A loaded word.
Desire suggests passion, romance and pleasure; or it can evoke cravings, shame and unmet longings. We might describe our desire as a hunger, itch, thirst, drive or yearning. Americans, searching for significance, long for the freedom to express and go after the desires of their heart. Or we feel the need to suppress desire. The Buddhist might notice those longings and explore whether they are the cause of suffering, and seek to transcend them. A scientist would argue that desire arises from physical needs, boiling desire down simply to the functions of stimulus and reward.
According to Forbes magazine, the average American is exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads a day! Desire love? Watch this. Desire power? Drive that. Desire significance? Wear this. Desire pleasure? Eat that. These ads seem slick but their origins are ancient. Jesus was similarly tempted in the wilderness by Satan. “You are hungry, so make these stones into bread. You desire significance. Throw yourself down so that the angels come to save you. You desire power. Worship me and you can have all this.”
David was called a “man after God’s own heart”. The Psalms reveal his beautifully personal connection with his God. Notice how David cries out with his desire for God in these songs:
“As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after you.” Psalm 42:1 (NIV)
“My soul longs, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 82:4 (NIV)
“I open my mouth and pant, as I long for Your commandments.” Psalm 119:131 (NIV)
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV)
Panting, longing, fainting, flesh crying out, delight; words that evoke desire. David knew the Lord intimately and his greatest desire was to grow closer to Him. Unfortunately, David allowed distance between himself and the Lord and acted on his fleshly desires by taking another man’s wife. When Nathan confronted David with his sin and the hurt that he had caused, David was heartbroken. He repented and was forgiven and restored to God. David acknowledges the Lord’s desire :
“Behold You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6, NASB)
How beautiful is it that when Jesus came to Earth, He promised to satisfy the longing of our hearts completely? When He met the Samaritan woman at the well, she was surprised that He asked her for a drink, as Jews did not associate with Samaritans. She did not realize that Jesus initiated this unusual interaction not because He was thirsty, but to open her eyes to her own thirst and to meet her thirst in that moment and forever.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:10-14 (NIV)
Why was Jesus even there, talking to this woman? Because of His love and desire to save us. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NIV)
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV)
As we spend time with Jesus, our desires begin to change and we discover delight in His word and joy in His presence. The Lord’s desires become our desires. “Do not envy the wicked, and do not desire their presence.” Proverbs 24:1 (NIV)
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 (NIV)
When we are born again, we are identified with Christ and we no longer need to chase after significance. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9 (NIV)
As we trust that He is with us and has a plan for our life, we lean into Jesus when times get hard. We no longer need to control the outcome or seek relief in things or in relationships that can never fully satisfy. John, the beloved Disciple, had a vision of the promise. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat for the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:15-18 (ESV)
Like David, we may still struggle with chasing after desires that leave us empty and with regret. But here is the Good News: when we turn away and repent, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to remove our sins from us. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning…” Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
Instead of living by our appetites, His Holy Spirit dwelling in us is transforming us to live joyfully with a heart of expectation that He has a plan and He will meet all our needs in Christ. May our hearts desire Him the way the Lord desires us.