The inscription “I WANT, YOU WANT, THEY WANT” on the puzzle in the shape of a circle. The concept of meet the needs. 3D Illustration. Isolated
Trust in the Lord and do good: dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.
– Psalm 37:3-8
As is often the case with small children, when my son was young, he wanted nearly everything he saw advertised on TV or sitting on the shelves of stores. From gum and candy to motorized cars and everything in between, whatever he saw that interested him would bring him running to tell me, “I want that!” It’s tiresome when children keep up running chatter about all the things they want as you shop for groceries or clean the bathroom during Saturday morning cartoons. (Definitely pre-cartoon channels days…) One day in a store, he was rattling on about what he wanted when I suddenly turned around, held him by the back of his neck, checked his forehead for fever, and cried out as if he were dying right there on the spot, “Oh, no! You’ve got the iwantitis disease!” His eyes grew round, and he pulled back in fear to look at me. “What’s that, Mama? Am I sick?” To which I responded, “Yes, you’re terribly sick, and you’re making me sick, too, with all your wanting. I want; I want; I want!” With all the sage profundity of a five-year-old, he just rolled his eyes, but from then on, when he got to pestering me to buy needless stuff, I’d say, “Iwantitis disease!” In due time, that quit being a deterrent, but it worked for a while.
If only we could make ourselves want less… The iwantitis disease is something from which we all suffer. From the time God breathed the breath of life into the man and he became a living being (Gen. 2:7), human beings have wanted. My Old Testament professor said the Hebrew was probably best translated as, “the man became a living ‘quivering bundle of appetites.’” If that doesn’t describe every human being you’ve ever met, I don’t know what does. We want, and our wanting never really goes away. We want one thing, and when we get it, we find another thing to want. We want this house, then we want another. We want this job, then we want another. We want this spouse, then we want another. On and on it goes. The wanting never stops. There is always something more for which we can want.
Within each of us, in our very creation, God instilled a yearning so deep that it cannot be satisfied unless it is satisfied by Him. As St. Augustine said, “You have created us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.” Augustine’s point is that, apart from God, we will want and want and want, but we will never be satisfied. In contrast, the existential atheist Jean-Paul Sartre said that “man is a wasted passion,” and by that, he meant that we constantly yearn for more when there is nothing more, for something that will assuage the relentless passions that lead us nowhere. There can be no clearer contrast between a life of faith and a secular life, between the meaning of being human for Christians and that found in our “religion-free” culture. Sartre rightly understood the wanting of human nature, but he understood nothing about its source or its Object.
Everybody remembers and likes the fourth verse of Psalm 37, especially where David writes, “He will give you the desires of your heart.” But David is saying far more than God is going to give us what we want. Before and after verse 4, David names some of the weightier wants in our lives: a place to live, safety and provision for basic needs – the safe pasture for a flock. We are not to worry or be jealous when unworthy people succeed. Nor are we to be angry and frustrated when thwarted in life, for such things lead us to be as bad as those at whom we are angry. These are responses all of us have in some degree and at different times. Life seems unfair, unjust, or unsatisfying. We want more from life, and really, it would be good if God would follow through on those desires of our heart.
However, David gives additional instructions for those who want God to take action on their behalf. He tells them to trust in the Lord, to do good, to commit the pathway of our life to God, and to be still and wait. Those words remind us of Jesus’ own words to His disciples just before He ascended into Heaven. “Stay and wait for the gift My Father promised…” (cf. Acts 1:4) There is much our Father would give us if we could learn to be still and wait for Him. He never fails to show, but too often, our impatience drives us to take action before the Lord is ready.
But most of all, most of all, David tells us to delight in the Lord. For all of the things we want from God and all of the things we take to Him in prayer, far too seldom do we sit and delight in Him. He is our Father Who loves us with a perfect, infinite, and everlasting love, and we seek primarily to satisfy our wants, many of which are quite worthwhile. What could possibly be wrong with wanting good health for a parent or satisfying employment for a friend? Nothing. These are worthy and worthwhile requests to make of God, but these are not the whole desires of our heart.
Human beings were created by God, and we will want and yearn and desire until we recognize our longing is for Him. Think about what it means to delight in the Lord. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending time with a friend I had not seen for a while, and I delighted in the time we spent together and in his friendship. I took delight in his thoughts and perspective, his love for his wife and family, his easy-going nature and pragmatic optimism, his faithfulness to Christ and for Christ in leadership. There are many things about him in which I delight. That’s why we’ve been friends for years. Is it not the same with you? Do you not delight in your family and friends because of who they are? At no point in my time with my friend did I ever think, I’m enjoying spending time with him because he can give me… No, and frankly, beyond the gift of his friendship, I can’t think of anything he can give me, certainly nothing greater than the gift of himself in friendship.
Do we have this attitude when we approach our Father? Are we delighted by Who He is? Do we take pleasure in His company without regard to what we want? You see, if we delight in the Lord, our wants change. We cannot delight in someone who does not value what we value, but we cannot remake God into the image of what we want. God is Who He is. If we ever learn to delight in Him, then we will discover our hearts are truly satisfied, our desires fully met. Moreover, we will soon discover that many of the things we want are not nearly as desirable as we once believed.
A significant part of the Lenten journey is the annual reordering of our desires, from pursuing the façade of abundance in our world to receiving the reality of abundance in Jesus Christ. Because we are barraged daily with images, expectations, and encouragement to want in myriad ways, we need time repeatedly every year to reorder our desires to what is right and true and good and lasting. Passion for anything not of Jesus Christ is finally a wasted passion. (Which is not to say that He has not given us additional passions to pursue and enjoy, but that’s a topic for another day.) God alone satisfies the fullness of our desires and wants.
Maybe you do, but I don’t always want Christ first. I even have wants that distract me from my God. It’s okay to pray, “I want to want what You want. Deep down, I don’t really, but I wish I did. I want to want You.” We probably should pray this more often than we do. That is the first step in the reordering of our desires – to want to want what God wants. Ask for that this week. Ask to want to delight in the Lord, really and truly to enjoy Him. You might find yourself cured of iwantitis, and that would be a relief.
In Christ –
© SFCM 2018