What Do You Want?
“What does God want me to do?” is the most common question I hear clients ask.
They all want to know what God’s will is for them (which is a good thing).
They want to be sure they are making the right choices regarding the future (also a good thing and very Biblical).
But underneath those motives lies another motive, one that is often the real issue. Fear.
The question “What is God’s will?” often becomes a mask we use to cover fear.
It starts as a desire to hedge our bets. Then it morphs into a need to play it safe. Then it becomes a compulsion to have it all figured out. To have life safe, controlled, neatly packaged, arranged, ordered and… lifelessly sterile.
The irony is that while nearly every client at some point asks what God’s will is, God seldom answers that question directly.
In fact, He usually turns the tables back on them with a question of His own.
“What do you want?” is by far the most common question that God asks.
I hear it all the time with clients. Jesus often asked it in the Gospels. And he continues to ask it still.
When the blind man Bartimaeus came up to him on the Jericho road, Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). You would think it was obvious, right? When someone who is blind comes up to Jesus, what do you think he wants? But Jesus makes him ask. Jesus makes him own his desire.
Jesus did something similar with the man laying by the pool of Bethesda. This man had been an invalid for 38 years. What does Jesus do? He walks up to the man and asks, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).
It almost seems callous, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t it be clear that the man wants to get better? Again, we see Jesus inviting someone to take responsibility for their heart’s desire.
It can be painful, can’t it? It can break your heart to really, truly want something. If you let it, the desire can consume you, make you feel out of control, unrealistic.
The word passion—which we use to describe the suffering of Jesus—also means a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” The two ideas are linked.
Passion means to want something so much that it hurts; to desire something so strongly that you are willing to suffer for it.
Passion drove Jesus to endure the cross for the sake of the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2).
Passion is for the people of God.
Passion is what God wants to stir up in His people. So, he asks, “What do you want?” over and over and over again. He works hard, through seasons of drought and drudgery, to ignite sparks of hope that he can fan into flames of desire. For, He is the “God of hope” (Romans 15:13) and He repeatedly provokes the pain of desire in order to get us dreaming again.
Then, once the old ache arises again, when we start to hope, when we dare to dream, and He is right there with us, He turns to us, looks us straight in the face and asks, “What do you want?”
He calls us out. He makes us take ownership of our heart’s desires.
Just as God has given us free will with which we must choose whether or not to love Him, He also gives us the power to choose whether or not we will pursue our passions.
We don’t have to. We can try to squelch them. We can try to extinguish the flames of desire. And the Church has often advocated that we do.
It would be easier not to dream. It would be safer to not desire much.
But then who sold us on the idea that life with God was going to be safe?
In the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy inquired about Aslan, “Is He safe?” The reply she got back is such an apt description of our God, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”
Another thing: dreaming with God and having passion is absolutely and utterly unsafe… to the kingdom of darkness. Evil has a vested interest in keeping us from having hope. For when we burn with passion, we pose a serious threat to the plans of the enemy.
When we lose hope, we lose the battle before it even begins.
When evil comes to “steal and kill and destroy,” the process begins with stealing, killing and destroying our hopes and dreams (John 10:10).
When we lose heart, we lose courage. Then we lose the will to fight back, the will to resist. And we lose the ability to imagine a better world, or find a better way forward. We become defeatists—except that we probably call it something like being a “realist” or we say that “we are just being practical.”
And maybe in part we are just being realistic. But then along comes Jesus, unbelievably wild and free, unbelievably unrealistic. He shakes things up. He nudges us gently with “what ifs.”
He resurrects our desires and drudges up dreams long forgotten.
Jesus calls us into the seemingly tenuous and uncertain ground of hope and possibility.
He takes us out on a limb with our senses tingling with an intermingling of fear and excitement, and the perilous threat of falling.
And, there, Jesus looks us in the eyes, stares deep into our soul and asks each one of us: