Speaking to the Soul: Desire

We are a desiring people. It’s one of the things that distinguishes Christianity from other religions. There is passion, preference, yearning in our own hearts, and in the divine heart too.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible:  Hosea 6:6, for example, tells us that God desires steadfast love, and God does not desire sacrifice. When he was here, Jesus also said that he desires mercy and not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13). In only a few weeks we will read about Jesus’ desire to eat the Passover meal with his friends.

We find a lot of desiring in this week’s readings too:

  • Abram desires an heir.
  • The Psalmist, despite an optimistic start, desperately desires reassurance.
  • The writer of Philippians longs for his brothers and sisters to stand firm in the Lord
  • And, in only four verses, the reading from Luke gives us three desiring statements: The Pharisees want to kill Jesus, Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem like a mother hen, and Jerusalem does not want to be gathered.
There is no passivity in these readings! Everybody wants something.

It’s part of our spiritual DNA. The psalmist says that desire is so important that it is a gift from God, (Psalm 37:4). God gives us desires to delight, as well as to guide.

This week, as we read about the desires of people in the Bible, it is worth examining our own desires. Some may not be in keeping with the things God wants for us. Obviously, desire can run amok. Anyone who has ever been in a playground fight knows that. In other words, any six-year-old. As we get older, though, it’s easy to see that most of the problems we create are a result of desire somehow gone awry:  Our desire for love gets mixed up with power and sex, desire for happiness can turn into an unnecessary quest for “success.”  It’s no wonder that passion and desire sometimes get a bad name. They are complicated.

There are other desires though, the desires that God gives us. They may be clues as to what path we should take, or what turns to make. Or, they may merely keep us on a steady path. What are your desires for Lent? We are in the second week now. Is your desire for a holy lent as strong today as it was on Ash Wednesday? Do you wish to do more? Less? Something different? Putting all circumstance aside, what desire has God placed in your heart? What do you really want?

Desire often manifests as an idea — God’s way of letting us believe that we thought of it ourselves. The idea to call an old friend, or to speak to a stranger, even the smallest thing might be a holy desire waiting to flower. Or, it could be something big like getting married, going back to school, retiring, or changing jobs. Only you and God know.

Whatever desires you have are worth listening to and examining. You will want to toss some into the fire pit, others may be clues from God. Either way, they are part of who you are. We are, after all, a desiring people.

Linda McMillan lives in Shanghai, China

Image: Niko Pirosmani [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 


Much of the Psalter is a primer in desire, what to want and what we don’t want. (My soul is consumed with longing… Psalm 119:20, I long for your precepts… Psalm 119:40 and many others.) 

Sometimes Psalm 37:4 is taken to mean that God will give people whatever they want. Since that has never happened, that is clearly not what it means. Another interpretation is that desire is such a part of our being that we should get our desires from God and not from the whims of the moment. Let God give you your desires.

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