The last two days, we’ve looked at what Proverbs has to say about thinking and feeling. Today, Lydia walks us through what Proverbs has to say about what we want. (Read part one and part two).
Adapted from A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything by Lydia Brownback
Our desires—the things we want—tend to govern our lives and our choices. For that reason, it is important that our desires get formed in a biblical mold. Right now, today, we all desire something. It might be a desire we’ve carried in our heart for years, or perhaps it’s more recent. It might be something that springs from our feminine nature—a husband, a child, a home of our own. Some of us desire healing, either for an illness or for a relationship. It might be a desire for a major change, such as a different job or a relocation. It could be something simpler such as a break in the routine by means of two weeks at the beach or just by getting out of the kitchen for a night or two. It is to be hoped that above all our desires, we desire God himself.
Sometimes the way in which we describe a particular desire is merely our attempt to give shape to some deeper yearning in our hearts that we cannot name. Our desire for marriage, home, and family, for example, may be how we give expression to our longing for love, belonging, and the banishment of loneliness. No matter the specifics of our desires or how we express them, all our longings are indicative of the fact that we aren’t home yet. We are unfinished women living in an unfinished world, and because of that, we aren’t going to find full satisfaction until we get home, until we are perfected in Christ and living with him in heaven. Until then, we are going to remain women who want.
Many of the things we desire are hardwired into us. God designed us to want home and family and to be fed and clothed and sheltered; and there is nothing wrong with these desires. The problem is that we tend to want them too much. When that happens, good desires get warped into slave masters. We are enslaved to any desire that we believe we must have in order to be content. For that reason, we do well to consider what Proverbs says about our desires.
Proverbs distinguishes between good desire and bad, and between good, better, and best, and it puts wisdom at the forefront of desirable acquisitions.
Wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. (Prov. 8:11)
What the Word of God is telling us here is that no matter how worthwhile our desires, nothing will prove as rewarding and satisfying as the obtainment of wisdom. Since this is true, you’d think we would set our passions to work on laying hold of it much more than we do. If we craved wisdom as much as we do things and relationships and success, we’d be much more contented than we often are. It is God’s will to provide us with wisdom, whereas it may not be in his plan to give us any number of the other things on which we set our hearts, which is what accounts for most discontentment.
In fact, it might actually be that God withholds something we want because our desire for it is so intense that having it would prove harmful to us. David Powlison says,
Our desires for good things seize the throne, becoming idols that replace the King. God refuses to serve our instinctive longings, but commands us to be ruled by other longings. What God commands, He provides the power to accomplish.
So the first thing we learn about desires from Proverbs is that the best desire—and the one we are guaranteed to get—is wisdom.
Lydia Brownback is the author of several books. She served as writer-in-residence for Rev. Alistair Begg and as the broadcast media manager for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. A regular speaker at women’s conferences, Brownback also blogs at The Purple Cellar. She holds degrees from Syracuse University and Westminster Theological Seminary.