We all have desires - some good, some bad. Most of the things we desire are probably in the "good" category - like a loving relationship, job which satisfies, and for our kids to grow up to be solid citizens. Some of the things we might just desire give us more headache and heartache than all the other desires combined, right? Our desires are sometimes not as "righteous" as they should be. There are times when I am with someone who is just going off at the handle and I just want to tell them to shut their mouths, grow a pair, and move on! Am I the only one? I doubt it! In fact, if we were painfully honest with each other here, there are times when we struggle to just barely keep those feelings below the surface! The longer the moaning and groaning goes on by the other guy, the harder and harder it gets to just keep quiet. Yet, no matter how much I "want" to tell them these things, I know if I do I will either alienate them or create more issues than I really wanted to deal with in the first place. This may just be why we are warned to not live to satisfy our desires - they aren't always that righteous! The end result of many of these desires we might just have is going to be one we wouldn't have wanted if we could just have stopped to consider the end result from the beginning. Therein is the rub...we don't stop long enough to consider our thoughts or actions.
My dear friends, we must not live to satisfy our desires. If you do, you will die. But you will live, if by the help of God’s Spirit you say “No” to your desires. Only those people who are led by God’s Spirit are his children. God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father. God’s Spirit makes us sure that we are his children. His Spirit lets us know that together with Christ we will be given what God has promised. We will also share in the glory of Christ, because we have suffered with him. (Romans 8:12-17 CEV)
Most of our struggle with sin is simply a struggle with our desires. We don't have a clear-cut understanding of where it is we are to "draw the line" in our lives when it comes to the things we want to do and what we should actually pursue. Desires impel us to fulfill them. Plain and simple - unchecked desire of any kind will continue to haunt us with the demand to fulfill it unless we replace that desire with something else! When I want to bust open the bag of potato chips while watching TV, perhaps I need to pursue a different course of action rather than just trying to overcome those thoughts about the bag of chips in the cupboard. I have learned if I will just get up and do something else, the desire often subsides. I substituted the desire with a new action - I took action "against" the desire.
I don't take this action "against" the desire alone, though. In the daily struggles I don't find myself alone - I have the Spirit of God to lean into and rely upon to assist me in this "replacing" of desires. The truth - I am not hungry. The lie - I need those chips. How do I replace truth for the lie? Only as I ask the Spirit of God to help me with the thought pattern which leads to the wrong actions. Now this is an over-simplified illustration of how God's Spirit comes alongside each of us to help us replace sinful thought patterns which lead to sinful actions. In essence, it is like we have a personal coach. We don't have to face the struggles alone - we have someone resident within us to help us not only sort out those desires, but to help us replace them with the right ones. I find the more I try to avoid the individual who moans and groans about life the more I seem to encounter them. If am not going to avoid them, then I need a plan on how it is I am going to interact with them when they are around.
This is where the Spirit comes in. He is there to help me (and you) to actually hear the "undertone" of the moaning and groaning so we can actually step in and help the other person "get over" whatever it is they are so worked up about. Some of you are saying, "Why does it have to be me to help them get over it?" Fair enough question, my friends. The reality each of us faces is the desire to have someone else take care of the issue - we'd like to just walk away. It is easy to walk away - quite another thing to stand in the face of what is uncomfortable and problematic. I don't know why we may find ourselves dealing with the desire to walk away from life's annoyances, but I do know we don't always get rid of them if we are always just walking away! There are times we might just do well to walk away - you cannot reason with hatred, argue with stubbornness, or as the comics say, "help stupid". But...we can speak truth in love, hold onto the hope God's truth will sink in, and avoid further conflict by leaning deeply into his grace to get us past the desire to strike out, walk away, or just plain do something we might otherwise regret.
I don't ever recommend we stand there and just take a ration of unrighteous anger or personal abuse. I do think there are times we just might do well to walk away when these types of offensive behaviors are manifest. We control our emotions, have the opportunity to change our thought process, and make choices about what desires it is we will respond to. We don't have control over these things in others. This is sometimes where we get ourselves too far out onto the limb - we try to change them rather than allow the Spirit of God to control us! Desires have a way of misleading us - so when we submit them to the leadership of someone who already has mastery over these desires (the Spirit of God), we stand a better chance of not allowing those desires to lead us into areas of sinful actions in our lives. We begin to respond differently to our desires when we allow them to be filtered through the one who gives and brings grace. Just sayin!