Veruca Salt, the bratty kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know, the one we laughed about and maybe even smirked at wondering—How could a girl become SO self-centered? Well, truth be told, I’m more like her than different. So often, though not as boldly as Veruca, I demand, I want IT now…this way, in this form, and with as low cost as possible. How I crave EASE! How easy it is, to desire comfort and to justify selfishness in the realm of my desires.
How We Respond to Desire
Desires are a tricky thing to understand, aren’t they? Recently, I was pondering (again) how to seek Jesus through prayer in the realm of our desires. I was experiencing disappointment (which comes from thwarted or unmet desires). I don’t want to fall into Veruca’s demanding, pound-the-table-with-our-selfish-fist, attitude. I also don’t want to be shy about talking to God about my needs (real or perceived), hurts, disappointments, or desires.
So often, we view our experiences of desires as a “given.” They just are. But with just a little self-examination we’ll come to realize that our desires can be good, evil, unmet, satisfied, self-driven or Christ-driven.
Advice is sometimes carelessly tossed out regarding how to ‘deal’ with desires: we’re told that our desires should be tamed, stuffed, denied, fully expressed, embraced or (unbiblically) ‘spiritualized.’
- Just go with it girl! (express what you feel)
- You need to just let go of that and stop thinking about it. (deny/stuff)
- But I’ve felt this way and I’ve desired this for as long as I can remember…surely God wants me to have it, right?! (embracing without discrimination)
- Whoaaaaaa! Calm down sister-friend! You seem so excited…so passionate! Is that a godly thing for a Christian woman?!) CALM DOWN! (tame it)
- Now hon, you do know that God gives us the desires of our hearts when we are 100% satisfied in him. Desire him! Trust him! THEN, he’ll give you exactly what you are wanting, making all your dreams come true! (wrongly spiritualize and add a dash of Disney).
What’s missing in the above? JESUS! Desires are a part of our human experience. And because of that, they are an aspect of our humanity which is disordered and impacted by sin. Desires and our responses to them are birthed out of our hearts. Jesus taught so clearly (Luke 6:43-45, Matthew 15:19), that we live/think/behave/feel out of our hearts. And our hearts need utter change through Jesus! David Powlison’s masterful essay, “I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire” says this:
What do you crave, want, pursue, wish, long for, hope to get, feel you need, or passionately desire? God has an interpretation of this that cuts to the marrow of who you are and what you live for. He sees our hearts as an embattled kingdom ruled either by one kind of desire or by another kind. On the one hand, what lusts of the flesh hijack your heart from God’s rule? On the other hand, what holy passions express your love for God? Our desires are not a given, but a fundamental choice.
Desires, like every part of our lives, need the redemption and refocusing that can only come from the radical reorientation which comes through the gospel.
How does God help with this? Consider five ways God shepherds us in our desires.
- Names and normalizes our experiences with desires. This will come through words like craving, lusts, passions, which you’ll find all through Scripture. (See 2 Peter 1:3-4 and James 4:1-4)
- Invites us to come to him regardless of what our struggle is, including our disorderly desires. (Matthew 11:28-30)
- Commands us to flee from unholy desires and to fast from influences which trigger them. (Romans 13:14, 1 Corinthians 10-1-14)
- Enables us to increasingly have our lives, including our desires, “under his feet.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
- Comforts us in our sadness and grief when good desires remain unmet. The most important way he comforts us is with HIMSELF! (Psalm 34:18, 147:3, Isaiah 61:1-4, John 14:11-4, 8)
Are you wrestling in the realm of your desires? You have a High Priest in Jesus who knows. And understands. (Hebrews 4:14-16) He is wooing you to the throne of grace THROUGH your desires and longs to hear you pour your heart out to him. In my sane moments when I’m walking by faith, a prayer I’ve offered to God for years, is something like this: Lord, keep my heart awake and desirous to what you desire for me, and keep me asleep to what isn’t for now, even as I keep my hopes set on you (1 Peter 1:13). Keep my heart dead to what is sinful and dishonoring to you. For you Lord, our salvation, are the One who daily bears our burdens, and delivers us time after time! You Lord, are our loving Father who delights to give good gifts! (Psalm 68:19-20, Luke 11:13)
What’s been helpful to you in the realm of desires? How has God discipled you in this area?
 Powlison, David. Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture. (P&R Publishing, October 2003), p. 145-162)