Remember the wonderful movie Mary Poppins? Mary was the super-confident English nanny who floated into a family home in 1910 London. Little Jane and Michael were out of control because they had everything but the hearts of their parents, who drifted off course distracted with various causes and work demands. But Mary, being “practically perfect in every way,” brought order, fun, and adventure into the home.
“I’ve discovered that following the desires found in our unredeemed hearts can take us off course. In fact God has warned, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
We may not be able to navigate the deep waters of the human heart, but God can. He’s shown me how to steer my heart in the right direction. By exposing my desires to three simple questions—What do I want? Why do I want it? What am I willing to do to get it?—I can avoid dangerous obstacles and enjoy smooth sailing.
What Do I Want?
The first determination of whether a desire is right or wrong is found in the object of your desire. It depends on what you want. For instance, there’s a big difference between looking for love and longing for lust. My mother warned me, “Be careful what you wish for . . . you may just get it.” In fact, that is precisely what Samson’s mother told her son when he wanted to marry a Philistine, a woman from a race with which the Jews were strictly forbidden to intermarry. His mom tried to persuade Samson to obey God’s commands and choose a bride from among his own people, but to no avail. What Samson desired more than anything was Delilah. And when he got her, she was his undoing (see Judges 16). Samson should have asked himself, “Do I want what God wants?”
Why Do I Want It?
The second test to discern if your desire is helpful or harmful depends on why you want what you want. Is the desire for greedy gain or God’s glory? Motive is a key factor and that’s exactly where Eve stumbled. When the serpent asked her, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1), Eve passed the test with flying colors, telling the devil that since God said no, she wouldn’t even touch the forbidden fruit. So why did Eve ultimately succumb to temptation? Because Satan presented her with an enticing motive: “For God knows that the day you eat of it . . . you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5, emphasis added). With this incentive in her heart, “the woman saw that the tree was . . . desirable to make one wise, [and] she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis added). And when she did, it was the downfall of the human race. Eve should have asked herself, “Why do I want what God doesn’t want?”
What Am I Willing to Do to Get It?
Finally, the litmus test of a desire’s merit lies in how you go about getting it. Many a misguided dreamer has attempted to get the right thing the wrong way. You must ask yourself, “What am I willing to do to get what I want?” In Acts 8, we read about the radical conversion of Simon the sorcerer who had “astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God’” (Acts 8:9-10). Simon loved the limelight, but he was outshone by the signs and wonders God performed through Philip. Simon’s star was further eclipsed when Peter and John baptized believers with the Holy Spirit. The ex-sorcerer became so envious of their power and prestige that “he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 8:18-19). Peter harshly rebuked him, saying that God’s Spirit is not for sale and His servants cannot be manipulated with a bribe. Simon should have asked himself, “What makes me think I can get the right thing the wrong way?”
If there’s such a thing as wrong desires, then how can we know what are the right desires? What did David mean when he said “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4)? The answer is found in the source of these desires—do they originate with our heavenly Father or our fallen nature? God does not grant us every wish or whim—He is not some heavenly genie in a bottle. But He does promise to plant His holy desires within His children’s hearts. In other words, as we delight ourselves in God, He places desires in our hearts that please Him.
In order for desires to be holy, they must be according to His will, His Word, and His way. Consider the following Scriptures:
- His Word: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).
- His will: “We can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will” (1 John 5:14 NLT).
- His way: “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father” (John 14:13 NLT).
Our Perfect Parent
From the time that our son Nate could talk, he knew that he wanted weapons. Even before he could speak, he knew how to make the sounds of each and every implement of death. His desire was to amass an armory that rivaled any storybook hero’s. At Knott’s Berry Farm, he wanted a bullwhip just like Indiana Jones. At Toys-R-Us, he craved a revolver like Dick Tracy’s. And in Hawaii, he begged us for a machete like Crocodile Dundee’s. When he picked up a huge knife in a tourist shack, we both shouted, “No!” No parent in his or her right mind would let a three-year-old wield a blade of that magnitude. It was quite simple: When Nate asked for something that was not according to our will, we got in the way.
Thank God that when Nate turned 16, his desires changed. Instead of weapons, he wanted wheels. Before he had put a license into his wallet, he was already asking for the keys to a car. He had spent the last five years saving every penny from birthdays and Christmases to buy the car of his dreams. With $3,000 in his bank account, we entered the used car lot. And there, gleaming in the sunlight, was a ‘93 Volvo 850 for just $3,400. It was fire-engine red and in primo condition. Since our son wanted what we wanted—a safe, reliable car—our answer was a resounding yes! When his request was in line with our will, we paved the way.
It’s the same with God. He is not just a good Father; He is the perfect parent. Jesus informed moms and dads:
You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:9-11 NLT).
The lesson is simple: If you want God to say yes to your heart’s desires, then make sure that you are asking for something that He desires. If the Lord has been saying no to some of your prayers, perhaps you are asking Him for the wrong thing.
Desiring to be a godly mom or dad is definitely God’s will. No matter how hard we try, I doubt that any one of us will ever be a “practically perfect” parent. But when our deepest desires are to please and honor our own Heavenly Father, we can confidently trust that our parenting efforts, though imperfect, will glorify Him.
Lenya Heitzig is an award-winning author, popular Bible teacher, and a sought after speaker at women’s conferences and retreats worldwide. She is the author of Holy Moments: Recognizing God’s Fingerprints on Your Life and also contributed to the best-selling New Women’s Devotional Bible. Lenya has co-authored seven Fresh Life Bible studies and is the sole author of two studies in the Fresh Life series: Live Reflectively and Live Tastefully. She and her husband, Skip, founded Calvary of Albuquerque where Lenya has served as Director of she Ministries since 1984, overseeing weekly Bible studies and yearly retreats.