Has your “want to” ever taken a hit? Have you ever lost your desire for the work to which you once felt called? If not, hang on. It may happen someday, and if it does, it can be very confusing. We can catch ourselves wondering where these strange feelings are coming from. How can something that was once so meaningful become hollow?
Case in point. Picture a dynamic teacher, one who is loved by his/her students. This teacher goes above and beyond the call of duty, always seeks to give 100%, and never falls short on enthusiasm. Over time, however, the excitement fades. Although still committed to teaching, something changes. Work feels like a job and not a calling. The “want to” has changed to a “have to.”
This same scenario can happen in many areas of our lives such as relationships, ministry commitments, volunteer activities, and even hobbies. When our “want to” seems out of whack, we need to take a step back. God is probably up to something, and we need to pay attention! I wished there was one answer to this dilemma but most likely there are several possibilities to consider. See if you can relate to any of these.
Circumstances change. When our circumstances change, we are often forced to re-evaluate our priorities. When we are in a routine, we are often busy and don’t take the time to reflect on what is really important. We just live day-by-day. When our situation changes, however, we are forced to take stock of our priorities. What is really important? What do I really care about? What do I really want to do? Changing circumstances can certainly impact our “want to.”
Too big for my britches. In this “pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” culture, we can become a bit too independent. If we are not careful, we can fall into the trap of doing things for ourselves so people will acknowledge us. We can start taking credit for all we have achieved and forget the source of our power. Eventually this mindset takes its toll, leaving one with a sense of emptiness. Our “want to” will always be out of whack when we try to live in our own strength. Jesus was clear when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Preparation for a new season. Maybe God has something new in mind for us. Our “want to” may be changing because God is choosing to grow us and prepare us for a new season. This can be a frustrating time because this is often paired with a waiting season. God has something in store, but we simply are not ready. I am reminded of Peter’s words to the persecuted believers as he encouraged them to continue to grow in their faith.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance and patient endurance with Godliness, and Godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:5-8
I don’t know about you, but I have some growing to do in all of these areas! Maybe our “want to” is changing because God is changing us.
Satan’s ploy. Never underestimate Satan’s desire to steal your joy. If he can distract you or create a feeling of discontentment in your heart, he will. He doesn’t want you to be a light in your workplace. He wants you to be negative, disenfranchised, and lazy. He wants you to feel exploited and angry. He strives to turn your “want to” into a “have to.” (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8)
No matter the reason, we can’t ignore it when our “want to” is out of whack. Let’s look at some steps we can take to turn our “have to” back into a “want to.”
· Communicate. Talk to God about it. Be open and honest with Him about how you are feeling. Nothing you can say will surprise Him. He is listening. Don't underestimate the power of a simple prayer!
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:18-19
· Choose. Feeling unsettled is a perfect opportunity to trust God’s providence. It is a choice to believe that God is orchestrating all things for our good. It is a choice to acknowledge that God, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe.
His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ Daniel 4:34b-35
· Control. Our thought life can be dangerous if we don’t keep it in check. Our thoughts are so powerful, there are entire books written on this very topic (Battlefield of the Mind, Get Out of Your Head, Winning the War in Your Mind). When we realize our “want to” is failing, we can succumb to all kinds of unproductive thoughts and lose sight of how God is working. As hard as it is, we must be intentional about staying in control of our thoughts.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
· Commit. Truly seeking God through prayer and Bible study takes commitment. Without these spiritual disciplines in our lives, we will never find our way. God’s Holy Spirit speaks to us through His Word when we earnestly seek Him. God doesn’t leave us to flounder. He promises to bring clarity if we will seek Him.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
As I close this blog, I want to speak to you one-on-one right now as if you were sitting across from me having coffee. If you are an educator and you are in a “have to” mindset, you must deal with it. You deserve better, and so do your students. We all go through slumps and times of questioning; that is perfectly normal. However, if our “want to” doesn’t return, it’s time to communicate with God, choose to believe His plan is perfect, control our runaway thoughts, and commit to seeking His purposes for our lives.
Dealing with this dilemma will look different for everyone. As harsh as this sounds, it may result in changing occupations. It may require us to patiently wait on God. It might even be telling Satan to take a hike! Whatever it is, take it seriously. We must align our “want to” with His “want to!” Only then will our frustration turn into fruitfulness. It is never a good thing when our “want to” is out of whack!