What does God want us to do with the problem of desire?
Every one of us experiences desires that seem like they’ll only be satisfied if we choose to set aside God’s commands, at least temporarily.
Stack up the ten commandments or the beatitudes next to the wants and urges that rise up in you during your typical week, and you’ll see what I mean.
If we’re nothing else, surely we’re creatures of desire.
In this clash between God’s will and our desire, some of us adopt a kind of Christianity where grace means God doesn’t really expect us to submit to His commands, because we’re “only human” after all. Or a Christianity 2.0—one that our spiritual forefathers and mothers wouldn’t have accepted but only because we know things today they didn’t back then. Or we jettison Christian orthodoxy altogether, thinking it doesn’t seem in touch with real life experience and the depth of human desire.
The younger son exemplifies this in Jesus’ story in Luke 15. He was in touch with his desire, willing to leave everything, travel far, and give up all he had to try to satisfy it.
The younger brother’s approach: If I’m going to be freely myself, I have to squelch God’s commands.
In contrast, others of us try to jettison not God’s commands, but desire. We try to stuff desire by carefully monitoring intake of “worldly influences” and surrounding ourselves with others who are similarly mistrustful of desire. Many of us who try this, also end up in a cycle of binging and purging. The pressure builds up in some area and we eventually give in to a little “guilty pleasure.” But at least we’re trying. And we try so hard to repress desire because we think it’s what the Father wants. Be dutiful. Obey His commands. Put your heart aside.
The older brother in Jesus’ story exemplifies this. He tried to shut himself down to desire, stuff it, structure his life around working what was left of the family farm.
The older brother approach: If I’m going to be faithful to God’s commands, I have to squelch desire.
Both believed their father’s will was incompatible with the full depths of their desire
But is it? Can there be no real peace between God’s will and human desire?
We have mistaken both the meaning of our desire and the meaning of His commands.
The parable told by the Bridegroom Son reveals the Father as a Lover. A lover true and good. A lover full and brimming over with desire. No Lover’s heart is satisfied with duty any more than it is with rebellion.
And so on the cross, Christ reconciles God’s good command and our fallen and frail desire.
His cross is an expression of Desire.
His commands are meant to crush desire, yes. But not like a foot crushes a bug. Rather, like a winepress crushes grapes. If we’ll let His will press us, He can transform our desire, make it new wine worth drinking down, more pure, more loving, and more intoxicating than before.
He has made us creatures of desire. Desire’s unquenched ache is meant to drive us to Him from foreign pig sties and family fields alike.
For God, our Lover, desires us. And He intends we would come to desire like He does.
God’s not after extinguishing desire. He’s after igniting it with Himself.
Do you tend more toward squelching God’s voice or squelching your desire? How might you practice walking differently after reading this article?
Josh, another most insigtful and helpful comment.
Thanks Josh! This is a wonderful truth! I have gone both ways with squelching here: either trying to squelch God’s voice or my desires. I love God’s traits identified here! He is the good, pure Lover my soul desires but sometimes I honestly do not believe He is! I made the decision just yesterday to believe His desire for me is more fulfilling, sweeter than the fleeting offers of my humanity.
If I am understanding your point correctly about the role of human desire?
I have been both brothers and am currently the older brother who binges and purges. With all my heart I long to be closer to my Lord, to allow His will to press me and transform my desire. How does one do that when temptation walks into their life? When fantasies and past sexual encounters flash into their mind while in church or with their spouse? You ask how I might practice walking differently after reading your wonderful article. Please give me a few examples of walking differently.
Longing to be pressed but not sure how to proceed,