IS IT OKAY TO WANT?
Is It Okay To Want?
For years, I wasn’t even aware of the fact that I had desires. Sure, I wanted ice cream or a taco (depending on the time of the month I was asked), a new job or a boyfriend, but deep-rooted desires? I just couldn’t admit to having them, much less asking God to meet them. Anytime I so much as thought about what I wanted, SNL’s Church Lady would pop up in my imagination.
Tsk tsk! she’d say. Who do you think you are, wanting more? Aren’t you grateful for all that God has already given you? You’re so selfish and ungrateful. Repent, and satisfy yourself in the Lord. He’s all that you need. Church Lady sounded so…holy. Judgy, but holy. Obviously, I figured, she must be right – and she was, in part. Jesus is all that we need. But the false conclusion I drew was that loving Jesus meant shedding all of my non-Jesus desires. So in my quest to become “a better Christian,” I resolved to want for nothing.
GOD WANTS US TO WANT
Fortunately, that proved to be impossible. God created us to desire not only Him, but all that He yearns to give us. C.S. Lewis articulated this principle beautifully in The Weight of Glory: “[i]f the notion that to desire our own good and to eagerly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion…is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”
Scripture, too, affirms desire. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). What the righteous desire will be granted (Proverbs 10:24). You have granted him his heart’s desires (Psalm 21:2). God loves fulfilling desires that align with His will. He beckons us to “ask, seek, and knock” (Luke 11:9-10), and applauds our “shameless impudence” in asking (Luke 11:8 TPT). Jesus plainly asked: “What do you want?” (John 1:38; Mark 10:51), inviting those who trusted him to name their desires. Contrary to the Church Lady’s admonition, desire is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, bringing our desires to God is one of the most child-like acts of faith we can offer Him.
But first, we must let our desires emerge. Mine were buried under fear of failure, loss, and disappointment. I’d learned to “not want” out of self-preservation. I feared what might happen to my faith if I dared to want something and God said no. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” I reminded myself (Proverbs 13:12), and concluded it was better not to hope in the first place. I felt safer trusting in my own strength and provision, rather than hoping and waiting for God’s.
Eventually, I got tired of living this way. I couldn’t deny or suppress my desire for things that were beyond my own ability to provide. Moreover, many of the things I desired reflected something about the image of God in me: I want love, I want a life of purpose, I long for a meaningful community, and desire beauty and justice. These are all good things that God himself wants me to pursue, not reflections of a selfish heart.
As I leaned into this truth, I realized that some of the things I’d filed under “selfish ambition,” were actually mischaracterized desires God had placed on my heart. For example, running for Congress was something I’d dreamt of doing since childhood. Love of country, justice, and people fueled my God-given desire to serve. However, my struggle to distinguish between Godly v. selfish ambition and desire made me question my own motives for running. Only after I realized it was God himself who had given me the desire to serve - something that 99.9% of Americans would balk at - was I able to embrace my campaign with passion, rather than condemnation.
As I laid this and many other desires before God, I also learned that He redeems our hope, giving us what we ask for, or something he knows is better. In the case of my campaign, which I lost, God led me into a season of rest that enabled me to spend time with and care for my aging parents; one of whom contracted cancer shortly after the campaign ended. There was nothing I wanted to more than be by my parents’ side, proving that His provision and timing are perfect, and that He is always the Giver of “better things.”
Today, my life is full of desire. The more I desire, the more desires God gives me to pursue. Chasing desire has become my roadmap to discovering God’s plan and purpose for my life. I am learning how to identify what God wants for me, and run after it with everything I have. And as I pursue those desires, I now cling to the second half of the verse that once kept me in bondage - “…but desire fulfilled is the tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12).