By Shellie R. Warren
“Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You.”—Psalm 38:9(NKJV)
“What does not satisfy when we find it, was not the thing we were desiring.”—C.S. Lewis
The more time that I am afforded to spend on this earth, the more I understand why the Lord allows (not causes, but allows) certain things to happen in our lives. Indeed, if you “truly allow yourself time to heal from your own past hurts and wounds” (Psalm 147:3, Hebrews 12:12-17), the greater chance there is to not just extend compassion to another in their suffering (just as Adonai does, Psalm 111:4), but to also be provided with a clearer understanding of what they may be going through…and why they continue to send themselves through it.
Take some of the children that I mentor, for instance. Being that I am a survivor of various kinds of abuse, I get it when a child would seemingly prefer a kick to a hug; a cuss out to a compliment. If you haven’t been in a place where you don’t trust adults very much, such scenarios may be hard to comprehend. Oh, but if you have, then you can fathom why other victims of abuse have taught themselves to tolerate actions that are “destructive” if for no other reason than the fact that they are “familiar” with that way of life.
If you’ve never done a study on arrested development, this is actually why a lot of people remain in unhealthy cycles when it comes to their relationships and personal habits. It’s not so much that they “like” what they’re subjecting themselves to; it’s that they remember what it was like to put their trust in someone (or thing) and have their faith in that person (or thing) blown to smithereens. The pain of being betrayed, to them, far exceeds the pain of being vulnerable again and so…they remain in a state of abuse. More times than not, it’s a state of self-abuse.
I thought about that during a recent conversation that I had with a not-so-young woman about a relationship that she’s in—one that she’s convincing herself to remain in even though she’s not completely happy—no, “satisfied” (we’ll get to that word in a minute) —in it. I’ve known her for many years; long enough to notice that this is a part of her cycle: settling. I believe that I’ve shared my all-time favorite quote on settling before. It’s by a writer by the name of Maureen Dowd: “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.” And yet, I know what it’s like to have such low self-esteem, to be in so much fear of being alone (2 Timothy 1:7, I John 4:18), that I will get into and remain in relationships, both platonically and romantically, that are less than, rather than equal to or greater than, I am deserving of. And let me just say this right here:Since we all are made in the image of Love (Genesis 1:26-28, I John 4:8, 16), this means that it should be our purposeful mission in life to surround ourselves with love—real, true, lasting, healthy love (actually love is automatically all of these things; what we often settle for does not qualify to have the word “love” to define it).
As I listened to her tell me about how much she “loved” this man, but she wasn’t getting all that she wanted out of the relationship, as I reminded her of the fact that as a single woman, she didn’t have to stay where she was so displeased (married people, please stop giving single people marital advice; we’re not equipped with the grace to follow through on the actions…besides it doesn’t even apply to us yet), the Comforter (John 14:16 AMP) said something to my spirit that was very “soothing,” “consoling” and “reassuring.” Personally, it absolutely did “bring cheer to” my psyche. And, as divine coincidence (Proverbs 16:33 AMP) would have it, it was also conveyed in “7” (the biblical number for perfection) words:
GOD ISN’T INTO INDULGING. HE’S INTO SATISFYING.
The Problem with Lust
I stand amazed at how often we think we can do battle with Satan on our own. If we really were that equipped, why do you think that we would be given divine instructions like: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NKJV), and “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26 NKJV)? Why do you think we are told things like, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 NKJV)? Why do you think that the Word, which is Adonai (John 10:10), tells us that, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4 NKJV), and then it gives us examples of this by how Christ himself handled the Enemy? “And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” Luke 4:8(NKJV).
I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that for every temptation, a way of escape is afforded to us, but in what I believe is oftentimes a combination of both laziness (Proverbs 22:13) and arrogance (Proverbs 16:18), we don’t take the Most High (Genesis 14:19) up on his offer. We don’t resist our urges. We don’t avoid conversations that could snare us. We don’t put (and keep) on all of our armor. And we don’t do what Christ himself did when the Liar (John 8:44) approaches us. We don’t tell him to get behind us while quoting GOD (God is the Word) back to him. We don’t remember (or is it that we ignore?) that it’s not us, but the Spirit of truth (John 4:24) that is in us, that sends the devil to trembling (Acts 19:15). Again, if Christ knew not to hold extensive conversations with the thief (John 10:10), why should we do it? And being that sin was introduced into the world, in part, due to a woman engaging the Enemy (Genesis 3), again, why should we do it?
Luke 11:13 (NKJV) states, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” When parents tell their children not to do something and they do it anyway (Proverbs 22:6), what bothers them so much about it? Isn’t a part of it because the kids’ actions indicated that they thought that they knew better? Doesn’t disregarding instructions protect the message that they would rather put themselves in harm’s way rather than heed wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14)?
IN DEALING WITH SATAN, GOD WOULD NOT TELL US TO SUBMIT TO HIM IF HE THOUGHT WE COULD STAND UP TO SATAN ON OUR OWN. BUT WE CAN’T.
This doesn’t just apply to when we fall for temptation, but when we engage it as well. On X3Church.com, one of the conversations that many of us find ourselves getting into with the commenters is the issue of lust; what it really is and how it truly affects individuals. You see, a lot of people don’t think that lust is a real problem (these same people don’t believe illicit material is either, but that’s another message for another day). But you see, Scripture clearly tells us otherwise: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (I John 2:16 NKJV).
When it comes to lust, there are many different definitions. Most commonly, we tend to think of lust as an “intense sexual desire or appetite,” although, in the right context, I don’t think that’s a necessarily a bad thing (Hebrews 13:4). “More married people should desire their partners in an intense sexual way.” A lot of marriages would be all the better for it (I Corinthians 7:5)! It’s these other three that are the source of some real (and potentially lasting) problems.
Lust: uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness; a passionate or overmastering desire or craving (usually followed by for); ardent enthusiasm; zest; relish Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit. Matter of fact, it’s the ninth one listed and in biblical symbolism, “9” represents “finality.” One could interpret that to mean, “Whatever you do or say or want or pursue, do it with some self-control.” And so, we can see how lust totally contradicts the character of the Spirit of truth. It has an uncontrollable appetite. It has an overmastering desire. And honestly, if you’re enthusiastic about the wrong things (Proverbs 3:5-8), that’s a bit counterproductive as well. Therefore, when you look at lust from this holistic perspective, do you see how so many people get deceived by it? Lust isn’t just about wanting someone sexually. There’s a whole lot of people out here that are lusting after success, lusting after fame, lusting after money, lusting after relationships, lusting after power and promotions… lusting after approval, lusting after acceptance, lusting after people, places, things and ideas, and the reality check (Ecclesiastes 7:18-Message) is that if you can’t control your emotions, if striving to achieve a certain thing is overmastering you, if you’re not sleeping, eating, maintaining healthy levels of relationships with God, self and others, don’t let Satan (continue to) lie to you. That is not about drive, ambition or passion. That is pure lust.
ANYTHING THAT BRINGS A PERSON’S LIFE OUT OF BALANCE IS NOT ROOTED IN LOVE, BUT IS BASED IN LUST.
Most of us are familiar with this Elie Wiesel quote: “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference,” and on many levels, I would certainly agree. And the more that I am processing this message, I am becoming enlightened (Psalm 18:28) to the fact that, The enemy of lust is not so much love, but satisfaction.You’ll see what I mean in just a second (give or take a few paragraphs).
Understanding Desire. Better.
Desire. It’s a pretty commonplace word and not one that the Scriptures have a problem with. After all, perhaps one of the most popular verses in the Bible is, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”(Psalm 37:4 NKJV) But here’s the thing. Proverbs 11:23 (NKJV) tells us this: “The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath” and James 3:16 (NKJV) states, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” A lot of us don’t want to look at ourselves as being wicked. That’s understandable. But James tells us what gets us on the path to wickedness: envy and self-seeking.
SELF-SEEKING IS WHERE CONFUSION AND EVIL ARE.
And where do a lot of our desires come from? Exactly.
Indeed, when we don’t have lust put into its proper place, when we don’t have an enlightened understanding of what it really is and the damage that it can really do, desire can become a very cryptic kind of emotion. The Word tells us that the soul of the lazy desires and has nothing (Proverbs 13:4). It also tells us that the soul of the wicked desires evil (Proverbs 21:10). Ecclesiastes 6:2 speaks of some men to whom Adonai gives riches, wealth and honor, and although that man gets all that he desires, a foreigner gets to consume it. Mark 4:19 warns about people who desire other things above the Word and so therefore it becomes unfruitful in their life. Mark 10:44 speaks to the fact that those who desire to be first will be the slave of all. John 8:44 talks about how those caught up in the lifestyle of untruth desire the things that the father of lies does. Oh, and then there’s this: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:17 NKJV).
YOUR OWN DESIRES CAN DRAW YOU AWAY FROM YOUR OWN SATISFACTION.
How do we know? Well, three Scriptures give us a really good clue:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his [execution stake], and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’” (Matthew 16:24-25 NKJV).
“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24 NKJV).
“You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16 NKJV).
More and more, I see why Maya Angelou questions how people can so casually (and sometimes boldly, presumptuously and inaccurately) call themselves a Christian. Christ made it very clear that if we don’t make a daily concerted effort to deny ourselves (i.e., our flesh), we’re not following him at all and although the Liar may tell us otherwise, we have to stop being complacent (or is it stagnant?) in the belief that simply saying we’re a Christian automatically makes it so (John 15:10, I John 3:18).
A PART OF BEING A CHRISTIAN IS ACCEPTING THAT GOD KNOWS WHAT’S BEST FOR US; WHAT WILL FULLY AND ULTIMATELY SATISFY US.
As I look back over my own journey, I can tell the times when my faith (Hebrews 11) has been stronger than others; times when I’ve had the “spirit of Adam” (in Genesis 1-2) and times when I’ve been just like the Woman at the tree. You know, something that I think is absolutely awe-inspiring about how Adam received the Woman, his helpmate (Genesis 2:18-25), in the Garden is that as soon as she arrived, he praised her. Adam didn’t question if the Woman was the right thing for him because God gave her to him. He didn’t chase her, she didn’t seduce him. She was a gift and Adam was in a healthy enough relationship with Adonai to totally trust that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17 NKJV). You know, sometimes, I will look at that verse and “good and perfect gift” catches my attention. Today, “no variation or shadow of turning” did.
WHAT GOD GIVES, WHAT GOD DOES IS BUILT TO LAST. ONLY WHEN GOD DOES IT.
Then there are times when I know that I have been like the Woman. God tells me something that I need to avoid, I don’t listen and it plays out just like the fruit did for Eve:
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:6-7 NKJV).
“It’s” good, for a season. It’s pleasant, for a season. It’s desirable, but then my eyes become opened to the fact that lust lured me in and that while it may have amused me for a moment, pacified me for a while, appeased me temporarily, it didn’t “satisfy” me:
Satisfy: to fulfill the desires, expectations, needs, or demands of (a person, the mind, etc.); give full contentment to; to put an end to (a desire, want, need, etc.) by sufficient or ample provision; to give assurance to; convince; to answer sufficiently, as an objection; to make reparation to or for; to discharge or pay off (a debt) to (a creditor)
Synonyms: befriend, captivate, cheer, delight, do the trick, enliven, entertain, fascinate, fill the bill, gratify, hit the spot, indulge, quench, satiate, suit Remember what Psalm 145:16 states? That Adonai has the ability to satisfy the desire of every living thing? With Satan, lust and desire are connected. With God, desire and satisfaction are. And this is something that’s not told to us nearly as much as it should be: Family, we have to put enough faith in God to believe (Mark 9:23) that…
GOD IS ABOUT DOING WHAT WILL FULFILL US, WHAT WILL PROVIDE US WITH CONTENTMENT, WHAT WILL PUT AN END TO A WANT OR NEED (LOVE THAT!), WHAT WILL ASSURE US, CONVINCE US, PROVIDE US WITH SUFFICIENT ANSWERS, AND MAKE REPARATIONS FOR OUR PAST PAINS AND LOSS.
OK, but here’s where it gets really tricky and sometimes very sad. When Adam and the Woman were in the Garden, Adonai had given them everything that they could ever want or need. He gave them “perfect gifts” and still, they chose otherwise (Lucifer has a similar testimony and we all know how that turned out!). Remember how this message was introduced, with how some abused children will deny affection? There are so many of us being abused by lust (go, go, go…get, get, get…more, more, more) that we end up acting very much like Adam and the Woman. We’re out thinking that we’re getting our desires met, when in all reality, due to our lack of intimacy with God, faith in His ways and trust in His ability to do what’s best for us, we’re not headed towards things that will satisfy us. We’re chasing after things that, on a good day will disappoint us, and on a bad one will utterly destroy us; if not our body, it will break our spirit.
SATAN SAW ALL OF THE GOOD THAT THE GARDEN WAS DOING AND HE WANTED ADAM AND EVE TO LOSE IT. SATAN CAN OFTENTIMES SEE THE GOOD OF WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO US AND SO HE TRIES TO GET US TO DENY GOD’S GIFTS AND GO OUT AND PURSUE WHAT WE THINK WILL BE BETTER FOR US. THAT’S WHAT LUST DOES.
Satan wants to lure us away from anything that will quench our spirits and starve our flesh. He does this because he knows that if we are satisfied, we are in a continual state of Psalm 46:10. And when we are still, when we know that God is into satisfying us, we usually find ourselves in the position to get to know God all the more because getting to know God becomes the priority over getting more things.
Again, it was the intimacy that Adam had with God to be able to fully trust (2 Samuel 22:3) that He knew what was best. When God gave Adam the Woman, Adam didn’t looked at God and say, “OK, I’d like to make some quick revisions,” or “OK, this isn’t the best time for me,” or “OK, can we talk about this later?” He had seen God’s handiwork, consistently, enough to know that the following promises are unequivocally true:
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV).
“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (I Corinthians 2:9 NKJV).
You know something that just hit me about Ephesians 3:20? I used to think that meant that God could top what I thought I wanted. That’s true, but now I see that it also reads this way: Shellie, I know you may doubt my methods sometimes, I know you might think that you should offer up your insights on what will satisfy you, but I know what I’m doing. Stop thinking so hard. I’m out to satisfy you. You don’t need to concern yourself with the kinds of gifts that I offer. You just need to prepare your heart so that you will be open to receiving them. Many of my children have missed out on some of my greatest of blessings because they didn’t choose to receive the satisfaction that I had to offer. They’re so consumed with the thrill of the chase, that chasing is all they’re going to end up doing for seasons to come.
And that’s the sho ‘nuf truth, because if you keep going after things only to drop them to go after more things, not only is satisfaction not your destination, but lust is your vehicle.
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NKJV)
My prayer for us all is that we will keep Adam and Eve’s examples in mind. That we will trust enough in God to allow Him to give us what will satisfy us and that we will humble ourselves (Luke 14:11) to not think we can top Him; that we will develop a desire for what He feels is best and not allow the lies of lust to tell us that what He brings will be lacking rather than total and utter fulfillment. After all, “Desires are central to the soul’s unfolding and should not be dismissed before giving them careful attention.” Thomas Moore
In the wanting and in the getting.
Shellie R. Warren is author of the book Inside of Me: Lessons of Lust, Love and Redemption and the blog On Fire Fast Movement, as well as other writings related to marriage and preparing for it. Subscribe to Shellie’s Word Seed devotional.
©Shellie R. Warren/2012. This article is reprinted with permission.