Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On Longing

Thoughts from February 24, 2007.
I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have longings that are unfulfilled. Why would God put us in positions--almost require us--to long for what He hasn't given? If you didn't know the character of God as good, it would seem almost cruel. But we know He is good, so what's up with the longing, and the pain that it brings?

Frankly, I've spent much of my life trying not to long because I knew that longing led to pain. I've believed that I was content and satisfied, that I didn't need or want what I didn't have. However, I was lying to myself. I just was refusing to open my heart to what my heart truly felt. In some ways, I feel I've been reintroduced to myself over the past few years, as God has been peeling layers off my heart, requiring that I not only be honest with myself, but to be honest before Him as to the desires of my heart. And, frankly, I'd rather not. I'd rather spend the rest of my life pretending that I never wanted what I don't have. But somehow, that doesn't bring Him glory. I know that because He is making me walk this journey, not only acknowledging but even verbalizing what I really long for.

I don't have tons of answers yet. Maybe I never will. But here is what I've learned from this journey so far.

1.) When you seek Him, God plants longings in your heart. All kinds of longings. Longing for Him, longing to read His Word, to know His people. Longings to pursue certain kinds of work or hobbies. Longings for certain knowledge or training. Some longings are things we can do something about, whether now or later--get the degree, join that club, read His Word, find His people. And some--for whatever reason--that we have no control over whatsoever. Some we can't move to fulfill at all. Which leads us to point...

2.) God is the fulfiller of longings. As Job said, it is God who gives. From His hand comes all good things. He thrills in meeting needs and wants in our lives. Scripture is replete with teachings and examples the prove this. Adam needed a helper, Hannah needed a child, Israel needed redemption, creation needed relief. On tiny and infinite scales, God both plants and meets longings. This brings Him glory in ways only eternity will reveal, but since glorification is His goal, longings fulfill His 'need'/goal. (Please understand that in the context of that sentence. I'm fully aware that God doesn't need anything or anyone, that He is fully self-sufficient.)

3.) Longings put us in a position to appreciate God's fulfillment. If I never longed for what I do not have, I would never recognize God's goodness in meeting that need. And He wouldn't receive the praise of my mouth and that praise wouldn't echo through eternity. If I never felt hungry, I wouldn't appreciate a meal. Without thirst, the gift of water would go completely unnoticed. Without longing, His good gifts would be unidentified and unacknowledged.

4.) Longing makes me humble before God. When I long for what I cannot fulfill, then I am forced to turn to the only one who can change the scenario. Longing brings me to my knees in a unique way, a way different from joy or hope or pain or sin. It makes me more prepared than ever to tune my heart to hear His frequency. When you dig deep into my soul, this is something I want and on the most fundamental levels--to know and hear God in ways that completely revolutionize my life. When I see longings in the context of that, longings themselves fulfill my longing for God.

5.) I can never truly be content without having first faced what I want but don't have. I'm not even sure I fully understand this, but somehow contentment isn't the lack of desire, it's willingness to rest in a lack of fulfillment of that desire. If I am ignorant of my own desire, I can't rest in God for the fulfillment or lack thereof. If I never acknowledge my longings I'll never truly rest in God.

6.) Longing prepares us for heaven. Ultimately, this life is all about unfulfilled longings, for God plants in our lives a need for all of Him and to be where He is. Heaven is the place where we leave behind the constraints of this world and are fulfilled to our core. Our hope is what keeps our longings from becoming despair. Instead, we are being prepared and transformed in preparation for the cessation of such longing, in preparation for being totally fulfilled.

I still hate this process. I hate hurting, and I'm not completely happy with God that this is a road I have to walk. But even so far, the lessons I've learned are valuable. And when I remember longings in the context of the points above, I can see that at least this pain has purpose.

This is long, but it really is my heart. It really is our pain. Yet I sit in anxious longing for our paths to be clarified, for our hearts to be healed, and for our longings to be fulfilled. May He be glorified in the pain, the process, and the perfection of His perfect will in our lives.

(c) 2007


Sarah said...

PERFECT! Just where I'm at! Would it be ok if I linked to this in my post for tomorrow? You're reflections and thoughts are ridiculously good :) I'm gonna need to dig through your old blog stuff! Thank you :)

ShalomSeeker said...

You are always welcome. And I am humbled. Thank you.

Beth said...

Oh....J.......I am just so blown away by this. I have to print this one out too! Just to read it and re-read it. Meditate on it and USE a highlighter on it!
I forgot to tell you.... a few days ago I was reading your last tues post and ended up crying! ON THE TREADMILL! Who knew I needed klennex on my treadmill! It was ALL really good stuff but #6....whew....WEAKNESS...that got to me! I cry now just re-reading it!!!! You know who I am talking about when I say that a certain "team leader" I once followed, pushed and pushed us to be just the opposite. SUPER STRONG!!! ALL THE TIME!!! STRONG-STRONG-STRONG...it was soo exhausting. None stop sprinting. I still fight the guilt of not being super strong all the time.
ANyway, what a release....GOD's strength made perfect in MY weakness. Just beautiful!
Thank you! Thank you thank you, -J!
love you!