and appeals to that deep place of longing. Like the Samaritan woman, He continually asks us, “What is it you really want?” (desire, hunger and thirst for?). The next sentence is usually fast on its heels, “Why are you desperately chasing after things that eventually leave you starving? I, who created you and your longings, am the only One who can truly fulfill them in the best way?”
Reading scripture through the metaphorical lens of desire equaling hunger and thirst is entrenched biblically from beginning to end. I would agree with the quote from writer/speaker Reverend Michael Cusick—“Desire and thirst are central to Christianity. When Jesus of Nazareth invites people to follow Him, He first awakens desire.” (Surfing for God, pg. 27). Isn’t it wonderful that He does care? Unfortunately, there are still barriers we experience in the fulfillment of our desires. As usual, our fear and control get in the way of God’s plans for our own joy and satisfaction. We’ll unpack that in my next blog.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.