The Significance of Human Desires (part 2)

So, last time I offered a few questions for meditation.

I also invited responses.

You were very quiet.

If you’re normally someone who likes to comment, your silence likely indicates one of two things. Either the questions were far to big to answer in a blog comment, or the answers seemed so obvious that it felt silly to even respond. If the former is true—I’m with ya. The significance of human desires is so mammoth in my estimation that even now I’m having a hard time deciding which direction to go in this follow up. If the latter is true—well…humor me as I fumble through the obvious. 🙂

Here’s my thinking: What if all human desires are fundamentally a reflection of things we were created for? What if it’s in the how and when we choose to pursue their fulfillment that things get messed up?

This is not a novel concept. Christians acknowledge that human appreciation for beauty arises from the reality that God is beautiful, and that he made beautiful things for us to enjoy. We recognize that our desire to be loved corresponds to the truth that we were created to be objects of God’s love. We even give a nod to the fact that our physical drives/desires are at least partially good—that though they’re just a concession for these “un-spiritual,” earthly bodies, they do promote survival, and encourage procreation.

Even with these admissions, however, I have observed that many believers carry around a vague, but nagging impression that all desires are somehow un-spiritual, even—and perhaps especially—the most profound yearnings of the human soul. Longings for intimate relationship, significance, unique value,  gratifying work, and adventure are regarded with suspicion—often viewed as nothing more than glorified forms of selfishness, pride, worldly ambition, or ignorance.

Even if we entertain the thought that these desires are good and meant to be fulfilled, we assume that God’s intended fulfillment must be so “spiritual” and other that it bears very little resemblance to what we think we are actually longing for now. If we catch ourselves hoping or imagining that our existence in heaven will satisfy our current longings in any kind of recognizable way, we suppress it as a shameful indication of  our own immaturity and presumption.

But why?

It’s true that the New Testament has plenty to say about the wickedness of the world and the of the flesh, but those terms refer to the current order of things under Satan’s rule, and to the propensity toward sin that mankind inherited at the fall. Those warnings and condemnations cannot be referring to the earth or to physical bodies—both of which are the result of God’s creative work.

Doesn’t Genesis describe God creating the man and the woman (spiritual beings) with physical bodies, and placing them in a physical world, with meaningful work to do?  Didn’t he say they were made in his image and that it was very good? Didn’t he walk with them in the garden and enjoy unique relationships with them as distinct and significant individuals?

Isn’t heaven (as my friend at Delve pointed out) described in physical terms (city, rivers, buildings, vegetation, creatures, bodies, feasts, etc.)? Don’t the details of life in heaven include work, activity, sequence, process, and interaction?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if our desires aren’t evil or misguided—and they don’t suddenly cease or drastically alter when we arrive in heaven? What if we just stop pursuing them in wicked, painful, and destructive ways, and start enjoying them the way that man did before the fall—in a place much like this, with bodies not entirely unlike these, through activities and relationships much like the ones we engage in now?

I wonder if we have any very good reason for thinking that our desires are a deception and a distraction, keeping us from pursuing, understanding, or achieving true spirituality. Since God had good plans for us when he designed us, it makes sense that our core desires would compel us toward him—that the culmination of our deepest longings would recognizably correspond to the fulfillment of his intentions for us.

What do you think?

And how might our assumptions on this matter affect our approach to life, our understanding of God and his character, or our anticipation of eternity?

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11 thoughts on “The Significance of Human Desires (part 2)”

  1. Thank you for referencing my post! I love your entry. I think it is important to explore the reasons that we have certain ideas, figure out where they came from and then weigh their truth and relevancy. I tend to agree with your observations on this topic. The question for me becomes: Just how corrupt are we? Have we so utterly polluted things since Adam and Eve that they hardly bear resemblance to the beauty God gave us in the beginning? Do you have any thoughts about that?

    1. Good question. The Bible declares and implies repeatedly (in passages written long after the fall) that creation points to God–that it is a true reflection his character, his power, his beauty, etc. Creation is corrupted…not mutated. While I agree that the corruption is progressive and increasing, I do not see any justification for assuming that it has been so marred as to be utterly other than what it once was.

      One need only look at a newborn baby, or an elderly couple holding hands. A sunset, the ocean, or great mountains. The unimaginable complexities of biology or physics. Who could say that the beauty of God is not all over those things?

      Can I prove that things are not that drastically altered, and that the world remains a clear and reliable communication of who God is and what his intentions are for us? Nope. But I find that far more consistent with the Biblical revelation than the option.

  2. I think of all of creation longing for the redemption . . . and that God has divine intentions for us, an abundant life that Christ Jesus offers. His Word and His commandments give us direction toward a fulfilled life. So, while I can’t wholeheartedly agree with Carman that “the desire is the confirmation”, I do believe that if we delight ourselves in the Lord (including our time spent daily with Him, communing in the Word and prayer), He will give us the desires of our heart. He can direct our desires to things that most please Him.

    1. Yes, I think the older I get and the more of life I see, the more I understand the truth that all of creation is longing for redemption. Though there is still much beauty in it, this broken world is not our home. Can’t wait till we all get to go home. In the meantime, we can trust God to navigate our path. 🙂

  3. This is a great series and I’ve not really considered the topic before. I’m afraid I hadn’t read your first post prior to this second one. If I were to make a generalization, it would be that our desires and longings will not be fulfilled without sin until we are renewed in body and spirit at the end of our current age. I’m not sure how things were prior to the fall, but I believe that in terms of our current physical bodies that both Adam and Eve were physically very similar to ourselves. I.e. not some sort of pseudo-spiritual proto-human; they were the same as us minus their unique genetic code which we all have in common still.

    1. Agreed. I like the “pseudo-spiritual proto-human” bit. 🙂 Interesting how much we contrast spiritual and physical (which, admittedly, aren’t the same), but in the Bible, spiritual beings are consistently described as having bodies. The definition of spiritual as “not physical” seems lacking.

  4. What an atrophying way to live.
    Every morning waking should be a time of “Whatcha got for me today Lord?”
    But regrettably, for some it is erroneously a time of trying to maim what God has amazingly
    knitted into us. If life was lived always battling desires, those God created in us (not desires that stem from selfishness and evil motives) we now live a life of contention. God then is nothing more than a schoolmaster, holding on to his ruler as he paces the classroom waiting to slap us on the wrist because it’s for our own good.
    This kind of belief, most definately causes Chrstians and people in general to obtain such a distorted picture of what it is to have a relaitonship with God leaving heaven the place you want to eventualy end up only because Hell certainly is not an option.

    1. Well said, Lila! How frustrating and sadly deceived is a life spent fighting against good desires that are hardwired into us. We stand to miss out on valuable insights into God’s heart–and heaven can be reduced to some nebulous concept that no one can really look forward to in anything other than a theoretical sense. And erroneous atrophying…that was a nice touch. 😉

  5. Just wanted to share a few of my favorite scriptures regarding relationship.
    As good healthy relationships I believe play a part in our fulfillment conveying our
    significance and unique value.

    Genisis 24:67 Isaac and Rebekah My favorite love story.
    Exodus 33:11 God and Moses God really does want to hang out
    1 Samuel 20:41 David and Johnathan True Friendship

    1. Thanks–those are great! I especially like the Exodus one. God speaks to Moses as a friend, and after Moses leaves, Joshua stays behind to get some God time as well. It is implied that God was pleased to do that as well. Sounds like honest-to-goodness relationality to me:)

      We long for individual value and significance because we are individually valuable and significant to God. It’s just our darn broken identity that gets this wrong all the time…

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