Sometimes Good Desires Become Disordered

What do we think about when we let our minds wander? Is it God... or something else?

I heard that question a while back, and it’s stuck with me.

Usually my answer is something else. Maybe you can relate. When my mind wanders, I think about a whole host of things before I pull my focus back to God. I think about my job. I think about my purpose and my duration of life in New York. I think about my social life. I think about my family. I think about my health. And then I think about all these thoughts I’m having. It’s a constant cycle.

More than anything, my thoughts continually drift to people and relationships. God is boldly illuminating that idol during this season of my life. My natural inclination is to trust in earthly humans and earthly plans instead of in The Lord and His eternal plan.

I love with my whole heart. I think being around people is one of my giftings. I am an extrovert, through and through—an ESFJ, if you want to get specific. I'm social, sensitive, and loyal. I very much enjoy caring for people.

But I will admit that I often place too much weight on my desire to be with people. Just the thought of friends not wanting to spend time with me makes me feel absolutely awful. I would feel even worse if a friend needs my help and I can't provide it.

Why am I like that? I think I can put people and relationships before God—people are big while God is small. I don't want to do that, yet I do. I have to check myself because God has called us to love Him first every day. The desire to be with people and in community is a good desire. God wants that for us. He designed us to live life together, and He calls us to love one another. At the same time, He wants us to keep Him as our number one.

James 1:14-15 says,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Matt Chandler of The Village Church gave an awesome sermon in which he talked about this passage. You can desire good things, he says, but if you elevate that good desire above God, you become enslaved to it. Good things become ultimate things. I see my own tendency to do that when it comes to people and relationships.

My desires are disordered and absolutely lead to sin. My relational desire takes root in affirmation and approval. When l have a packed social calendar, I feel very much approved of and self-assured. When I have a boyfriend, I feel cared for and supported. Friends, family, and a significant other make me feel worthy, confident, and loved. I feel secure because I have tangible relationships and people around me showing me how much they care. And then I easily trust God.

I've always known that I like being around people and I’d rather be social than be alone. But it wasn't until this summer that I realized the extent of my brokenness in this area. I moved to a new neighborhood, which meant a new church congregation and a new community. I wasn’t as close to these people as my friends in my old neighborhood. Plus, finding quality time with my old friends became more difficult. We no longer lived within walking distance of each other, and logistically it was became more work to hang out. It’s summertime, too, which means everyone’s leaving the city and taking trips whenever they can.

I really craved time together with these friends, and I struggled with being alone, even if I was resting. For a long time, I didn’t see this as sinful. After all, what's wrong with wanting to spend quality time with people?

As I went through a breakup, though, I had no choice but to face my disordered desire head-on. And whoa, was I confronted with sin. I was able to see how much I want affirmation and approval through other people. How I somehow felt more worthy when I had a boyfriend. How I felt more secure in myself because I had a human man telling me he liked me and showing me how wonderful I was. How I felt just a little bit more complete when I could check off the boxes for career, church, friends, family, and a significant other. With this guy’s absence, I was left with myself and having to come to terms with who I am on my own—just me and Jesus.

My greatest realization? The unconditional assurance that God loves me and thinks I'm worthy just the way I am. I must look to Him for affirmation, approval, comfort. It doesn't matter whether or not I have a thriving social life, a solid church community group, or a significant other. God still loves me. Maybe He isn't there physically holding my hand, or texting me throughout the day, or sitting across from me for brunch. But He is there. He's in the sun and the sky. He's in the wind and the trees. Most of all, He’s in my heart.

Knowing He dwells within me and is sustaining me gives me great hope, even when I feel like a sinful mess. This doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. I don’t. I’m still learning who I am. I’m seeing what faith looks like in the midst of dashed hopes and rejection. I’m working on my relationship with the Lord, and I have to continually reset my desires. I have to remind myself that every day calls for a continual act of surrender. It’s not fun to have sins brought to the surface. But God is pruning me of those thorns—and the fruit that comes from this process is sure to be sweet.