Europe 2018: Christmas in Vienna and Desires Unquelled

I write from a train car whisking me from Tatabánya, Hungary (a small town near Budapest) to Vienna, Austria. It’s Christmas morning and I was privileged to spend the last day+ with a good friend baking Hungarian Christmas goodies, traveling to a nearby cozy village to hear a Christmas concert in a hallowed one-room church, drinking coffee, and conversing about the important things in life. Now I’m off to spend a quick day or two joining new friends from this year to experience Vienna before heading to Romania. My plan is to jump off the train and meet my buds at the Vienna State Opera House where, rumor has it, you can get ridiculously cheap standing tickets for day-of shows. We’ll see if we can manage to catch a performance of the Nutcracker in a few hours.


My dear friend in Tatabanya


God is good and I’m spending this holiday break with lots of people that I love. And I’ve been able to have some solid conversations with a few of them over the past week. As we talk about how God is working in us, how we’re growing, what’s hard, and what we hope for in the future, I can’t help but detect a common motif — desires that feel long-running and perhaps futile but that we can’t seem to shake or lessen. I wonder if this resonates with anyone (i.e. can I get an amen?). It seems that no matter how hard we try, some desires feel enduring and unchanging but unanswered — like creases you can’t iron out or burrs you can’t remove. And it got me thinking.


I often ask God to take away desires, and that doesn’t always happen. (Can I get an amen?) Could there be a reason God allows us to feel unfulfilled desires? What good might those long-enduring desires cause?


Perhaps it’s because desires propel us into conversation with Him. Maybe He doesn’t answer right away just because He likes the sound of our voices and our repeated requests and dialogue about those desires deepen our relationship with Him and cause us to return to His knee day after day.


A Christmas concert in a cozy Hungarian village church


Perhaps it’s because desires help us identify our own deeper need for God and His restoration. Perhaps, in the state of desiring something that we don’t yet have and aren’t sure we ever will be given, our hearts are matured and we gain perspective on what is really important and how what He offers is so much more profoundly valuable.


Perhaps it’s worth giving some thought to why God allows so many of us to exist with unmet desires for so long and with so little insight. After all, some of us have been asking God for good things — significant things — for years and years. Salvation for family members. Freedom from health conditions. A spouse or child or restoration of a significant relationship. Assuming He is all-powerful, God could a) answer more clearly with a “no,” b) remove the desire, or c) answer the request. So why doesn’t He? Why do so many of us shout into a prolonged, lingering, consternating, sometimes debilitating silence? What is it we can learn from bearing unfulfilled desires and unanswered requests?


Instead of simply banging my head against a wall about things I’ve lifted before God for months or years; instead of being frustrated; instead of being bitter or angry or dissuaded from trusting Him with other requests; I wonder if there’s a more fruitful posture I can take when talking to God about my desires. What is it we could glean from pressing into unmet desires with Him? What could we learn? How might we change? How could we use it to make room for His hand to move and stir in us in new ways? How could we sit with Him on a park bench, holding our little request in our hands, and listen with fresh ears when for the thousandth time He seems not to take it?


Musings for today. Any thoughts? Insights? I’d love to hear. Will write again soon.



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