In your quiet moments (hey, it may only be the shower for some of you), where does your mind go? What topics, feelings, ideas show up when your mind has no place it has to be? What do you notice, turn over in your mind, “process”, etc.? What internal conversation do you have with yourself? As you take stock, just describe what is there: Continue reading
Category Archives: Desires
Supposed to be going with the family today to my son’s state gymnastics meet several hours drive away. But it is snowing and messy despite a few days ago going above 70 degrees. As he contemplates not going, I’m reminded how difficult it is to deal with life’s disappointments. What habits do we practice when things, big or small, don’t go the way we planned? Whining, pity parties, rage, despair, Stoicism? I’m inclined to be stoic on the outside but having a rage inside. The call of Psalm 73 and others is to bring our disappointments to God, admit them, and plea for help to see them as he does.
In the past I have written on the topic of desire and how our cultivation of it shapes our entire view of self, other and the expression of our will. Here’s a thought: Is anxiety anything more than the will responding to the perception of a desired object just out of reach, something that appears graspable but just beyond the fingertips of control? We want something and so our focus is on protecting it, grasping it, maintaining it, gaining it (coupled with the deep concern that if we do not maintain our vigilance, we will not be able to fulfill that desire).
Yesterday, Diane Langberg sent me this quote of one of her favorite dead theologians, John MacDuff, that illustrates how life orbits around central desires:
There is a gravitation in the moral as in the physical world. When love to God is habitually in the ascendant or occupying place of the will, it gathers round it all the other desires of the soul as satellites, and whirls them along with it in its orbit round the center of attraction [the core desire].
Quotation used by John MacDuff from Hewitson’s Life as found in The Mind of Jesus, p. 62. For a link to full texts of some of MacDuff’s devotional work, see here.
In the last week I had conversations with 3 different friends about whether they wished they knew then what they know now. In one case, a person gave up a solid career for what felt like a calling to the ministry. The ministry went sour for several reasons, none seemingly his fault. Despite strong efforts, no new ministry on the horizon. Another had 5 job offers. He chose one, turned the others down and waited for the new job to begin. Just prior to the job beginning, the company went belly up. The other four positions were gone or didn’t want him if they were his “second” choice. The third friend moved across country to a dream job. Within short order, it was clear that the job wasn’t going to be as advertised.
Counseling offices everywhere are full of individuals asking God for the answer to their why questions. Why did you let me go down the wrong path? Why didn’t you protect me? Why didn’t you bless my plans? Why won’t you show me the reasons for this pain (if I could just see how He was going to use this for (my) good, I could handle it).
So, what if you knew the future AND the reasons why. Continue reading
The Scriptures provide rich means to protect us from our cravings and ourselves. God in his lavish love for us has given many means of escape. Grace-oriented people who cherish the awesome power of God to transform lives sometimes forget the daily gifts God gives to protect us from our old selves. We’d rather have maintenance free victorious living than accept that God offers daily (hourly? minute by minute?) manna, enough to get through to your next meal. Yet that is exactly how God loves his children. He provides just enough for us to depend upon him for our every need. Oases are rare because they are dangerous to sin sick people. They offer the deception that we are capable of surviving on our own, without God’s intervention. Notice again that when the children of Israel are about to enter the Land, Moses beseeches them to be wary of growing fat in the abundance of the Land and forgetting who gave it to them.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. Deut. 8:10-18
So what means does God offer us to protect our desires from becoming toxic, to increase our desires for that which is good? It is important to remember that these means of protection from evil desires are not simply behavioral tasks that work apart from a changed heart. We cannot merely legislate or “manage” lusts. Only when God is at work and we respond to Him by submissively killing lust and putting them to death can we find the means to change inordinate desires. Management, at its best, only produces a “dry drunk”—a person who as stopped one unattractive response to their desire, but continues to use more acceptable means to get the same desires met. Continue reading
Evil Desires and the Process of Becoming Dead
Assuming that I need not convince you of the existence of evil desires, I want to explore how God provides the way of escape from our temptations and tests (1 Cor. 10:13). In order to do so, I think it best for us to look first at how we are enticed by our desires and what happens to us in the process of being overtaken by sinful cravings to the point of enslavement. As I read the bible through the lens of desires, I am amazed at the sheer volume of the warnings to watch out for being overtaken by our own sinful cravings. Further, the writers are explicit—even vulgar—when describing how people become enslaved to sinful longings. In the passages that we will look at, you will see individuals, other external forces (leaders, others, adversity), and God active in this process of being given over to inordinate desires. We do it to ourselves, we listen to the deceptive words of others, and God gives us what we demanded. Thus we are enslaved and despicable.
What does this mean for building a biblically based view of the addicting nature of desire? How do we become enslaved to desires for things other than God? The Scriptures give attention to the descent into addiction from two perspectives. We see descriptions from a human perspective: of the physical, cognitive, and emotional processes involved as well as the impact of addiction in our pursuit of satisfaction. Of course, the Scriptures also give us God’s perspective on human behavior. There are no excuses, no reasons, and no loopholes that explain away behavior. The human-centered description of addiction can only tell us what happens after the horse is already out of the barn. Our hearts have already given birth to sinful desire in our mother’s womb. If we only look to our own experiences, we might try to shove the horse (desire) back in the barn. But while locking the front door, we find the desire escaping out the back door. So, let’s take a closer look at Scripture’s descriptions of this “giving over” to sinful desires. Continue reading
Desire in its Best Forms
God is a Jealous, desiring God. How does one describe the unseen, all-knowing, omnipotent, ever-present God? Words and human experience can never do Him justice. And yet, God uses words to teach us about himself. He is just, benevolent, holy, and sovereign. These descriptions evoke images of power, of needing nothing. And God does not need anything for in him everything obtains its life. But notice, he does not only describe himself with terms of power and strength, but also with word that suggest desire and longing. God is not merely patient with us. No, He longs for us and would gather us to him as a hen would gather her chicks (Matt. 23:37f; the entire book of the Prophets). He pursues his wife. He hems her in even when she runs after other lovers (Hosea 2). He “burns” with jealousy for Zion so much so that he returns her to an honor she does not deserve (Zech. 8:2-4), even paying the price himself for remarriage. If God desires us, longing for the glory he deserves from his creatures, then desire is not just something that we should resist.
God cares about and fulfills our desires. You cannot accuse God of being an ascetic or uncaring of your desires. We see numerous references to God’s attention to our desires. The Psalmist reminds God that he hears the desires of suffering people (10:17). He not only hears but he also acts. In Psalm 20 and 21, David sings of God’s hand in bringing about the desires of his heart. In Psalm 37 David clarifies the relationship between human desires and God’s response. When we delight in God, he delights to give us our desires (see also Matt. 5:6). He is a father who dotes on his children. He gives good things that satisfy (Ps. 103:5). Jesus picks up on this theme and reminds us that if we, who are evil, give good gifts to each other, then will not God, the creator of the universe, give good gifts to those who ask (Matt. 7:11)? Are you not yet convinced that God delights to fulfill your desires? Then listen to David as he bursts forth in song, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing…He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:16,19).
I can hear your objection. “But wait”, you say, “There are many desires that God never fulfilled for me. Continue reading
The mere presence of desire suggests a wanting of something that is not fully available all the time. We want things we do not have. We desire better clothes, bodies, material things, more comfort, connection, or even simplicity. Not long ago, several women in my home fellowship group were bemoaning the isolation caused by hectic schedules and fantasizing about living in a smaller community or at least on the same street where they could share the burden with each other. They should share meal preparation, child-care, and reclaim something lost from life from a generation ago. Similarly, many of us have at one time or another wished to return to the Garden of Eden. Paradise—where simplicity reigns and struggles and thirst do not exist! But this is not the image that Genesis paints of Adam’s existence. Instead, we learn that Adam has work to do and no help in doing it. God himself acknowledges that it is not good for Adam to be alone. Imagine Adam’s growing loneliness as he named the animals, realizing that none could be his mate. Even before any sin entered the world, Adam struggled with the ache of loneliness, the unmet desire for companionship, and burden of being the only steward of all Creation. (okay, I’ve taken some interpretive liberties but when you read his response to Eve, he must have been missing something!) Continue reading
I’ve written some reflections on dealing with unfulfilled desire. It is my belief that we must protect desire (neither try endlessly to slake it or deny it). I will attempt to make posts over the next few days. The first will be a bit about my own personal reflections on living with desire in the age of gluttony. After that, I will try to outline some biblical images related to the topic and ultimately some things we can do to protect ourselves from either despairing or demanding hearts. Here’s some of my introductory experiences… (warning, a little long, I’ll try to keep the next ones much shorter)
I have a confession to make: desire, not cotton, is the fabric of my life. I crave foods, comfortable living, excitement, time with my wife without interruptions, sex, prestige, freedom from illicit temptations (or is it freedom to indulge without penalty?), free time, obedient children, and employment that doesn’t seem like work. Satisfaction is the name of my game. And with 4 decades of experience in achieving at least partial satisfaction, I still find it ever elusive, never lasting more than a moment in time. Even when I get what I want, it’s never enough. Continue reading