Shoulds vs Wants
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom [liberty].”1
Recently we had a critical situation. Joy went interstate to help take care of family matters and assured me that there was no need for me to come. Because I was under a lot of work pressure, it would have been so much easier for me to stay at home. But to me it was important that I go, not because I should, but because I wanted to be with Joy to support her and the family.
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.
Or they can come from the enemy—as the old saying goes, "If Satan can't pull us down into a life of sin and debauchery, he will try to push us over the top so we become so "heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use." This was so for me in my youthful days. It was like there was a little voice inside my head that would say, "You better do this or you better not do that. Or you better do that or you better not do this." At the time I thought this inner voice was from God telling me what I should do and what I shouldn't do. It got very confusing at times.
With the help of an understanding pastor, the defining factor for me was this: Is there a spirit of freedom in what this "inner voice" was "telling" me to do or was it a spirit of bondage? In my heart did I genuinely want to do this or was I being compulsively driven? If it were the latter, I knew it wasn't a genuine desire in my heart and it wasn't from God because, as God's Word says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom [liberty]."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in all of life's struggles and challenges when I am confused as to what is right for me to do, please give me a discerning spirit so that I know what is from a false motive, what is from a spirit of legalism or from the enemy, and what is from you. And please help me to grow so that I will truly want to be what you want me to be and want to do what you want me to do. Thank you for hearing my answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV).