Traditionally the start of a new year is a time to focus on resolutions, goal setting, and action steps. But often what happens is we set off chasing what we think will make us happy and fulfilled—such as a lower number on the scale, a higher number on our bank statement, or a greater sense of organization or efficiency in our lives—without first considering our deepest desires. When we take time to prayerfully identify and reflect on our deepest desires, we discover what is most life-giving to us so that our plans, goals, and actions can flow from our truest longings.
Sometimes we talk about “desire” as if it’s a dirty word, as if having desires is wrong or all desires are dangerous. That’s simply not true. God created us to have desires! Jeremiah 17:9 is often quoted in reference to desires, warning us that “the heart is deceitful above things and beyond cure” (NIV). But this verse is talking about the heart when it is not connected to God and seeking God’s will. It describes a heart that is focused on the flesh or the ego—the feelings, will, and intellect apart from God.
A heart that is connected to God and seeking God’s will is not deceitful but discerning. Psalm 37:4 speaks to us about this kind of heart: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). When we delight ourselves in God, God gives us the desires of our hearts—desires that God has planted within us. These desires, which I’m calling our deepest or truest desires, enable us to draw closer to God and live as our most authentic selves—the persons God has designed us to be.
When we delight ourselves in God, God gives us the desires of our hearts—desires that God has planted within us.
Saint Ignatius, who lived in the sixteenth century, wrote about the importance of our desires. He said, “God inflames the heart with holy desires and with attractions toward a life of greater divine praise and service.” In other words, our deep desires or soul yearnings grow our love of God and deepen our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
So, how do we go about discerning our deepest and truest desires? Here are a few questions to guide us:
When we recognize and do those things that help us draw closer to God, experience God’s love, and feel like our most authentic selves, we discover our deepest desires—those things planted within us that will enable us to live in the flow of God’s love. And as we live in that flow—receiving God’s love and responding in love according to our unique design—we fulfill the desires of our hearts.
When we recognize and do those things that help us draw closer to God, experience God’s love, and feel like our most authentic selves, we discover our deepest desires.
Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame said that when he ran, he felt God’s pleasure. Perhaps the most basic starting point is to ask yourself, When do I feel God’s pleasure?
The answer is different for each of us. I feel God’s pleasure when I sit one-on-one with others, hearing them share their hearts and stories and listening together for how God is at work in their lives. I experience God’s pleasure and love when I’m connecting with someone deeply, from the heart, offering encouragement and companionship for the soul. Even during my long career in publishing, the times when I felt like my most authentic self were when I was encouraging and helping authors to discern God’s callings and lean into God’s invitations and giftings.
One of my deepest desires is to companion and encourage others on the spiritual journey so that they can experience, receive, and live in the flow of God’s love, which brings healing and wholeness. I can fulfill this longing in different ways, but the underlying desire remains the same. Knowing this enables me to focus on those things that nurture and satisfy this desire, rather than allowing myself to be distracted by other things that may be good but do not connect in some way to this desire. Of course, balance is important in all things. But the idea is to attend to our deepest desires so that everything else can flow naturally from a place of authenticity and love.
Focusing on your deepest desires is not selfish; it is the way to center your life in God—to fall in love with God.
I encourage you to spend some time reflecting, praying, and journaling about your deepest desires. Let 2022 be a year to discover, reclaim, or reaffirm those things that fuel your connection with God and your experience of God’s love. Focusing on your deepest desires is not selfish; it is the way to center your life in God—to fall in love with God. Then your actions and your very life will become a loving response to God’s love.
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
—Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.