Living Faithfully With Unmet Wants

What do you want?

This question is fundamental for every human being. It shapes and drives everything that we do. We hunger and thirst for a certain kind of life; our own version of the abundant life and then we create plans, theologies, or ideologies to justify and satisfy our wants, desires, and dreams.

How do you tend to respond when you do not get what you want? We ache for marriage. We desire a life of meaning. We want to get home quickly by avoiding 5 o’clock traffic. We want people to admire and listen to us. But we don’t always get what we want, right? We call it 5 o’clock traffic for a reason. Some of us will never get married. Some of us want a vacation but can’t afford it. I could run down a list of things we want that seem to slip our grasp. We are then left frustrated and exhausted. We haven’t even begun to talk about the things we want that we shouldn’t. Such as revenge over someone who has hurt us. Or our neighbors possessions. Whatever that might be.

Most of us (all?) have a pretty complicated relationship with our desires. We want what we shouldn’t and we want too much what is permissible.

How do we move forward without capitulating into:

  • Suppression of our desires

  • Indulging in our desires

  • Rationalizing our desires away

Learning from Jesus

If you’re like me you wonder if Jesus actually experienced something similar to this. Jesus is the true human after all. Can he relate? Or is he some sort of superhuman who always got his way and never had to wrestle over unmet desires?

In the gospels we see numerous examples of Jesus not getting what he wants. But none thing stands out to me like his time in the garden of Gethsemane. When I hear people talk about Jesus the image is that Jesus is always cool, calm, and collected. He’s never conflicted. Everything came easy. With this part of the narrative we cannot come to this conclusion.

In the garden, Jesus is filled with anxiety and distress. He’s going to die soon. The evil and violence and pain of the world will be drawn up into his body. He will be deserted by his closest friends. In this moment Jesus embodies a way forward for healthy engagement with our wants and desires.

First, Jesus owns what he wants. He is willing to own it and submit it to the Father i.e. if this cup may pass. Jesus has the audacity to ask his Father for another way. He owns what he wants without the fear of backlash. And to our surprise the Father isn’t vexed, displeased, or exasperated with such a request.

Second, Jesus entrust himself to the Father i.e. nevertheless not my will but your will be done. Jesus is not denying nor suppressing his desires. He submits them to the Father and trust that the Father’s will is the path of life. He’s enabled to do this because he trust that the Father loves him and is present and at work even in his darkest moment. In doing this he’s free to own what he wants without being controlled by them. His own wants are saturated in the love of the Father. Jesus lived his whole life entrusting himself to the love of his Father. A love that is better than life itself.

How is this good news for us?

Jesus does this very thing with people all throughout the gospels. Asking questions in order to connect to the aches and longings of each person he meets.

  • What are you looking for?

  • What do you want?

  • Why do you call me good?

  • Do you love me?

Today, we are invited by Jesus to meet him in our aches and longings. We are free to own what we want; in confession, without shame and fear. And we are invited to entrust ourselves to his care. He truly cares about it more than we do. Yes, this is scandalous news indeed.

This is a life long journey. Each incremental step of living by faith in the love of God revealed in Jesus shapes us into the kinds of people who can be present to our deepest desires without shame, guilt, and fear. The Father longs to meet us in our wants with the grace and truth revealed in his Son. Therefore, in this moment we are invited by the Spirit to sit present with our aches and longings, to own and submit them to his wise care, and believe that we can encounter the love of God in the midst of not getting what we want. The love that is better than life.

Does this sound like good news to you? Share below some of your thoughts.