Aligning with God’s desires brings joy

Most days my wife and I will sit down for a few moments in the morning to look at the day ahead. We break out our calendars and pretty much divvy up the responsibilities (who is going here or there or who is taking a kid where), based on our respective schedules. Every once in awhile I’ll say, “And I need to run today.”

You’ve got to understand: I’m not a runner. Yes, I run, but I do so to stay healthy and energized. If I’m lucky I’ll get to run with a friend and enjoy the company. Despite these benefits, it’s still not easy for me to find the time or motivation to actually get out and hit the pavement.

The other day, however, I was sitting in church and something weird happened. I heard my inner voice say, “I want to run today.”

That got me thinking: it seems to me that each of us has two basic circles in terms of what we do and the choices we make. One circle consists of our wants, and the other our needs. I look at my wants as things I desire for my life. My needs are the things God desires for my life.

These circles inevitably overlap to varying degrees based on a lot of circumstances in life. We could spend an eternity debating what belongs in what circle (at times it seems we do), but more important is recognizing how these circles interact with each other.

In a perfect world our circles would completely overlap; that is to say that our wants and our needs would be the same. In fact, I believe that is God’s ultimate vision for us, because to do so would be mean our hearts are perfectly aligned with His. However, this is far from a perfect world, and the “we all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) reality certainly applies.

It is safe to say, though, that the more our want and need circles overlap, the more we are in line with God’s will.

In those beautiful places of overlap, something miraculous happens. We experience joy. And there is no joy like the joy of living out God’s desire for our life. When we do things purely out of responsibility, it will typically lack joy. In that regard, doing things merely because we want to may bring pleasure, but will again be void of real joy. However, joy strikes when our heart’s desire is to do what needs to be done.

I know, running is a rather simplistic example for this scenario, but the truth is that when I want to run I enjoy the run. In the same way, I want to enjoy my run through this precious gift of life.

Take some time and think about your circles, taking an inventory of your wants and needs. My hope for you is that every day your want circle and your need circle are increasingly overlapping and you are experiencing more in your life.

This weekly column is written by local clergy members. Send comments to