Every day during my morning prayer liturgy I pray a section of Psalm 103, which is an exhortation to the soul to “Praise the Lord!” The psalmist then proceeds to recount “all his benefits…” which includes this line:
“…who satisfies your desires with good things.”
I think a lot of us might have a hard time believing that this is actually one of the “benefits” of knowing the Lord. Really? God is interested in satisfying our desires? Doesn’t this paint him as bit of a genie-in-a-bottle?
I grew up thinking God was probably more like my superego, suppressing and denying desire. Certainly not indulging it or “satisfying” desire. Desire was sinful, “bad,” so what business does God have satisfying it?
Finding the desire beneath the desire
One of the main elements of the training we do at Gravity Leadership is to help people realize, own, and name their desires. A lot of people are afraid of doing this, because they’re afraid it will lead to chaos and sin in their life.
But most of us aren’t digging deep enough to discover our actual desires. To desire is to be human. It just means you have a will, you want something.
Beneath any “sinful” desire is always a legitimate human desire, rooted in the imago Dei. And those root-level desires are what the Lord satisfies for us. Actually, letting the Lord satisfy our desires is the best way to avoid the idolatrous notions we have about how to get our desires met that leads us into actual sin.
Here’s what I mean. A friend of mine had an affair a few years ago. Took everyone by surprise (including him, in a way). What he realized as he repented and reflected on the affair was that the deep desire that led him into the affair wasn’t to “have an affair,” or to “have sex.”
What led him into the affair was the desire to be appreciated and affirmed for his work. The woman he had the affair with seemed to appreciate his work in a way that others weren’t at the time, and so he fell for the lie that this was how to get his deep desire met.
He didn’t let the Lord satisfy his desires with good things. Instead, he fell for a lie about how to satisfy his desires, and he ended up with “bad things” that didn’t actually satisfy the desire.
Ultimately, underneath our idolatrous notions about how to get our desires met, are deep human desires that are legitimate things to want, because of our creation in the image of God.
- We all have a deep desire to be seen, loved, and accepted for who we are. (Belonging)
- We all have a deep desire to know that we are safe, protected from harm. (Security)
- We all have a deep desire to know that our presence matters, that we have something valuable to contribute to others for the common good. (Significance)
The fact that these desires are so deeply ingrained in us makes them the location of our most powerful temptations (as they were with Jesus).
(Dealing with these desires and temptations is part of a whole module of the coaching I do at Gravity Leadership.)
Own your desire, and allow the Lord to satisfy it
Most of us make one of the following mistakes as it regards our desires:
- We assume it’s wrong to desire these things and therefore we try to kill and suppress our desires (but they usually just pop up somewhere else, like with my friend who had the affair). Or,
- We assume that we know how to satisfy our own desires with good things, and so we try to fulfill and indulge our desires in whatever way seems best to us (but we’re always wrong, and we end up hurting ourselves and others and not getting the desire satisfied).
So what’s important is to 1) realize that desiring belonging, security, and significance isn’t wrong in and of itself… and 2) to allow the Lord to satisfy these desire in the gospel, rather than taking matters into our own hands.
This is why we need the Church
Finally, it’s important to note that the way the Lord satisfies our desires with good things is always in the context of a society where these realities can be lived out together in community.
That society is called the Church, the Body of Christ, the on-earth embodiment of the heavenly flesh of Christ, crucified and risen.
If you trust that this could be true and begin to take steps to cultivate a church culture like this, it will feel like a death in some ways (because it is), but you’ll also find the power of the Holy Spirit will be present to do infinitely more than all you ask our imagine.