Continuing on from the last post, what propels our journey toward and with Christ? What is the fuel for the Christian life?
The Christian life is based on desire. Not obligation. Not guilt. Not willpower. The desire to know God and be known by God is not only the most combustible fuel, it is also the most contagious one. However, it’s imperative we note that there are two sides to the desire coin.
On the one hand, Jesus seems to imply with statements such as choosing where one stores up treasures, thus choosing where one locates one’s heart (Matthew 6:19-21), that we have a choice in what we desire. The problem is that sometimes we get angry (with God, with church), confused, hurt, smug, over-confident, or disillusioned, which ends up changing our desires. Instead of desiring to know God, we desire some lesser satisfaction (but a satisfaction to our warped heart nonetheless) – restitution, justice, to be proved right, or some other banal gratification.
On the other hand, we cannot simply press a heart-button and whip up desire on our own, otherwise we’re simply using our willpower to try and create desire, which is self-defeating.
So how does one recover desire and fuel the spiritual journey toward deeper union with God?
First and foremost, we have to understand that our desire to know and be with God is always a response to his desire for us. We cannot “make it happen” on our own. Without the gracious work of the Spirit, we would never have an appetite to feed on God’s love for us. We only long for him because he first longed for us and pursued us to the point of death (the death of his Son in the effort to bring about the death of our independence through surrender to his unfettered love). When it comes to desire, God always initiates, we always respond.
There is a helix of love and knowledge. The more we know God – not know about, but truly know – the more we love God and want to be with him. The more we love him, the more we we want to deeply know him and be known by him. Knowing God leads to loving God. Loving God leads to the desire to know more, which leads to loving him more, and so on. It is a never-ending helix of increasing desire.
But it starts with God, not you.
So if you or I are feeling a distinct lack of desire to be with God, to pray, to read Scripture, sometimes the worst thing we can do is force ourselves or guilt ourselves into doing it. What would it be like if instead we simply prayed,
“God, I don’t want to be with you / pray / read right now, but I want to want to. Reveal yourself to me and help me to know you and remember you. Ignite my desire for you, because right now my heart feels like cold embers. But I believe there is still some small, fragile spark there. Please blow on it. Until then, I will sit and wait, not grudgingly or stubbornly with ams crossed, but with open hands, ready to receive what you have for me.”
And then we waited.
I fully believe that God is big enough to handle our seasons of lack of desire. He is not angry, hurt, or confused when our passion wanes. He is simply eager to reveal himself to us once again. In the meantime, we can take solace in Philippians 1:6, that he who began a good work in us will see it through to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. He will never give up on you.
And let God love you.