“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
When Good Things Take “Center Stage” in Our Lives
I’ve been talking about desires and longings over my last few blogs. In the last installment we followed the Israelites wanderings in the desert. We looked at how they reacted to God orchestrating hunger and thirst in their lives, which was usually pretty dismal. This has made me more aware and I’ve been noticing how I (and those around me) deal with desires.
I’ll zero in on something or someone and begin gravitating towards it. I’ll imagine this friendship, relationship, project, vocation or event is going to somehow “do it” for me. Suddenly most, if not all, of my eggs seem to travel into that basket. Now honestly, there may be nothing wrong with any of these things individually. Most of them are gracious desires God has given us to enjoy, rooted in authentic needs.
Who doesn’t want to love and be loved by someone special? Or have a vocation that is life-giving and satisfying and to just delight in life? Everyone does. And yet, when I make any of these things an end in and of themselves, they become thin and papery. They pale to the larger things my heart was created for—how do I honor those bigger desires? I’m still asking God to give me a clue, but I’ll offer a few thoughts:
Honoring Your Desires
When God is asking me what it is my heart deeply longs for, the answer is–“I have no idea?” My desires can be as simple as another cookie. Then there are bigger desires, like a feeling of financial security or long and everlasting love. I find myself returning to the initial quote I began this series with from C. S. Lewis. What stands out for me is the word “half-hearted”. When it comes to leaning into my desires this feels profoundly true. When faced with deeper yearnings, my fears and vulnerability are exposed. What if they are laughed at or don’t come to pass?– isn’t it easier not to want too much?
The quote reminds us how diminished of a life we can settle to live. So the flip side question becomes, “What does it mean to live and desire God’s best for me wholeheartedly?” We could spend a long and valid amount of time unpacking exactly what this means. Where is a good place to start? Sit in God’s presence and talk with Him (or journal) about what you truly desire for your life. Every time you think you’ve gone big, dream bigger! Our Father wants to give us good things if we only unabashedly ask.
Follow the Thread!
I LOVE this helpful and hopeful line from Thomas Aquinas, “Every sinful behavior is rooted in a legitimate God-given appetite.” Its practicality is often useful in my own life. A desire can rise up in me that is “disordered” and less than holy at any time. The next step is mindlessly boarding the conveyor belt to its usual shame inducing outcome. But I can interrupt this cycle, pause and choose a healthier alternative. My background is littered with sexual addiction and emotional dependency. But rather than acting on those impulses, I can follow the thread to what it is I’m truly need in the moment. Do I need some affirmation, attention, a sense of belonging? Security? How can I honor that legitimate need that I’d miss if I chose the destructive path?
Wait on God!
A lot of the trouble I have with my desires is that I can act impulsively or compulsively in them. I rarely stop and ask the question, “Is this really what I want?” I can get on the aforementioned conveyor belt, push “go”, and hope this will be the thing that fulfills my wish. Questions I often ask these days are: Would I be willing to not immediately act upon this longing? Could I hold this desire up to and with God? Can I wait for Him to shape and fashion it into something that is closer to His heart and mine? As Americans, we hate not having everything instantly gratified if we are honest. You’d be surprised at what a more robust, holy and abundant desire comes in the waiting.
Look for the unprecedented!
There have been many times I have been miffed (perhaps even angry?) with God. Usually over an unanswered hope because it didn’t come in the exact form or timing in which I was wanting. But remember God’s manna in the desert? This was a first time encounter of God meeting a need in a manner that had never been seen by His people. It was a completely new provision. My current prayers are, “Father, open my eyes to ways you are meeting needs outside of my usual small boxes. Surprise me with your “manna” for this hope and longing”.
Regardless of my attempts to honor my desires, there are still times when God gives me the not-so-popular answers. It might be “not now” or even a big ol’ “no.” And then it’s my choice how I respond. Will I, can I still believe that God is good, and His love has my best interest at heart? Or does it begin the battle of the wills? It’s probably a mixture of both. These difficult places of wrestling are a good spring board into looking at cultivating our intimacy with God.
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.
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