Today’s devotional: “should” versus “want”

There are a lot of things that we feel we should do: church projects, ministry work, evangelism outreach, volunteering. And there are plenty of things that we want to do. Sometimes, those “shoulds” and “wants” overlap, making it easy to decide what to do.

But things get more complicated when the things we feel that we should do aren’t necessarily the ones that we most want to do. How do we know what opportunities we’re “supposed” to pursue? Is it wrong to undertake a project or make a commitment but not have our heart in it? Is it ever appropriate to decline an opportunity or a need because we don’t have the right level of enthusiasm or a sense of calling about it?

This Daily Encounter devotional addresses this tricky question, and cautions Christians not to let our sense of spiritual obligation become a weight that drags us down:

Have you ever been in a similar situation and noticed that there is a big difference between “shoulds” and “wants”? If I do certain things only because I should and my heart is not in it, how genuine is that? I am talking more about a type of compulsive “shoulds” that can be very confusing at times.

If you have ever struggled with even mild compulsive “shoulds,” how can you tell what is from God, from your own self, or even from the enemy?

Compulsive “shoulds” can come from various sources. They can come from a mental condition in the brain that is inherited, or from an over-dependent need to be popular, accepted and admired. They can come from a neurotic need for approval, from false motives, for payback or even to manipulate others. They can also come from a spirit of legalism which keeps one in terrible bondage.

Have you recently been torn between a “should” and a “want”? How did you resolve it, and did you learn anything in the process?

2 Responses to “Today’s devotional: “should” versus “want””

  • Sean Scott says:

    It is my belief that in each and every moment the battle between good and evil is being fought inside each one of us. “Should” opposed to “want” is certainly a tricky issue, but one must pray and meditate to discover the motivation for those desires when deciding what action to take.

    God’s plan takes precedence over all else. Many times our “wants” are selfishly derived and will not help, or could possibly even harm, the work of Christ in our world. We want an abundant supply of oil so we can freely drive ourselves around in our vehicles and use many, many plastics and other items that make our lives comfortable and convenient. But this want has proven to come with terrible prices at times, in the form of wars, economic hardship, and ecological disasters.

    We must balance whether our wants help God or not. Will doing what we want to do bring glory to God, or only to ourselves?

    Certainly God has gifted each one of us with different abilities and talents. We are created in His image, but not all exactly alike. God uses our lives to mold and shape us into the people He wants so we can be used as tools for His plan. Part of this involves having enthusiasm for certain things or activities. Of course we should pursue doing those things as part of working for God that we most enjoy using the spiritual gifts we are given. That is what God intends for us to do.

    But there are also those little battles within where we know what is right and what is wrong. Choosing to do the “shoulds” is not always easy. It is not always easy to do the right thing, nor is it always easy to be obedient to God’s will.

    But we do pray “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We should mean what we pray. Even if it isn’t what we want.

  • Lawrence says:

    There is a truly great book out there about this very subject. It has been more meaningful to me than any other Christian book (except of course the Bible). It is “Thy Will Be Done On Earth” by Robert Lloyd Russell. Anyone seeking to live more consistently in God’s will would love this book – I’m rereading it every 3 months (it is an easy read – but profound).