What If I Don’t Desire Jesus This Advent?

For much of this month on the blog, we’ll be focusing on the seven different themes found in Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Advent devotional Born a Child and Yet a King: The Gospel in the Carols. Today’s theme is delight. 

The arrival of the Christmas season in my home each year means the advent of all things “extra.” As I’ve said before, we are an unapologetically over-the-top Christmas family. But this year, somehow, feels different. As I write this, we are preparing to walk into the Advent season, and to be honest . . . I haven't been feeling it. At all.

We’ve been practicing the Christmas choir music, decorating the house, watching Christmas movies—all the things I normally love—but my heart hasn’t really been in it. I’m tired, anxious, and struggling with a mild recurrence of depression symptoms. Then this week took an unexpected turn when a routine medical screening returned results that will require waiting, more testing, and then the potential (even if unlikely) of a Big Scary Thing that I frankly don’t want to deal with. I don’t know if I can deal with it. 

Have you been there before? Are you there right now? 

This Sunday in church we’ll sing these lines from the classic Advent carol “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”:

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.1

I don’t want to fake it when I sing those words, do you? So my question is, how can I walk faithfully into this Advent season when I don’t feel like I’m desiring Jesus (or much of anything at all)?

Defining Desire

Before you and I can consider whether we’re truly desiring Jesus, we need to have a grasp on what desire means. When we say the word we usually mean it as a synonym for “want” or “long for.” 

On at least one occasion, Scripture refers to desire in a different way. Haggai 2:7 (KJV) says, “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts” (emphasis mine). The King James translation of the Hebrew word khemdah as “desire” here is likely what prompted Charles Wesley to pen the words “dear desire of every nation” and inspired a popular interpretation in years gone by that the phrase was in fact another name for Jesus, the Messiah.2

Though most scholars today do not see the passage as a direct reference to the Messiah, the point remains. One day, every nation, tribe, and tongue will ascribe ultimate worth to one thing alone: the King who sits on the throne in the house filled with His glory—the One who was born a child and yet a King.

Jesus is to be the supreme object of our desire, and as Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth points out in the introduction to her Advent devotional Born a Child and Yet a King: The Gospel in the Carols, our primary desire at Advent (and always) should be for His appearing—His glorious return.

So why doesn’t it feel like Jesus is the desire, the joy, the demand, of my longing heart? I used to feel it. How can I get it back?

Not Feeling Desire? Try Delight

Desiring Jesus is kind of an all or nothing thing—either you desire Him in a given moment or you don’t. It’s also not something you can turn on and off like a light switch or conjure up by the strength of your will. But what if there’s another biblical word that could be key in regaining your desire for Christ? It’s a word we’ll cover at greater length later in this series, but I want to touch on it now: delight.

Scripture contains no shortage of things that God’s people can delight in. Just a short list includes God Himself, His words (Jer. 15:16), His works (Psalm 111:2), His law and commands (Rom. 7:22), His statutes, decrees, and instruction (Psalm 119:16, 24, 70), the fear of the Lord (Isa. 11:3), and knowing His way and His nearness (Isa. 58:2). In one specific example, we are even commanded to delight. 

Psalm 37:4 says, 

Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Read it one more time. In whom are we to delight? The Lord. What will happen when we do? He will give us our heart’s desires. This is not a verse about material or relational prosperity; God is no genie, waiting to grant three wishes if we only delight in Him. 

While it may be true that delighting in the Lord will yield other blessings, God Himself is the chief blessing. It’s not that when we delight in the Lord He then gives us what we, in our flesh, desire. Instead, as we delight in who He is—in His ways, His works, His instruction, His words—our desires are conformed to His. Pastor John Piper put it this way:

The best way to bring the desires of our hearts into conformity with God is to put all of our energy and all of our effort into enjoying God himself. When we enjoy God, not just his gifts, but God himself, then the desires of our heart are shaped, are defined and created, in accord with our delight in him.

Maybe at this moment, desire for Jesus seems far off. But can you and I take baby steps toward delighting in Him once again?

Awakening Desire in the Darkness

Close your eyes, and remember for a moment the most amazing meal you’ve ever eaten or the most delectable dessert you’ve ever had. What did you love about it? The warm and comforting aroma? The way your tastebuds came alive the moment it hit your tongue? I’ll bet thinking of it even makes you smile a little. Once you’ve tasted this amazing food, it’s not that hard to recapture the wonder of that first bite. In fact, if you think about it long enough, you might even begin to want more . . . 

No, I’m not trying to reduce desire for Jesus to a common meal, but there’s a reason that Scripture tells us,

Taste and see that the LORD is good. 
How happy is the person who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8) 

Once we’ve tasted the goodness of God, and sister, I’m trusting you have, it doesn’t take much more than a morsel to set us on the path toward whole-heartedly craving Him again. He’s just that good. 

This week, one baby step at a time, I’m working toward delighting in Jesus. I’m seeing the blessings of my husband, my children, my friends, my church family, and my work with fresh eyes, delighting as together we enjoy the good gifts that God has given. I’m finding pockets of joy in twinkle lights, cozy blankets, Christmas music, and hot coffee in my Christmas mug. I’ve moved from samples, to appetizers, to feasting on God’s Word once again. I’m meditating on who Jesus is and what He has done. 

And wouldn’t you know . . . I’m beginning to get hungry for more.

Advent Was Made for This 

I don’t know what the rest of this Advent season will hold, whether more dark days or sunny skies, an increasing hunger for Jesus or another period of waning appetite. I’m still not eager to endure this season of waiting, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not at all worried about what stands on the other side of the uncertainty. But this I know: Advent was made for waiting. For watching. For reflecting. And hoping! In quiet, straining stillness, Advent awaits the Hope of all Hopes. 

If you are waiting and watching too, I pray that you will taste and see, and in so doing, that you will delight in and desire Jesus more and more each passing day. Because Advent is for you. 

Come, Thou long expected Jesus, 
born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in Thee.4

As we close in on the end of 2023, here at Revive Our Hearts we rejoice at what God has done over the past year. Want to share in our joy? Check out our 2023 Annual Praise Report! It’s a dynamic good news review, and we can’t wait for you to see it. 

1 “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” Charles Wesley (1745).

“Who Is the Desired of All Nations (Haggai 2:7)?” GotQuestions.org, October 13, 2012, https://www.gotquestions.org/desired-of-all-nations.html.

John Piper, “Is Oprah Right on Psalm 37:4?,” Desiring God, Accessed December 2, 2023, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-oprah-right-on-psalm-37-4.

“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” Charles Wesley (1745).

About the Author

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

Born and raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Laura Elliott and her husband, Michael, now call Minnesota home. Laura is the mother of five sons and one daughter and serves as the marketing content manager for Revive Our Hearts. In … read more …

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