Sometimes the only way to know if a desire is really from God or not is to wait and see. Sometimes we just can’t know.
So in these 4 points, I’m not saying that if you can’t confirm that this desire is from God that this means it’s not. A desire could be from God but there just might not be a way to confirm this and know this for certain right now.
At other times, however, we can know for certain a desire is from God. So here 4 signs God will often use to let you know a desire you have is actually from him and just from yourself.
1. You Can Know If a Desire Is from God If the Desire Is Specifically Named in the Bible
For example, a healthy desire for marriage is specifically talked about in the Bible (Genesis 2:18, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 36). So if you want to be married to bring glory to God, that is a good sign this is a desire from him because this is specifically named in the Bible.
But when it comes to marrying a specific person, then it becomes much harder to know if this is actually a desire from God or just from yourself because the Bible will not name a specific person that God wants you to marry. Again, this does not mean that God does not want you to marry this person you want to marry. You just probably won’t know for sure if this truly is the person God has for you until you are actually married or it becomes clear that you two will not get married.
The point is that the clearest way you can know if a desire is from God and not just yourself is if that desire is specifically named in the Bible as being a desire that comes from God.
2. A Desire Is Usually from God If Following This Desire Is Achievable and It Would Lead You to Obey a Specific Command in the Bible
For example, let’s say you wanted to go on a mission’s trip. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations, so we know this is a biblical desire. But then let’s say that when you start trying to pursue this opportunity, it becomes clear the necessary funding to go is not going to come through no matter how hard you try to raise support. Since this desire is not achievable, this would be a good piece of evidence this desire is not directly from the Lord.
Again, the general desire to go on a mission’s trip certainly could be from the Lord because that is biblical, but it would also need to be achievable if God really wanted you to go on that specific mission’s trip. If the desire was there and the funding was there, that would be a good sign this desire to go was from the Lord.
3. If You Feel a Strong Desire to Do Something Even Though You Know There Is Very Little Self-Benefit, This Is Often a Sign God Is the One Giving You This Desire
To clarify, God will give us desires that often do overlap with what we really want personally too. For example, marriage will be one of those areas in life where God will give you the desire for it and it will be something you really want. If you don’t want it, God won’t make you do it. My caution here is that it is a mistake to think that just because you have a desire that will lead to personal benefits that this is automatically not from the Lord. That is way too rigid and legalistic.
On the other hand, however, we certainly should be careful when we know we have a desire that will drastically benefit us personally. This personal benefit is not a guarantee we are the ones making this desire up ourselves. But obviously we shouldn’t be naive to the possibility of our own selfishness. Those who fall into the prosperity gospel, for example, would do well to realize how self-motivated their desires truly are.
Perhaps the easiest desire to know is from the Lord is when we have a strong desire to do something good even though it won’t benefit us personally. For example, perhaps you have a strong desire to give a large sum of money to someone who will never be able to repay you or do anything in return to help you in a material way. Or perhaps you have a strong desire to sacrifice your time and energy for someone in a way that will get you very little recognition from anyone else.
When you have a strong desire to do something good and this desire will lead to very little advantage to you personally, this is often a good sign that this desire is simply from the Lord and not from you. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:2-4, which states:
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
4. If You Desire More of God, You Can Be Certain This Desire Is from God
As we said in the beginning, it’s not always possible to know the true source of a desire until much later in time. But when it comes to the most important desire – the desire for God himself – we can be certain that this desire is actually from God and not ourselves.
In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Psalm 37:3-4 also states, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe this verse has often been abused because people end up thinking that if they just delight in God he will then give them that other thing they want. While I don’t believe it is bad to have desires for other things, ultimately God made us to desire himself above all things.
So when it states that God will give you the desire of your heart if you delight in him, ultimately this will always be true because delighting in the Lord is the ultimate desire of your heart. When you delight in him, God is satisfying your deepest desire.