Questioning our Desire


Hope deferred makes the heart sick,but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
Proverbs 13:19


It can crush the soul and ruin us for a time. This kind of heart sickness generates its own dis-ease and apprehension. It’s an internal crisis that ripples into every relationship.  I remember a season in leadership and life over a decade ago when “hope deferred” felt like the absolute loss of a dream — even the death of a dream. I thought I was finished, undone, and of no use! God met me through that season by reshaping the desires of my heart — particularly God reshaped my understanding of those dreams. Essential to my own growth, even my own survival, through that season was the willingness to acknowledge and enter into the pain of these unmet and shattered expectations.


A desire fulfilled.
The wisdom teacher in Proverbs says of a desire fulfilled, “It’s a tree of life” and “It’s sweet to the soul.” Sounds like success and perhaps it is. But when our desires sit only on the surface of production, achievement, or the applause of people it doesn’t last. It is not a tree of life and cannot be a tree of life for us. Sweet to the soul — only for a moment. So what kind of desires fulfilled can be a tree of life? I believe these tree of life desires must be rooted in relationships and a deep purpose planted in our hearts by God. Love and the delight of God must be at the root of “tree of life” desires.


To turn away.
The teacher uses the phrase “to turn away” identifying a capacity to discern between our desires. A fool refuses “to turn away” from an evil desire. The fool, considers such deferral and refusal to be “an abomination.” In other words a fool considers it to be the last thing in the world she or he would consider doing — choosing not to fulfill a desire.  Ugh — foolish moments. We’ve all had our foolish moments.

The danger looms when such foolishness becomes the habituated pattern of our lives and the very nature of our character. Its important that we learn to discerning the evil in desires. The desire may be wrong in the eyes of God — it may be a perversion of something He made to be good. The desire may be inappropriate for the nature of our relationships. Or perhaps the desire may have to be deferred for a season because of other commitments in this season of life,fulfilling the desire would actually wreck havoc. This is a timing issue and is truly at the heart of wisdom.

I have a theory about spiritual formation and the seasons of our lives.  Perhaps each major developmental movement from being a child to young adult, from young adult to adulthood and then the seasons of re-evaluated adulthood coming almost every decade, must be accompanied by a renewed commitment to the process and an expansion of our capacity to discern and sift desire. Maybe we must relearn aspects of this process over and over because of the changes that take place in us and in the world around us. Here’s my process:

Naming: Acknowledge the desire.

Binding: Discern the desire’s impact in relationships – to God, to self, to people, and to the stuff of earth; reshape and limit accordingly as a disciple of Jesus in the grace and truth of His Lordship. This may actually be a binding process that comes from God as He brings healing to us in regard to our desires.


Loosing: Take steps to move toward a desire fulfilled. This is probably not a straight line as it may involve: prayer, conversations, partnering, a long series of small steps in the right direction, and then absolute surrender to God for Him to accomplish something that’s actually bigger than we are and beyond our capacities.


Personal Reflection — What do you think?
Have you had any experience with these two proverbs?
Have you gone through a naming, binding, and loosing process before? What have you learned in the process?
How has Jesus redeemed deferred desires?
Are there desires that you have “nailed to the cross?”
How has God shown up to do more than you thought possible?
Are there desires that you have been ignoring?
Are there desires you have been gracefully fulling with Jesus for the glory of God?


New impulses created by Jesus’ love.

9“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

12This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.

15I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.  John 15:9-17

Jesus says, “You are my friends!”

Jesus expects friendship with Him to create new impulses.
Remain in my love. vs. 9
Obey my commandments. vs. 10
Love each other. vs. 12, 17

The order matters here:

Remain in my love. Obey my commandments. Love each other.

Without this order, obedience to Jesus will turn into a dance with self-righteousness. All of our efforts to obey Him will turn into religious appeasement crafted with the hope of making ourselves lovable to Him and OK with the world… except that we are so unable to make ourselves loveable and the world’s applause is fickle.

The order starts with love. To remain is to abide, live in, and enjoy the reality of Jesus’ love for us. His love His solid and fully expressed in His life, death, and resurrection. Obedience is a fruit of being gracefully loved by Jesus. He has initiated this divine friendship.

Live loved! Being loved by Jesus brings us into the communion of God. As we deliberately move our thoughts into the Gospel narrative we will discover new impulses given us by the Spirit to continue in His love, to obey His commandments, and to love people.