Have Your Desires Become Demands?
What are the kinds of things—perhaps good things in and of themselves—that can rule our hearts?
I “need/must have”...
- a husband who loves me, as I am, unconditionally,
- a boss who notices me, appreciates me, and commends my work,
- a child who loves me and respects me,
- a dad who will spend time with me,
- a wife who fulfills me sexually (or who doesn’t want sex),
- a pastor who will visit me or teach on topics I think we need to hear,
- a neighbor who will muzzle his barking dog,
- a son who achieves good grades, takes out the trash, and so forth,
- a coach who plays me enough,
- a teacher who grades me fairly,
- a roommate who picks up his clothes and cleans our kitchen sink,
- a department of highways who will complete that road project.
What do you notice about each desired item above? None of them is inherently evil. In fact, most, if not all, are things that God would want the other person to give. The problem is that these desires have become heart-controlling desires. And the list of candidates is endless. We can demand from others affection, attention, approval, admiration, acceptance, and appreciation (and that’s just a list that starts with A!). When we demand these things, conflict will surely arise.
How do we know our desires have become demands? Three tests can help us detect when a desire for a good thing has become an inordinate, ruling desire—a James 4:1–3 type of demand:
- Does it consume my thoughts? Do I obsess about it? Does my mind drift to it when I don’t have to think about other things (like when I am showering)?
- Do I sin to get it? Do I manipulate people or situations to get what I want? Do I bargain or nag or guilt trip?
- Do I sin when I don’t get it? Do I pout or explode or pull away or gossip about someone when he or she doesn’t give me my desired thing?
While my initial desire might be legitimate, it becomes sinful when it grows into a demand. And when it becomes a demand and you don’t meet it—and of course you can never meet every demand of my selfish heart—I then judge you in my heart and condemn you. In the final step, my internal judgment produces some outward expression of punishment toward you. I might yell at you, speak sarcastically about you, gossip about you, or avoid you.
Left unchecked, any desire has the potential to climb the stairs in an effort to overthrow and remove Jesus. The flesh in my Spirit-versusflesh civil war (Gal. 5:16–26; 1 Pet. 2:11–12) continually plots a coup d’état against King Jesus as my rightful Lord. Apart from grace the remnant sin in my heart would overthrow my enthroned King.
In a well-ordered life that follows Jesus, our desires—whether met or unmet—are submitted and subordinated to Jesus. In fact, a large part of the art of living for Jesus is learning to live contentedly with ongoing unmet desires. When my desires remain submitted to Christ, my soul finds rest. Inner peace reigns.