Should we follow the desires of our hearts? We’re going to look at this question from several different angles and come to a conclusion that may surprise you. First we’re going to define what I mean by desire. Next we will see what the Bible says about desire. Then we will look at a desire that a patriarch had. And finally we will see what we should do with our desires. So what do I mean by “desire”?
By desire I mean something we want to do or become. A dream we have. With this definition a desire could be good or bad. Obviously bad desires such as wanting to murder, steal, become the world’s most powerful drug dealer should not be followed. But what about the good desires? I’m speaking of desires that would benefit others and be in line with Scripture; desires such as becoming a preacher or missionary, joining the military to serve your country, becoming a doctor, nurse or paramedic, or many of the other good desires that we can have. These good wholesome desires are what this writing is about. Should we automatically strike them down because we must “take up our cross” and follow Christ? And surely anything we want to do can’t be good so we must not follow our desires? Let’s look a little farther.
The Bible has quite a bit to say about desire not to mention the many stories of men who had desires some good and some bad. Psalm 37: 4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” If God is going to give you something, in this case your desires, surely it can’t be wrong or evil. But what does someone who delights themselves in the LORD desire? Psalm 40:8 says, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Then Psalm 73:25 says, “…earth has nothing I desire besides you.” The Christian’s primary desire should be to know God and his will. But this still doesn’t answer the question of what we should do with our good desires. Our good desires may very well be part of God’s will for us. For case in point let’s look at Abraham.
The patriarch Abraham was father of today’s Israel. He had a desire and dream to become the father of a great nation. This was a God given desire. God began to lead Abraham to fulfill this dream. In Abraham’s old age God gave him and his wife a son whose name was Isaac. Isaac was the personification of the dream Abraham had. God had promised that through Isaac Abraham would become that great nation. But then God did something we would consider a horrible thing. He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The very one who was the fulfillment of Abraham’s desire was to be slain. And Abraham did it, well almost. You know the story right? He took the long journey to Mount Moriah, tied his only son up and was about to kill him when God told him to stop and provided a ram instead. What in the world was God thinking? He wanted to see if Abraham would truly allow God to be in total control of his life. He wanted to see if Abraham would withhold any area of his life from Him. And Abraham pasted the test. Now here’s the point. Our desires, no matter how good or holy must never be placed in front of God. He should be Lord. We should follow Him one hundred and ten percent. And you know what? Isaac lived, and God still fulfilled Abraham’s dream. Let’s see what we should do with ours.
After we have decided that our desire is a good and holy one we should begin to pray about it. We should ask God to show us if this is a desire He wants us to follow and if so in what way. When we pray we should do it in a humble manner and with a willingness to sacrifice our desire if God leads us in a different direction. Don’t forget Abraham. However we also need to approach it courageously because God may also lead us to follow our desire and that may even be a harder thing to do. We need to remember that God does not require us to arbitrarily put down our desires. What He does require is for us to bring them to Him and ask His will about them. So should we follow our desires? If they are good and holy and God is not telling us to do something else, then yes! In fact if God is not leading you to something else our good desires may be one of the ways He is leading us. But be careful what you wish for because “what the righteous desire will be granted.”
That Other’s May Live,
Here’s a quote from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “God’s Guidance”. It speaks to the subject of the above essay and it was too good to pass up so I choose to tag it on to the end here.
“We can all think of a few things we are afraid of. One thing I have feared ever since I first asked God to accomplish his whole will in my life is my own desires. But I have come to see them in a little different light than I used to. For a long time, I took the view that whatever I might want to do could not possibly be what God wanted me to do. That seemed unarguable. I am a sinner, my desires are sinful, ‘there is no health in us,’ and that’s that. I went on the Manichean assumption that I am always and necessarily bent on evil, so it ought to be a relatively simple matter to figure out that the will of God was whatever I didn’t want to do….
A better understanding of Scripture has shown me that even I, chief of miserable offenders that I know myself to be, may now and than actually want what God wants. This is likely to be the case more and more as I practice obedience, but it can also be a very simple and natural thing. ‘Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.’ That frame, spoiled by sin as it is, still has something to do with what God will finally make of me, and if the process of being made into his image has been begun in me by faith, my real wants are becoming more like his.
The psalmist said, ‘My heart speaketh to me for God.’ If that heart has been given to God, why shouldn’t God use it as his speaker? Even the heart of the king we are told, is in the hand of the Lord.”