Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Don't Say "Yes" to Every Desire


                                                                     (Rockford, Illinois)

We all live with unfulfilled desires. This is not bad.

"Desire" is: wanting something that one does not have. "Desire" makes no sense without its object. Were I to now think, "I desire to type on a laptop computer," while typing on a laptop computer, that is absurd. 

All desire is, precisely, the lack of an object, or circumstance, or event, or relationship, that one does not now have, with the idea that, if I acquire it, then I will be happy/fulfilled/etc. 

All persons have desires. Every desire, in its moment, is unfulfilled. All persons have unfulfilled desires. Many of them remain so. 

That is good. 

Here, goodness or badness refers to the object of one's desire. A person may desire to get back at someone, to hurt someone, to take revenge. That is not good. It is good for that desire to remain unfulfilled.

James 1:13-15 says:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Some, perhaps many, of our desires are evil. It is good that we do not act on them. So, if someone has a desire that is not being met, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This relates to what psychiatrist M. Scott Peck told us in The Road Less Traveled, that road being "delay desire-gratification."

Wesley Hill, in Washed and Waiting, writes:

"I’d suggest that living with unfulfilled desires is not the exception of the human experience but the rule. Even most of those who are married are, as Thoreau once said, “living lives of quiet regret.” Maybe they married the wrong person or have the pain of suffering within marriage or feel trapped in their situations and are unable to fulfill a higher sense of calling. The list of unfulfilled desires goes on and on." (p. 72)

Jesus told us to expect unfulfilled desire and to not acquiesce to it. "Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."" (Luke 9:23) Self-denial includes denial of desires for the sake of following after Jesus. 

It was a summer morning fifteen years ago, and Linda and I had our suitcases packed. We were excited to be leaving for our annual summer conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin! Linda's father Del was living with us. On that morning his defibrillator went off, twice. 

Linda and I knew that we were not going anywhere. For me, this was disappointing. I do not think that my feeling of disappointment was troubling to God. My God is a compassionate God who feels with me when I am disappointed. My desire to get away to this beautiful conference was denied, for the sake of a greater calling. We stayed with Del, took him to the hospital, and eventually (though a few days late) were able to find care for him and go to part of our conference.

Do not define yourself by your desires. Do not say "Yes" to every desire that struts into your mind and says "Satisfy me." (Remember the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors.")

It is rare to find persons who live this way in our sex-inebriated culture of exponentially unfulfilled desires. Our consumerism not only wants us to say "Yes" to our thirst and obey it, it creates countless other desires, and convinces us that we walk among the perpetually unfulfilled. This is the breeding ground of entitlement and narcissism.

The person who says "Yes" to every desire is a slave, not free.

For those of you who claim to be Jesus-followers, do not be mastered by your desires, but submit them to your heavenly Master.

Draw near to the One who fulfills your desires to be valued and loved.