To have an impulse and to resist it.

To have an impulse and to resist it.
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I got out of bed wanting something this morning.

I wanted to write this article before my two-headed chaos monster awoke from its lair (that's what I call my two young sons.) I wanted to smell the aroma of brewing coffee and hear the gurgling water drip into the pot. I wanted to get my day started, do work, and make money to take my family out to dinner tonight. 

I woke up this morning with many desires that propelled me out of bed. Desires are like the engine that drives our lives forward, but if, at any point, desire is no longer under our control but is in the driver's seat, we're in trouble.

A filthy word to describe this: lust

Internal Force of Lust

Lust is an internal force that produces an intense desire for something or circumstance while already having a significant amount of the desired object. Lust for dominance. Lust for power. Lust for other people's stuff. Lust for expensive toys and silk sheets. Lust to be in between those sheets with a beautiful person. 

You don't need a psychology degree to know that these cravings are never satisfied; many people are enslaved to their urges, and the pulls off course come like crashing waves on a beach. The author of Ecclesiastes alludes to this unsatisfied drive, "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing."

We quickly become dissatisfied, or as Mick Jagger confesses, "I can't get no satisfaction." It's the same idea. 

Thirteenth-century Italian Thomas Aquinas pondered the question of human satisfaction. What would it take for humans to finally feel satisfied? In the end, Aquinas said it would take everything—every experience imaginable in the universe.

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And since we cannot ever experience everything, our only option is to choose a relationship with a perfect God. Aquinas called this ultimate happiness the "beatific vision." Having a special connection with God makes us feel true satisfaction, even more than anything else we think makes us happy. According to Aquinas, our ultimate goal is to know and love God, which brings us the most happiness.

"In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we come to understand that here, in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished." Catholic Theologian Karl Rahner wrote those words to remind us of the risk of restlessness.

This feeling is something we all go through every day. For most of us, it's like an invisible force pulling us down, no matter what good things we experience. Beauty makes us restless instead of bringing us peace. Our experiences with our spouses no longer satisfy us, and our family relationships seem too small and ordinary to make us truly happy. Our jobs don't match our big dreams, and our homes feel dull compared to others. We might even find it hard to relax at our dinner tables or sleep well in our beds because we always hope for something more.

All of these bright minds are tapping into the same reality: our desires are infinite and can never be satisfied through more sex, more money, more power, or more influence.

grayscale photo of sleeping woman lying on bed
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Because, as Rahner puts it, in this life, there is no finished symphony; everything comes with an undertow of restlessness and inadequacy. So, if our desires are never satisfied, eventually, we have to take a stand against those desires. 

There are various ways people attempt to do this. 

  • Buddhism guides you to detach yourself from your desires. 
  • Modernism encourages you to chase them down and spend more money. 
  • Jesus teaches human desire is infinite because we were made to live with God forever in his world, and nothing less than that will ever satisfy.

Augustine of Hippo said this in writing after the fall of the Roman Empire, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." 

Idolatry In A Modern World

In the aftermath of Eden, humanity's default setting isn't atheism; it's idolatry. We don't naturally aim for God but fixate on our desires: career conquest, marriage euphoria, family ideals, material possessions, globetrotting, lustful satisfaction, romantic fantasies, beauty, accolades, or societal approval.

Whatever the craving, it's our modern-day golden calf.

John Piper defines an idol as "anything that we come to rely on for some blessing, or help, or guidance in the place of a wholehearted reliance on the true and living God."

Contrary to what culture would have us believe, there are no socially acceptable idols.

You cannot align with God's view of worship if you're living with a Jesus + ______ lifestyle. 

  • Jesus + enough money to make me comfortable.
  • Jesus + my political candidate.
  • Jesus + an attractive spouse.
  • Jesus + good health. 

That's what Paul meant when he wrote in Philippians 3:8-9:

Indeed, I count everything as a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…
woman in black sleeveless shirt smiling
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Don't Rob Yourself of Joy. Realign Your Joy.

We are invited to enjoy the banquet of life, with laughter bubbling like champagne and friendships warming our souls like a crackling fire. We have jerseys to cheer in, families to nurture, and talents to unleash on the world, be it painting masterpieces or baking the most magnificent muffins.

Embrace the quirky, the random, the things that make you uniquely you!

Recognizing desires, lusts, and idols doesn't mean we have to destroy anything that brings us joy immediately. Instead, let's reframe them. Think of them as stepping stones, leading us to build an even grander monument: an altar of worship to the God who truly deserves it, the source of all good things.

We take the stones found in the place of our hearts and build an altar of worship with them.

Last Thought

To have an impulse and to resist it, or to reframe it into something that brings us closer to God, is how we embody true worship. This is where we build real spiritual muscle, turning fleeting desires into unshakeable faith. Forget trying to be who you think you "should" be. Instead, discover the amazing person God always meant you to be.

Only those who take time to explore, question, and extrapolate the consequences of our untamed desires have an opportunity to overcome them. And only they know the real pleasure that lies in a soul that is stable, happy, and secure.