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