A repost from 2011
Many Christians seem to be afraid of longing and desire. Perhaps for good reason.
Many of us know where longings and desire may lead us. Trust me I know!
- Pursuit of power
And we could go on and on. We all know the verse, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” found in Jeremiah 17:9. After thinking about this, I decided that I need to go back and re-read Eldridge’s book, Awakening the Dead since I can’t find any notes on his book. Eldridge deals a lot with the heart. The Bible talks a lot about the heart!!
Another problem with desire is found in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
And finally, I thought of James 1:14-15, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
No doubt what Gary Thomas writes is true, “Pleasure divorced from God leads to pain and misery. . . Pleasure divorced from God’s governing hand becomes treacherous.” A rampant pursuit of our desires ends up in destruction. We must avoid both ego inflation and ego deflation according to David Benner. In ego inflation, “The first way of responding to eros is to pursue the gratification we desire without much or any attempt to channel the energy. This is a life of hedonism.”
But, neither do the following work:
- Denial of our desires or ego deflation. More from Benner, “While ego inflation inevitably involves being burned up by passion, ego deflation involves slow death by boredom or depression. Shutting down our passions also leads to alienation from our selves, others, and our world.”
- Repression of our desires
- Ignoring our desires
So, what is the alternative? Understand our desires, feel them, embrace them and direct them towards God. Refuse to allow my desires to be satisfied by ungodly means. C.S. Lewis wrote, “All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
I need to be aware of what quenches my thirst, fills my hunger, and satisfies my desires. A big problem is deception, is it not? If we deny our desires, we will look for them to be met elsewhere, some place that is not healthy. Gary Thomas writes, “We become most vulnerable when we are desperate—and that’s precisely when we need to take the most care about our choice of pleasures.”
Consider the five love languages and what happens if we deny or ignore our longing for love expressed in a way that meets our need.
- Words of affirmation: if not met, we may try to manipulate and perform so that others will express these words.
- Quality Time: if ignored, we may tend to cling, smother, or otherwise gain the time we long for.
- Gifts: when they don’t come, perhaps we may become possessive, hoard, go on impulsive shopping sprees or covet what others have.
- Acts of Service: when we are not served, do we tend to nag, demand, manipulate?
- Touch: if touch is our love language and we pretend it is not, we may become vulnerable in many inappropriate ways.
So what should we do? When I feel desire or longing, I need to identify the root of deeper longing behind that desire. Am I really looking for intimacy? Relationship? Community? Respect?
Finally, I guess we need to know what we do when our desires are not being met and ask ourselves if our actions are appropriate? Ideally, our desires and longings drive us towards God, the one who most deeply and ultimately meets the longings of our soul.
A troubling verse, Psalm 106:15, “He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.” ESV. The KJV says, “He sent leanness into their soul.”
The context to which the Psalm refers is the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel (Num 11:31-35). Apparently, sometimes, God will give us what we want even if it is not the best.
Reading this week in Psalm 107. Give thanks to the LORD because He is good, because His lovingkindness endures forever. Four times, the people get into desperate situations in this Psalm–wandering around and hungry and thirsty (5), in darkness and in bondage (10), suffering because of their foolish and sinful choices (17) and going crazy with terror as they faced evil (26-7). But each time (6, 13, 19, 28), “They cried to the LORD in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress.” And following each deliverance, the Psalmist warns (?) them (8, 15, 21, 31)
“Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men”
I asked myself, “What is it that I want? For what do I hunger and thirst?” Mtt 6:33 and 5:6 teach me how to be satisfied with appropriate longing.
Too often, my craving is not for righteousness and for holiness. I am grateful for the times when the LORD does not give me what I am craving. Maybe it would be valuable for me to do some fasting and reflect on the things for which I crave.
Pretty clear from Psalm 107–God can turn that which may look like a river into a desert and that which is a desert into a soul quenching spring (33-38).
May we refuse to be satisfied by anyone or anything apart from God. May our longing be for Him!