Finding God in Our Desires

Do you know anyone with doubts about God?  Point them to three recent articles by Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, in the Huffington Post. Martin says that God can be found in a feelings of incompletion, common longings and connections, and unusual “mystical” experiences.

These are expressions of desire: our desire for God and God’s desire for us. The trick is to recognize them as such. Martin tells a story:

One friend, a self-described workaholic who hadn’t been to church for a long time, went to a baptism of a friend’s child. Suddenly she was overtaken by powerful feelings — mainly the desire to live a more peaceful and centered existence. She began to cry, though she didn’t know why. She told me that she felt an intense feeling of peace as she stood in church and watched the priest pour water over the baby’s head.

To me, it seemed clear what was happening: she was experiencing, in this moment, when her defenses were down, God’s desires for her. And it makes sense that a religious experience would happen in the context of a religious ceremony. But she laughed and dismissed it. “Oh,” she said, “I guess I was just being emotional.” And that was that.

It’s a natural reaction: much in Western culture tries to tamp down or even deny these naturally spiritual experiences and explain them away in purely rational terms. It’s always something other than God.

Martin says, “Religious experiences are often dismissed — not out of doubt that they aren’t real, but out of fear that they are real after all.”


  1. Personally I believe it is essential that we pray for the person who has just ‘shared’ that emotional experience.
    Because the Holy Spirit has moved in their heart and it obviously needs some birthing. I am as grounded in my faith today because of the prayers
    of others. I needed others to take some time to care for me with prayer.
    Things block people from receiving God’s love it needs prayer and grace to shift it. Perhaps it is what the world needs most of all.

  2. Thanks for the blog. It makes me feel very grateful for a my faith and how far its come. I have for some time now enjoyed and have found great comfort in the “Ignation Way” of living with God and searching for Him in all things. My favorite moments are when I encounter strangers in life who present me with a certain knowledge or perspective that only He could know I’m looking for and in need of. It’s simply the best feeling I know. However I’m certainly not an expert in identifying these moments and just wish they would happen more. I guess that’s why I keep praying!

  3. Thanks. Though I find the blogroll definition of ‘magis’ as ‘excellence, the best’ as not helpful and perhaps harmful. Being the best is similar to the ‘riches, honour, pride’ Ignatius warns us to be wary of – this kind of magis can be seen as competitive. Fr Nicolas translates Ignatian magis as depth in his Philippines speech. I think depth is the most helpful translation.
    Peace and thanks for your blog.

  4. Thank you for this article.
    I am guilty of this same thing, of dismissing religious experiences in exchange for a psychological or physiological process. I think modern people (including me) have a hard time accepting that there is something greater than them that cannot be fully explained or cataloged, and that thing is God. This is something that I have recently started to accept and I think that my life is the better for it, even though I still sometimes try to dismiss the religious in favor of something else. But at least now I think I am starting to recognize that to do this is to accept convenience over truth.


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