Why do I still have unmet desires?

“Why am I hungry, Mamma?” the little boy’s voice pierced the darkness.

His mother sighed. “Yahweh has provided manna for us; it comes from God’s very hand.” 

“But I’m tired of manna. It’s all we ever have, and it’s not very filling.”

Again the mother’s sigh. “You sound just like your father, always wanting what you do not have.”

The Old Testament Israelites did their university training in the wilderness for 40 years; perhaps they could have finished earlier, but they kept retaking the same class: Contentment 101.  Moses gives us a peak back at the course work in Deuteronomy 8.

Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:3, NLT)

Reading that passage recently I was drawn to the phrase “by letting you go hungry.” God let them hunger that they might learn to look to him and have their deepest longings met. You see, there is something more to live for than to silence your stomachs growling.

I have desires that are unmet. I’m betting you do too.  What if we began to view our unsatisfied wants as opportunities to turn to God and trust him?  What if, instead of complaining, the Jewish dad had taught his son that man does not live by bread alone? What if the son had seen a smile of knowing contentment on his father’s face even though the unmet desires remained? What if my sons heard in their dad’s voice the simple confidence that God knows best? What if they could never remember their father complaining? They can’t. But, by God’s grace, I can change that. So can you.

What if God has withheld from you the very thing you desire the most so that you might find your satisfaction in him alone? That’s the way you pass Contentment 101 even though you still have those nagging hunger pains.

The subtle shift of eyes, desires, and beliefs

The phrase they got away with murder communicates that we believe our sense of justice has been vilified. Whether on the basketball court or the courtroom we think that someone did something wrong, and that they didn’t have to pay.

Such a belief nearly led to the undoing of Asaph, the writer of the 73rd Psalm. He wrote,

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2-3).

There are three subtle shifts that Asaph confesses. Because they are subtle, each of us is vulnerable to the same temptations that Asaph faced.

His Eyes Shift

For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:3).

Jealousy starts with a longing look. The coveting heart is revealed when our glance lingers. Jesus had strong words about the eye as the lamp to the body (Matt. 6:22-23). He understood that staring at something allows the mind to begin to desire it even though it is not our possession. Asaph’s eyes shifted off of the Lord, and unto the prideful man. For just a moment, he wished he could be that man.

His Desires Shift

They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind (Psalm 73:5)

If we look at what we can’t have long enough eventually it awakens our desire. We become dissatisfied with the life that we have been given, and we long for something more. The phrase they are not communicates how his desires had shifted. Asaph wanted the freedom of the wicked man. From his perspective, the wicked could do what he wanted without consequence.  He could feed his guilty pleasures, without feeling guilty. Then, he could wake up the next morning and do it all over again without the slightest pang of conscience. Dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances is sure to undermine the belief that God is good (Psalm 84:11).

His Beliefs Shift

Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence (Psalm 73:13).

It was not in vain that the Psalmist had done the right thing, but it certainly felt that way.

Once the eyes dwell upon another’s possession, once the desire for what you don’t possess intensifies, your belief system will start to crumble.  Asaph temporarily lost sight of the eternal rewards that would be his, and the eternal judgment that would fall on the wicked. He had a rising sense of entitlement. Such a position hardens your heart to your need of grace. 

But there is hope. For the Psalmist ends his song with refocusing his eyes, his desires and his beliefs.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever . . . But for me it is good to be near to God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of your works(Psalm 73:25-26).