I used to fear that God would send me to Africa.
I knew that I’d signed on unconditionally. God has the right to do whatever he wants with my life. That meant, I understood, that God could send me anywhere he wanted and I had to go.
So when I attended missions conferences, I felt afraid. What if God sent me somewhere where I’d be miserable? What if God overruled the desires of my heart?
Two Sides of Desire
I don’t know why I was so afraid. Looking back, it would have been a privilege to serve and live somewhere in Africa. Our little church supports a missionary in Chad, Africa. To serve as he does would be an immense privilege.
The problem isn’t with Africa. The problem was my misunderstanding of how God works in our lives.
I understood one part of the picture: that our desires are misshapen, and that they often lead us astray. In other words, I had a good understanding of human sinfulness and all the ways that desires can go wrong. It’s not a good idea to follow all of one’s desires when so many of our desires are sinful.
I didn’t understand the other side of desire. God doesn’t just ask us to do things we don’t desire. God goes much deeper. He changes our desires. We start to want what he wants.
That’s why so many Scriptures speak positively of delight and desire. Psalm 1, for instance, speaks of a way of life in which God’s Word is a delight. Not a drudgery, but a delight. The godly individual loves God’s Word. God begins to change what we want.
God doesn’t call us to live a life of drudgery in which we serve him against our wills. God calls us to a life of delight in which our desires are gradually transformed so that we want what’s good, holy, honorable, and holy. God changes our desires.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Commenting on this verse, Spurgeon says:
Ungodly persons and mere professors never look upon religion as a joyful thing, to them it is service, duty, or necessity, but never pleasure and delight … “Why,” the worldly man says, “I thought religion was all self-denial; I never imagined that in loving God we could have our desires; I thought that godliness consisted in killing, destroying, and keeping back our desires.”
…He who fears God and is wholly God’s servant, has no chains about him. He may live as he lists, for he lists to live as he ought. He may have his full desires, for his desires are holy, heavenly, divine. He may take the full range of the utmost capacity of his wishes and desires, and have all he wants and all he wishes, for God has given him the promise and God will give him the fulfillment of it.
God calls us to deny ungodly desires, but he does something far better: he causes our souls to delight in him, and then lets us pursue those delights with abandon.
Our prayer shouldn’t be, “Lord, please don’t send me where I don’t want to go. Please don’t make me do what I don’t want to do.” Our prayer should be, “Lord, change my desires so I delight in what you give me to do.”
The good news: God gives us the desires of our heart. He changes our desires and then lets us have them to the full. In the truest sense of the word, God is delightful.