Spiritual transformation is full of mystery. We cannot change ourselves or anyone else. But we can create the conditions in which our own spiritual transformations take place. We do this by developing and maintaining spiritual disciplines that keep us open and available to God.
One of the things that will keep us from spiritual formation is the wrong idea that we shouldn’t have desires. It’s a nice sentiment, usually wrapped in language like, “I should only want to know God more, and nothing else …” This sounds noble and holy but is ultimately unrealistic and counter to God’s design. God created us with desires that cannot be exclusively fulfilled in Him. Those who believe God will fulfill all their needs by a relationship with Him are well-meaning but a little confused.
God created us with a need for food and water, but He doesn’t become food and water. He created us with a need for community, but He doesn’t become multiple people and invite us to go bowling. God created us with desires that He fulfills through means He provides. We should not feel guilty or ashamed for having desires. There is no guilt in desiring shelter, transportation, food, sex, love, community or even clothes. These are all positive desires.
Desires can, however, be negative. Some positive desires become negative, when taken out of context. Following God is a lot like becoming mature and being able to discern right context from wrong, and pure from corrupt.
God gives us wisdom and instruction about how to fulfill our desires. There are both right and wrong ways to fulfill desires. The key is not to stop wanting things, but rather to want things and go about the pursuit of them in a way that honors God.
When we first became believers we had such a sense of God’s presence with us, but over time the feelings started to fade. Feelings were never designed to carry us through the Christian life. We need something larger and stronger than our feelings to carry us through the struggles that inevitably come into our lives. We need what some refer to as an “organizing principle”, a goal or purpose for life that is more important than our feelings.
Emotions don’t just happen, they are allowed to grow. In relation to God we must train our emotions to love only God, allowing no other gods a place in our souls. As we spend time in worship, prayer, the study of His Word, and in ministry to others out of love for Him, we will see our emotional lives conform more and more to the image of Christ and we will spend less time absorbed with selfish desires.
When was the last time you felt a longing for God, a longing to live your life as it is meant to be lived in God? Have you ever felt a longing for healing and fundamental change groaning within you? In our Christian circles we can be much more accustomed to silencing our desire, distancing ourselves from it, because we are suspicious and afraid of its power.
Jesus himself asked people questions that helped them to get in touch with their desire. The question He asked most often was, “What is it you want me to do for you?” This kind of a question has the power to make us reflect honestly and deeply, opening the way for Jesus to lead us into deeper levels of spiritual truth and healing.
Philip Sheldrake, said in his book, Befriending our Desires, “The more authentic our desires, the more they touch upon our identities and also upon the reality of God at the heart of our being. Our most authentic desires spring ultimately from the deep inner wells where the longing for God runs freely.”
Take some time to contemplate Jesus’ questions, “What do you want me to do for you?” Do not be afraid of the emotion – it is important that you let yourself feel your deepest desires. If you choose to journal with this question, it might help to begin with the statement, “God what I most want from you right now is…” Let your thoughts dwell on the Lord and listen for the His respond.
Don’t feel like you have to do anything other than bring your desires to God; enjoy the rich intimacy that comes when you are able to be in His presence. And see what He does with your desires.