Contrasting desires

Written by Charles Ekong

05/02/2024

During my quiet time one morning, my daughter came as she often does for a cuddle. As she contorted and nestled in my arms, I marvelled at God’s wisdom; cuddles would be impossible if God created us like trees. My daughter said nothing to me, and nothing needed to be said either; we both had a deep human need met by the other. Furthermore, God didn’t just design our bodies to comfort each other; He also created us to desire comfort. If He didn’t, my daughter and I could never experience the joy and satisfaction of a tender moment between a parent and a child.

For a long time, I didn’t appreciate that God created us with desires. So, I treated almost all my desires with suspicion, even occasionally resenting that I had them in the first place. I even took Genesis 6:5 as a positive affirmation of my suspicions. But are all our desires evil? Jesus said: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” [John 16:24]. While we must take that verse in context, I’d still posit that we desire first and then ask: No one approaches a king to ask for something they don’t want. That verse also asserts a link between desire and experiencing the fullness of joy. We see this best in children. Observe their response when they receive presents: you can always tell the presents they genuinely wanted by their exuberant joy. It’s so infectious that it blesses the giver. I believe God feels the same way when He meets our deepest longings, and we respond with joy and gratitude. So, I submit that our desires can’t be all evil if they elicit a positive response from God.

While all our desires aren’t evil, some are. Centuries ago, speaking on the human condition, Jeremiah said man’s heart (innermost being) is deceitful and desperately wicked [Jeremiah 17:9]. As such, we can have abhorrent desires that lead to conflicts, hate, covetousness, envy, bitterness and unanswered prayers [James 4:1-3]. Without God, our self-gratification will ultimately drive our desires. But when we come into God’s kingdom, we encounter a new way of living contrary to our hedonistic pleasures [Galatians 5:16-26]. If we’re serious about our commitment to Jesus, we must resolve to actively crucify the desires of our flesh daily [Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:5]. That’s difficult to do at first, but if we persist, then over time, it becomes easier to say no to ungodly cravings because they’ll be less appealing the more we yield to the Holy Spirit and God’s word [Galatians 5:16, Romans 13:14]. 

Identifying and rejecting ungodly longings is a lifelong commitment. However, I’m encountering something new in my Christian walk: contrasting desires. Sometimes, the things I desire aren’t inherently evil. Yet, they may not be God’s will for me. How we deal with such occasions reveals our depth of intimacy with God. For instance, sleep is good, but there may be some nights that the Holy Spirit might prompt us to wake up and pray while others sleep. Or it might be that you desire to live in a specific province or to pursue a particular career or relationship, but you sense God leading you elsewhere. Often, a contrasting desire isn’t logical. Instead, it’s an inner knowing accompanied by a peace and conviction that’s difficult to articulate. So, talking it through with others may yield little, and some may not understand your situation. We may wrestle with it for a while because we aren’t automatons. But eventually, we must choose a course of action if our desire and God’s will for us are at odds, and that decision is usually telling.

I once heard a preacher ask his congregation if they wanted Jesus to be their Lord as much as they wanted Him to be their Saviour. It’s a no-brainer to accept Jesus as Saviour when you realise the wretchedness of your soul without Him – especially because salvation is free for the one being saved [Ephesians 2]. However, coming under the Lordship of Jesus as an act of will is costly. Like Him, you’ll need to say: “Not my will, but Yours be done” [Mark 14:36]. That’s the crux of submission: You have a desire which you willingly lay down if God has a different plan. So, like Paul, your love for God constrains your desires because your life is not your own, so you cannot live it for yourself anymore [2 Corinthians 5:13-15, Galatians 2:20]. I applaud believers who live this out consistently because it’s costly [Romans 12:1]. However, their sacrifice of alignment sets them apart [Psalm 50:5].

God created me with a mind and will. So, we’ll occasionally desire different things irrespective of the closeness of our relationship, and that’s okay. He doesn’t scold us for wanting things generally in line with His will. However, as part of His personalised dealing with an individual, something lawful may not be His will for that individual at a specific time [1 Corinthians 6:12]. As such, I must constantly remind myself that God always desires my highest good, and my relationship with Him is foremost and priceless. Therefore, my desires must remain subservient to His will. While He promises to order my steps and guide me [Psalm 37:23, Isaiah 30:21], He doesn’t intend to micromanage every aspect of my life because He takes pleasure in our creativity [Matthew 25:14-30]. 

I pray I never let my desires become so loud they drown out God’s voice and that my desire to please God through obedience will always trump every other longing, regardless of the cost. Today, I’m learning to hold my desires before God loosely because if He’s my Lord, I must let Him have the final say. 

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