By Vayda Farino
There is often a misconception that abandonment to the will of God means wiping out all of our desires. The misconception that in order to completely conform to the Divine Will, we must not desire anything, but try to mindlessly follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. However, the Lord created us in a way that the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our soul often manifest in our desires. It is the purification of these desires, in conjunction with the abandonment of our wills to God, that result in the Lord’s blessings. This truth can be well illustrated through the story of Abraham.
The Lord makes a profound covenant with Abraham: “You are to become the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you. I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
After years and years of painful waiting, God blesses Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac. Soon after the birth of Abraham’s son, God makes another bold proclamation: “It is through Isaac that descendants will bear your name.” At this point, God has very clearly shown Abraham that He intends Isaac to be the means to the fulfillment of the covenant.
However, only a few short years later, God speaks to Abraham again and says: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.”
How is Abraham going to have descendants through Isaac if he must sacrifice him as a burnt offering?
God had placed in Abraham’s hands the realization of his heart’s desire, but promptly asked him to give it back to Him, and sacrifice all of it. Abraham did not understand. He probably could not imagine that the good and gracious God could have this as part of His plan. It seemed as if the Lord was asking Abraham to relinquish all desire to be a father and was throwing him into a state of confusion if he were to abandon his will. The latter is true, the Lord was asking Abraham to abandon his will, but He was not asking Abraham to relinquish his desire.
The Lord, in His goodness, does not wish us to relinquish desire. Often times in our willingness to submit our wills to His, we effectively wipe out our own desires. However, countless times throughout scripture the Lord comments on His willingness to give us all the desires of our heart.
This does not mean that He wishes us to diminish our autonomy and neglect our free will in order to desire His will. Rather, He calls us through careful prayer and discernment to realize the ways in which He is purifying our desires. But in the end, the desires on our hearts are still ours.
He wants us to struggle against the folding of our will. In the New Testament, Jesus says: “ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” He says this because He wants us to pour forth the desires of our hearts in total trust. Where He calls us to detachment is in relinquishing our requests to the timing and providence that He ordains.
As a result, we may be asked to wait through periods of purification or make great sacrifices, but all will reap tremendous rewards.
The Lord asks that we are willing to die to our desires to be greater fulfilled by the plans He has for us. However, that does not mean that He wishes us to not have desires, because we would not really be children but rather mindless servants. He wants us to boldly ask for our desires in confidence, because if it is truly His will then there is nothing we could ask that couldn’t be fulfilled. He wants us to be willing to sacrifice our wills, if necessary, for our sanctification even against all understanding.
The loving father dotes generously upon His children. But first He must confirm that we understand Him as the root of all of our desire. We can trust that even if all of our desire would result in naught, if all of our desire was rooted firmly in glorifying God, then He would satisfy the deepest of our longings. That is why He asks us to firmly root our desires in Him and not the fleeting passions of this world. It is Him first whom we should be seeking and all else will be given us besides. This is the Truth embedded within the trials of Abraham. His desire was for a son, one who would fulfill the Lord’s promise and make him the father of many nations. With all of the honor and praise such a promise could elicit for Abraham, the Lord humbled him by asking of him a seemingly impossible sacrifice. This acceptance allowed any impurity of desire to be burned away in the fires of love. What was left behind was a heart disposed to seeking the Lord first and foremost, above all.
But the truth also remains that the desire was still there and burned brighter than ever before.
Because the Lord does not ask us to relinquish our desire, but only our imperfect desire. To abandon our will to the Lord means only to detach ourselves from the means of completion. The Lord asked Abraham to relinquish his notion of how the Lord’s promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac.
We are simple creatures and cannot understand the great lengths the Lord can, and will, go to in order to fulfill our desires. It is here where we must leave our wills at the foot of the cross, detach ourselves from our own understanding, and allow the Lord to work the miracles which He sets out to do. Even though we place our wills in the hands of our Father, He still wills us have deep and lasting desires. Because if these newly purified desires are rooted firmly in Christ, then that which we desire will only bring Him glory.