“Why would God want me to have a Winnebago?” the pastor demanded.
It was my first quarter at my new college in Seattle, and I was visiting different churches each weekend trying to find a place I might fit. That particular Sunday, I joined a friend at a tiny church led by an impassioned young preacher. Though I have long forgotten the primary point of the sermon and I couldn’t tell you where that church is located or what it’s called, I don’t think I’ll ever forget how he talked about his dream of owning a Winnebago motorhome.
When he first brought up the topic, his eyes were bright and his speech excited as he described the Winnebago’s prized features. But then he started criticizing his dream, saying how ridiculous it was. As his tirade progressed, his eyes dimmed and his demeanor became depressed. By the time he asked why God would ever want him to have a motorhome, it was obvious the question was rhetorical. Though he ardently wanted a Winnebago, he apparently could see no reason why God would ever approve of his wish.
All these years later, I still remember the weight of disappointment in the air as the pastor disparaged his own desire. And I still remember the unspoken-but-oh-so-clear message that our desires don’t matter. That they are frivolous at best and, in the worst-case scenario, are evil distractions designed to disrupt God’s plan.
I don’t think these beliefs are uncommon. Many of us tend to have the feeling that, as author Emily P. Freeman puts it, “If it’s something I really want, then it isn’t something I should be allowed to have.”
But if this is true, what should we make of verses like Psalm 37:4, which says: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (NLT)?
And what about Psalm 103:5, which describes God as the One who “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (NIV)?
These verses declare that when we’re delighting in God—enjoying Him, worshiping with Him, obeying Him—He will fulfill our desires. Why would God give us our heart’s desires if they are unimportant or if they are troublesome temptations drawing us away from His plan?
I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with this question. After studying what the Bible says about desire, I’ve become convinced that rather than impulses to be repressed, our desires are often one of the clues God uses to reveal what He’s calling us to do. The first chapter of the book of Haggai is a perfect example.
DRIVEN TO ACTION BY DESIRE
In 538 B.C., a group of Israelites returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon in order to rebuild God’s Temple. Within two years of returning home, they completed the foundation of the Temple.
But, then, instead of continuing with the reconstruction project, the people got distracted with building homes of their own. Nearly two decades after their return from Babylon, the Temple was still in ruins. So God sent a message through Haggai. He told the Israelites the reason their harvest was sparse and they were lacking in basic necessities such as food and clothing was because they had gotten their priorities out of order. If they wanted to please Him and restore their prosperity, God said they must “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified” (Haggai 1:8).
When the people heard this, they took the message seriously and the Bible tells us they started seeking and worshiping the Lord in earnest.
What happened next is truly incredible: “And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God” (Haggai 1:14).
The Israelites had lost all interest in the assignment God had given them, but once they started listening to God and turned back to Him, God “stirred up” their spirits. Other versions translate “stirred up the spirit” as “sparked the enthusiasm of” (NLT) and “gave them a desire to” (TLB).
God, in His graciousness, supplied the desire and the passion for the work that needed to be done. The people’s desire was the very thing God used to move them into the assignment He had for them. It’s no different for us today. In His goodness, God plants within us the desire for the specific things we need to do to fulfill His purpose in our lives.
IS GOD GIVING YOU A CLUE?
What’s stirring in your heart? What do you feel enthusiastic about? Could the reason you have that desire be because God actually gave it to you?
Instead of automatically discounting your desires, take time to consider the possibility that those yearnings just might be God’s Spirit guiding you into your next step. No matter how unusual your desire is, you never know how God might use it.
Remember the Winnebago-loving pastor? I don’t know where he ended up, but last summer a family of seven came to minister at my church. Their mode of transportation? A motorhome! Their unique mission from God in this season of their lives is to travel around the country in their motorhome spreading the gospel and ministering in churches, and it was evident from their visit that they are partnering with God in a powerful way. So even a desire for a motorhome can be from God!
Don’t let the Devil convince you that God wants you to have a boring, desire-free life. Our good Father is more creative, more loving, and a lot more fun than we can imagine. While it’s true not every desire is from God, He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us discern which desires to follow and which to dismiss. As you prayerfully assess your desires, trust God to lead you into amazing adventures for your good, the benefit of others, and God’s glory!
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Wow. What a timely message. I was laid off in June after 23 years with the same company. The owner and CEO had not only been a business leader to me, but a spiritual father. The business was hurting and it hurt him to layoff so many people.
We recently spoke, and I explained the challenges I was facing and he told me to write down who I wanted to be at his company, and that whatever I wrote….that’s what I was. He also prayed for infuencers who would connect me to the next job. It took some time before I found my notes from that call. But I sent him an email with my notes from our call, and what I had written down in response. (Voice of Cuatoker/Product Management) He replied that was precisely who I was, and asked “What’s Next?”.
(SIDE NOTE: When I first announced that I was no longer with the company, I added that I was now looking for my “NEXT”)
SO… I’m praying for my next, and my infuencer(s), and looking into some classes that will help me hone more expertise in my areas of interest. P. S. He also encouraged me to look for a small start up, as that’s what his company was when I arrived… so I know how to help grow and build and spin lots of plates. I’ll take your prayers for wisdom and favor!!
I’m so glad to hear that this message was timely for you! I just love how God works like that. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot with being laid off from your job, but it also sounds like God is at work and has been sparking new ideas and dreams in you. I am definitely praying for you for wisdom and favor as you seek the next step! Blessings!
I prayed yesterday for God to send me clear signs about which direction I should go in as I had a massive crisis of confidence about the purpose he has for my life and whether I am on the right path.
I am learning Chinese and have been having the strongest desire to do so even though it is very challenging and many have found it strange. I have been studying by myself but God being so good, has along the way, connected me a with few Mandarin speakers who have helped me for a short time.
Recently I have had major doubts about learning the language as going to China isn’t on my radar and there aren’t any mainland Chinese communities around me and those that are here speak excellent English! I have wanted to quit feeling like I am wasting my time and don’t want to be wasting time doing something that isn’t God’s will and won’t be used by Him. I still have a lot to think about and I’m asking God to guide me and give me His peace and confidence to continue or quit – whichever feels right. This article has given me much to consider. Thank you
I’m so glad this article gave you some things to think about, and I hope it encouraged you too! As I read your message, I couldn’t help thinking about Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
I’ve thought a lot about this verse on my own journey and in the midst of my own questions and worries about God’s plan. It can be so tempting to doubt when we don’t understand something. But I think this verse shows that there will be times when God is leading us and it just doesn’t make sense. So that fact that it doesn’t make sense doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not God.
Perhaps God can see some reason why Chinese will be important for you to know at some point. Either way, I am praying for you to gain clarity and confirmation as to whether to continue pursuing your studies. I love your devotion to God and your desire to follow His will and honor Him with your time, and I know He’ll keep His promise to guide you as you seek Him! Thanks so much for your message! Blessings!
2 years ago, I was laid off from my job of 17 years after the company was sold.
I’m 62(almost 63). The past two years I be been doing work at home customer service with a company. Basically call center type work which I don’t enjoy.
I need to work at least 4 more years because of past mistakes and trying to figure out what to do. My main desires are traveling and spending time with family and helping/volunteer with organizations that help people.
I’m sorry to hear that things have been challenging work-wise for you. I know how hard it can be to be in a job that you don’t love. I’m glad you are still dreaming and in touch with your heart desires, and I’m praying for God’s guidance and perfect timing for you in where and how you work in the coming years as well as your desires to travel and volunteer! I don’t know God’s plans for you, but I do know that they are good and full of hope!
How do you discern which desire is from God I’ve asked him many times to remove this specific desire and it feels like idk I can’t describe it but it’s been with me for 4 long years and I want it to go away if it’s not God’s Will for me … what do I do it feels like my prayers are falling on deaf ears or I am deaf and blind to His voice.
Hi Graeme! I can relate to how difficult it can feel when you’re not sure if a desire is from God, and I’m sorry this has been such a struggle. I’ve written a couple of other articles here on Joyful Life that I think could help and are my best answer to your question “How do you discern which desire is from God?”
The first is called “5 Questions To Help You Decide if the Desires of Your Heart Are From God.” The web link is: https://joyfullifemagazine.com/desires-of-your-heart/
The second is called “God, Is That You? 5 Actions to Take if There are Signs of God Speaking to You.” The web link is https://joyfullifemagazine.com/signs-of-god-speaking-to-you/
You should be able to find them by typing the titles into the blog search bar, or you could cut and paste the links. 🙂
I hope these help, and I’ll be praying that as you seek God you find clarity and clear direction. Blessings!