In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes, "It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Recently, I've been thinking about this issue, and I've realized that a lot of Christians tend to be afraid of desiring anything too much--unless they are wanting a better relationship with God or something very directly related to the spread of His kingdom. I think there's an idea that deep, strong desires for anything that isn't overtly "spiritual" is suspect, at best, and sinful, at worst. But here's the thing: I think that's a lie.
Shrinking away from powerful desires is a way to shield ourselves from vulnerability and protect ourselves from being hurt. We all learn early in life that it makes your heart ache to want something you just aren't getting. While nothing feels quite like when God finally fulfills a long-held desire of the heart, unfulfilled desire is tantalizing and painful. So as a means of self-protection, we try so hard to suppress and quiet the part of the heart that dreams, yearns, and desires. In reality, we may want children, or health, or healing, so badly that it tugs at our heart strings. We may want to get married, to get a better job, to have our broken relationship with a loved one restored. And we want it badly. But we get skilled, so skilled, at convincing ourselves that these desires aren't as strong as they truly are.
Perhaps we worry that if we express a desire that is not being fulfilled, it will reflect badly on our faith and our relationship with God. We think, "Doesn't the Bible say that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart? Am I not delighting in Him? What's wrong with my faith?" And on the flip side, sometimes I even worry about getting something I deeply desire--because what if it's not what I dreamed of, and I'm left disappointed, and wondering if God might just like to say, "I told you so"?
And finally, wanting to suppress desire and act like we don't want is a pride issue. We feel "better" than others if we can act like we don't have strong, heartfelt desires. We assume that those who do are ruled by their desires. Can desire lead to sin? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean that desire itself is bad or sinful.
But over time, by trying to convince ourselves that we don't want the things we want, we dull and desensitize the part of the heart that was made to yearn for the things God wants to give us, the part that was made to crave what He longs to offer us. Why do we think it is wrong to want? The part of the heart that wants is deep, restless, and uniquely human. God put it in us, and He wants us to awaken that part of the heart--not to act like it doesn't exist. Because we are made in the image of God, we have the ability to desire deeply, to dream about new possibilities for our futures and our lives. God is the one who desired first--and His desire was for us. It is okay to want, even to want deeply. God wants us to have desires, dreams, and visions, and to express those desires. We have to have a vision, or, according to Scripture, we perish. God wants us to dream--in fact, a dream is a mark of God's Spirit being poured out (Joel 2:28). When God's Spirit is unleashed, people dream dreams and have visions. I think it's possible that we could even quench the Spirit when we refuse to dream.
Could it be that the question we need to answer is simply this one: What do you want?
In Luke, chapter 18, Jesus encounters a blind beggar by the side of the road. The man cries out to Him, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Son of David, have mercy on me!" But Jesus doesn't just heal the blind man then and there. Instead, he first asks him a question that seems simple, but is also deeply profound: "What do you want me to do for you?" What do you WANT? The beggar says, "Lord, I want to see." Jesus then--and only then--responds, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Could it be that verbalizing our honest, deep desire is not only a precursor to blessing, but also an expression of the kind of faith God rewards?
A similar scenario occurs in John 5. There, Jesus met a man who had been paralyzed for 38 long years. But before He healed him, Jesus asked him, "Do you WANT to get well?" It might seem so obvious--of course, that's what he wanted! But yet, it is so beautiful that the God who hung the stars in the heavens and spoke into the darkness to create light and knows every beat of your heart is looking people in the eyes and asking them what, exactly, they want. Because it matters to Him! He cares about what you want. He wants you to verbalize your desire, even though He already knows what it is! That thing you daydream about, or that keeps you up at night, or that you fill the pages of your journal writing about. The thing that brings tears to your eyes and an ache to your heart. The desire that YOU, like that man, may have had for 38 years, and no one has ever bothered to ask you what it is. But God does. I am overwhelmed to think that the God of the universe would ask people just like you and me what they WANT.
And notice that those desires aren't all overtly spiritual! The blind man didn't say, "Lord, I want you to use my blindness to allow me to minister to others, or to bring others to You." No, he just said, "Lord, I want to see." Lord, I just want to see. Sometimes, we hesitate to express our deepest, most heartfelt desires because we think they are selfish and not sufficiently "spiritual." But sometimes, after suppressing our true wants for too long, the masks and facades are suddenly stripped away, and all that's left is our genuine desire. And that is exactly what the Lord wants us to express! Even if it's not "spiritual." Even if we think it's weak, and painful, and difficult, and better left unsaid. Sometimes, we just want to see--and God will take care of the rest.
And I leave you with this: Could the Lord be asking you, even today: What do YOU want?