Choosing to Live Passionately

How temporal passions are a poor substitute for accepting God’s life-giving purposes, by Hannah. 

We live in a society where it’s easy to get need mixed up with want, and godly desires mixed up with material- and superficial-desires.  This can make it a very confusing process to identify what we should care about, where we should pour out our hearts, and how we should be passionate.  For example, commercials constantly vie for our attention, crafting fake “needs” in our hearts for stuff we can buy.  Movies and television tell us who we should be and how we should think, as well as defining “normal” and the status-quo, even when the media’s brand of normal is frequently immoral, self-centered and self-serving (even through seemingly innocuous slogans such as “have it your way”).

One reaction to all this attention-grabbing and worldview-molding media can be to simply close one’s heart to any kind of intrusion or expansion.  Rather than be passionate about the wrong things, it makes sense (or so it would seem) to be passionate about nothing at all.  It is easier, “safer”, and far less “of this world”.  But is it necessarily the right choice?

Perhaps not.  John Eldredge states –

“To want is to suffer; the word passion means to suffer. That is why many Christians are reluctant to listen to their hearts. They know that their dullness is keeping them from feeling the pain of life. Many of us have chosen simply not to want so much; it’s safer that way. It’s also godless. That’s stoicism, not christianity. Sanctification is an awakening, the rousing of our souls from the dead sleep of sin into the fullness of their capacity for life…”

God did not intend for us to have dull hearts, but He also didn’t intend for our passions to be purchased by the latest ad campaign or wayward urge.  In addition, the marketplace should not have a monopoly on our hearts.  How, then, can we achieve a healthy balance of enthusiasm?

First, let me be clear that listening to your heart should not mean doing whatever you feel is right at the moment without any other mental or spiritual input, as some have wrongly interpreted.  That is not wisdom- it is a recipe for causing an incredible amount of damage to your spiritual and emotional well-being. Rather, it is important to center your heart on God and to use your heart in conjunction with, well.. your mind (one would hope!) and God’s guidance (the Holy Spirit).  It is also important to note that the heart can be a source of all sorts of trouble: when it is placed in your own hands, rather than His (God’s).  However, when you entrust your heart to Him, it will be far better equipped to fulfill the purposes He created for it.

There are also several other points we can glean from the featured quote.  First, God does not intend for man to develop unfeeling souls.  The solution to abstaining from cultivating the wrong desires- shaped by sales, consumerism and sin – is not to shut off our hearts and become indifferent.  Rather, when our hearts are in the right place to begin with, we can be zealous about the things that matter.  Not all desires are evil.  God often gives us desires as a method of communicating with us, and it is not a sin to be in need or to sense that God has something more in store for us in the future.

Phony “needs” and “desires” can usually be solved without much effort.  For example, if a desire originates in a well-marketed advertisement, we need only purchase a product to solve our problem.. until the next phony desire is implanted in our hearts.  It is a temporary fix, but it is a fix.  However, real needs and God-given desires are not so straightforward.  It may feel “safe” not to acknowledge real needs.  Needs can make us feel powerless, helpless or inadequate, if we let them.  Real needs and desires force us to acknowledge that we are incomplete on our own, and that we are incapable of permanent fixes, no matter how much we try to fill the gap with temporal passions.

Real needs sometimes cause us to hurt, and this may seem strange if our only image of God is that of a lovey-dovey genie that grants our every desire, and nothing of truth and power that does not change.  So, if you are looking to live passionately without leaving your comfort zone, do not read on.  Stay safe.

Alternatively, it is possible to live with a different kind of passion that frees us to follow the eternity-focused desires that God places inside our hearts.  Yes, it may be a whole lot less comfortable.  It may be costly, and it will be painful at times.  However, the return will also be greater than you can imagine.

If we should want more, as Eldredge suggests, this does not mean that we should want more rhinestone i-phone cases and dark chocolate ice-cream.  Our hearts were made to be inspired by greater things.  We might want more justice, more peace, more kindness, and more intimacy with Christ.  We could desire better communities, stronger families, more resilient lives and more meaningful relationships.  Whatever it is that God places on our hearts, these things we are meant to aim toward changing, helping and healing.  These are all things that we cannot do on our own, but instead can accomplish over time through prayer, teamwork with others, and plain old hard work.

Only by accepting the challenge to follow God’s calling can our hearts become spacious, as our blog name suggests, and yes – passionate.  It may mean stepping aside from the status-quo, or devoting more time to really listening to God.  It may mean making difficult decisions or living more intentionally.  Regardless of the changes that need to be made, God can be trusted with our lives, and always has our best intentions in mind.  He desires not unfeeling souls, but as Eldredge puts it- “the rousing of our souls from the dead sleep of sin into the fullness of their capacity for life“.  He desires passionate followers, even when it means we may experience some personal discomfort. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.

– Jeremiah 29:11-12, NLT

To find out more about Hannah K., visit our writer’s page.

Art Credit: Tumblr

15 comments

  1. Good post.

    I struggle the most with the realization that many of my “needs” in this life may never be met. I cannot, of course, see into the future, but often it is hard to imagine that life will ever change. I suppose with time, God will either fulfill my “need” or remove it from my life.

    1. Thank you, Charity.
      I agree that sometimes it can be hard to imagine that life will ever change. It is difficult to occupy a place of waiting, and also difficult to acknowledge when our ideas about what should be or what we should have do not align perfectly with God’s. I don’t know how patient of a person you are, but I know that my own patience level definitely doesn’t help me much in such cases, lol.
      However, I am sure that God has meaningful and fulfilling things planned for you in the future, and that your patience will be rewarded, even if what God gives you may be different from – but ultimately better than – what you imagine. =)

      1. I hope he does, because from where I am sitting, I am destined for a long life of being single, owning cats, and scribbling on the backs of notebooks when I run out of paper. But I suppose that’s all right, so long as my heart is in the right place. So much of life is in expectation of something better. It’s hard to remember to live out fully each day, and appreciate where you are. I’m not real great with patience. But then, I often don’t know when to leap, either. Sometimes I just look. I never jump.

      2. I hope he does, because from where I am sitting, I am destined for a long life of being single, owning cats, and scribbling on the backs of notebooks when I run out of paper.

        And for being an amazingly thought-provoking writer! =P

        Maybe a book is in your future? Sorry if that reads a bit like a fortune cookie, lol, but I really can see you as potentially becoming a (book) author. Regardless of the road God has for you, perhaps this time of cat-owning, notebook-scribbling singleness will yield more ideas and time for writing that will prove useful when you’re farther down the road. =)

        It reminds me of a quote by Jon Acuff..

        In order to get a 50,000-word book published, I had to write 500,000 words on my blog. I had to essentially give away a half-million words before I could build the momentum and ability to actually write the book. Since it came out, I’ve added another 500,000. So in three years, I’ve written one million words to publish 50,000.

        – Hannah K.

      3. I have no problems writing the books… just having the courage to tear through them with a red pen, and then try to sell them to an agent. But I’m finally working up the nerve to go for it. Here’s hoping. 😉

      4. Haha, yes – the editing part is always what gets me. This is why I have so many unfinished stories saved on my computer, lol. =P You can do it!! I hope that you get a taker!

  2. This is so accurate! Often I find myself “striving” after the wind, as Solomon would say. Our nature would tell us to seek fulfillment everywhere but in God. It’s so important to seek after things of Him instead, rather than giving ourselves to meaningless idols that are seemingly harmless.

    Such great wisdom, Hannah! Awesome post 🙂

  3. Wow I really needed to read this. And how randomly I found it (google haha). I’ve always subconcsiously pushed those desires I have for kindness in the world, closer knit family, etc, to the pits of my mind. And then I naively ask God constantly why I feel like I’m confused with my life and what I’m accomplishing. I’ve been going after what others have told me to ‘keep working hard and going to school’ and I’ve been spending the last three days in a depressed state because I’m so busy I can’t even sleep. My personal time with God is now even being threatened too. Thank you for letting Him use you. Please pray for me that I can find a balance and the courage to go after my personal desires placed in me by God, no matter how silly or useless they seem to be in this day and age.

    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading! ^_^ Also, I love that it sounds like God is showing you things, and I hope that He continues to move in your life. I am praying for you, Asia, that God will help you to have more clarity, as well as to follow after the passions He has placed in your heart.
      I’ve been in places in life where work and school have been consuming – even if useful- pursuits, and after a while the direction can leave its mental and spiritual toll. Success is such a poor driving force, because on our own we never arrive. However, restoring and caring for other passions, such as the callings God places on our lives, can help both to ease the difficulty of periods of “training” in life, such as going through school, as well as to help clarify where to go next.
      I hope that you will find both balance and courage in going after those desires, and that you will not view them as silly, but for what they are: a gift, as well as a tool to help you become exactly what you are meant to be. Thank you for commenting! 🙂

      – Hannah K.

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