I hear my daughter in the kitchen. She pulls open the freezer door and then slides it shut. She stands for awhile in silence and then opens it again, basking a little longer in the frigid glow.
“Do you need something?” I call from the other room.
“Well…” She hesitates. “I wanted a snack…but…umm…I guess I will just have some fruit.” She grabs an apple from the bowl on the counter and disappears before I can ask anymore questions.
I know the routine. What she really wants is ice cream but she is afraid to ask. She is afraid to even speak the words for fear that I most certainly will say no. And so she settles for fruit…or yogurt…or popcorn…or something that she thinks I want for her to choose. Something that isn’t so sweet and delicious. She doesn’t ask, so I don’t even have the chance to say yes. And what she doesn’t know is that I would love for her to choose ice cream. I bought the ice cream for her to enjoy…and I want to enjoy it with her.
This is often how I approach my heavenly Father. I am afraid that what I am asking for is too big, too extravagant, too rich and so I dance around my desires, asking only for what I think he would want for me to choose. I would love to have a book published. But what I end up asking for is that I will put those notions aside so that I can be content at home doing housework. I want to be a part of my husband’s counseling ministry. But I settle for simply praying for my husband and watching him do well from the sidelines. It’s good to seek contentment. It’s good to pray for my husband and his ministry. But it’s not wrong to pray to have a book published or to pray for opportunities to open for me to serve with my husband.
Psalm 37:4 speaks of these longings. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I don’t interpret this verse as promoting a health, wealth and prosperity mentality. I don’t think God owes me anything or that I will receive blessing for anything that I do. But I also don’t think it means what I grew up believing…that if you want to do something it can’t possibly be what God wants you to do because God only asks people to do hard things…or your desires don’t matter and you should suck it up and shove them down and pray that God will change your desires to align with the most godly thing you can think of. Your desires are His desires. He gave them to you and He wants to use them. He even wants to enjoy them with you. Even if it is for the purpose of turning you toward Him or adding to the bigger picture that He plans to fulfill in the future.
As I said earlier, I would love to author a book. Maybe I pray everyday that I will get my book published. I work on it, I pray over it, I seek God, I give my desire to Him. This desire is not wrong and it is fueling me to write every single day. But maybe as I pray over the desire, other things come into my path: I am presented with a teaching opportunity. Now, because of that desire I have material to use to teach others. In the process my desire may become so strong for teaching that I no longer want to publish my book and I just use it to teach. Or I may teach for awhile and continue to work on my book while I teach and eventually get my book published because of the people I meet through the teaching opportunity. Or maybe God reveals to me that my desire has deep roots of selfishness and pride and He makes it clear that it is better for me to lay my desire aside until I can deal with those issues. God can even use your desire to pull sin from your heart in ways that never could have been accomplished if you had not pursued that desire.
Our desires are never wasted especially if we are praying over them and seeking God through them. We don’t have to shove our desires down to make way for God’s desires. We can pray over the desires He has given us and let Him guide as He sees fit so that it is no longer “my desires” and “His desires” but they are one in the same.
So, in lue of a new years resolution this year I decided to make a list of the desires of my heart. This is my plan:
- Make a list of all the most extravagant desires that have been resting on my heart. Be aware of lurking selfishness and try to avoid anything sinful or self-promoting. Don’t be afraid to include the most exciting thing I can think of.
- Pray over the list every day. If I have missed any selfish motives in the first step, God will reveal them as I lift these desires to Him.
- Expect things to happen…because they will. Whether my desires are fulfilled, removed or changed God will do something. It will almost absolutely be something I wasn’t expecting, but it will be something.
- Don’t resist.It is futile to do so and will only makes things more difficult. Be okay with God removing or replacing things on my list knowing that God’s plan is perfect. Don’t try to fight Him for something that He is taking away, let my desires be molded as I continue the process of praying and seeking Him. God is sovereign and will do as He sees fit, resisting will only make it more painful.
I am not under the impression that this is some magic formula and that I will get exactly what I ask for. I do not think that if I do this then God is obligated to give me something in return. I just know that my own heart has settled for less because I’m afraid to ask. James 4: 1-3 gives us a glimpse of what happens when our desires are not aligned with God’s.”What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”.
Desires are powerful. They can become so important to us that they stir up destructive emotions inside of us. These verses say that some of us may fight for our own desires even to the point of murder. But James goes on to say that these powerful emotions can be avoided. He says that we do not ask for the right things, we do not ask in the right way or we don’t even ask at all. Our desires go astray and are unfulfilled because we do not present them to God in prayer and trust Him with the outcome.
It’s not sinful to ask for bigger things. It’s not sinful to expect a big God to do big things. This year I plan to give Him the desires of my heart…as big as they may be…and see what He will accomplish with them.