There’s a conversation that takes place in our family on a fairly regular basis. It goes something like this. Child: “I want… (fill in the blank with something fairly reasonable like mac and cheese for breakfast, a new toy, or a puppy that looks like a t-rex.)” Me: “Well, I want a million dollars and it’s never yet made a bit of difference.” Now, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually wanted a million dollars exactly, but the point is to try to communicate to them that their desire is ridiculous.
These types of desires are common among children and, as seen in the above examples, it is usually pretty easy to determine whether or not they should be granted. Unfortunately, the desires of the grown up variety are not always so easy to decipher. For a believer, God’s Word can quickly identify certain desires as sinful or inappropriate. However, many desires leave one wondering whether or not they are acceptable. Perhaps you’ve wondered whether or not it is okay to want or hope for something with questions like these: “Is this a desire that God has given me? Is this a fleshly desire that I should resist?” Sometimes it can be hard to know and I’ve come up with a few questions that might help determine the difference.
- Why do I want what I want? The answer to this reveals a lot and our motivations matter a lot. If the motivation is sinful, than the desire becomes a problem. If your desire is rooted in greed, jealousy, pride, fear, selfishness or any other sinful attitude than the desire is wrong. If the motivation honors the Lord, it is okay – at least for the time being.
- In what do I trust? Many of our desires reveal that we’re not actually fully trusting God. Many times a desire is neither good nor bad in and of itself. For instance, it is not bad to desire a job. However, if I desire a job because I am trusting in myself or that job to provide for my family, than the desire is wrong until I am fully trusting God.
- How do or will I act if I don’t get my desire? Again, many desires are neither good nor bad on their own, but if I get angry or bitter or depressed because my desire is unfulfilled it is sinful.
- Do I desire God most? My first and foremost desire should always be for God. In Matthew 6:33 we read that we should “seek first the kingdom of God” before we concern ourselves with other desires. Psalm 37:4 says to “delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Take note of the order because it is of utmost importance. There is nothing wrong with having desires, but they should always be in second place to our desire for the things of God and even God himself. We must want Him more than we want anything else.
- Am I content? I acknowledge that contentment is somewhat easier to define when things are going your way, but we must have an understanding of contentment that takes into account the difficult times. I don’t think contentment means I like everything the way it is or that I never work to change my life, but it has to do with accepting where God has you for the moment. It’s a tricky balance. Ultimately, contentment means that I’m satisfied in God regardless of what my circumstances are.
When we answer these questions in our own heart, we should find more clarity as to whether or not the desires are from the Lord or of a fleshly origin. As you consider your desires, remember that God “fulfills the desire of those who fear Him (Psalm 145:19).”