Desire, determination, and a whole lotta heart

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Just before Christmas break, my daughter asked me the difference between desire and determination. It was a good question, a question she probably wouldn’t have thought to ask had it not been for her English teacher assigning a paper on the contrasting elements of desire and determination. It was the kind of good question that requires a good answer. I gave an example she would understand and defined the difference as this: desire is want and determination is the work behind the want.

The next morning, when the printer – with its incessant error codes and empty ink cartridges – refused to print her paper, we found ourselves wanting a final draft. We wanted it badly enough to work for it. We gave up on attempting printer repair, drove to Staples, paid a printing fee, and quickly scurried to the school. Desire and determination had joined in holy union, a mind-body connection of wanting something and doing something, resulting in results. Our goal was met.

This whole desire/determination thing was solid stuff, so useful in fact, I decided to write about it. What better way to encourage endurance in keeping New Year’s resolutions than to offer useful knowledge about the merits of staying determined?! Forget desire. Who needs it? Just set goals, store knowledge, stay determined, do the work, get results. Easy.

But it was horse crap. Most of it anyway. My observations read like the scientific method – informative and about as inspiring as the instruction manual for my printer. As if we can troubleshoot our way to the good life. As if knowing what to do and doing it are the keys to living well. Let me tell you, when my brain is overloaded with input, and my body is overworked and my ink cartridges are empty, any memory of previous desires is quickly erased by error codes. I have to get to the heart of the problem. Which is exactly what my goal meeting guide was missing – some heart.

God created me with a heart and I’m not a whole person without it. When it’s properly cared for by my Creator, in healthy harmony with every part of me, it’s my driving force – my motivator – not for function, for more. God designed me with purpose and for purpose: to love Him with all my heart, mind, and strength. Desire God, know Him, and obey Him. 

How do we live with big purpose and fewer malfunctions? Well, my friends, we can’t settle for a quick troubleshoot. Those cutesy woodblocks at Target, with their copious glitter and scrolly words of positivity, reminding you to “Never stop dreaming!” or “Just keep swimming” or “Coffee, cats, rainbows, smile” might encourage you to take a deep breath, but fluffy words aren’t worth a darn when it’s time to roll up the sleeves and push the pile. Loving God with every part of our being requires dedication more than determination.

So make these your goals: Let God care for your heart and guide your desires. Pray His prayers instead of your own. Read His wisdom rather than random advice. Rely on His promises and His strength in your weakness. Speak the truth and find a friend willing to do the same.

And desire Him above all else – that’s purpose defined.


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  1. Your heart!💖…His. Beautifully expressed and it reminds me of the verse: psalm 37:4, where your desires ARE His desires if you are staying connected and seeking Him above all else. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Definitely a great verse (that I forgot to include!), and so often misunderstood. Thanks for your beautiful explanation and extra inspiration!

  2. Desiring God … what a privileged fellowship! Resolutions can be so flashy & loud – I’ll take the intimacy of time alone with Him. I’m determined to advance harder to know Him.

    1. Hi Dad! The more flashy, the more temporary. But relationship with Him lasts forever! Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

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