Living with Longing
Originally, I thought I should tell my story in its entirety in chronological order, ya know, because I really like for things to flow and make sense. However, that does not exactly seem to be how God is unfolding this, so I am just going to write what is currently on my heart and let Him tell this story as He sees fit. He is the Author, afterall. Also, if I spill everything upfront, you may never read another word I write because you will truly see my inadequacy laid out before you... again, the Lord working is the only way this could ever happen. I'm still in awe of it all.
I know without a doubt that it's no consequence that I just so happen to be writing this on election day- unintentionally. A day that has consumed our thoughts for so much time. A single day. We have waited and waited and waited. We've posted and argued and supported and rallied. We have allowed this day and it's potential outcome to weigh us down, stress us out, and raise our anxiety. We've hoped and prayed and pleaded for a particular person to win this election. We long for a particular outcome, and the deliverance on a particular promise as a result of that outcome.
Long for. What does it mean to long for something? What do you think of when you hear the word longing? The dictionary says that a longing is a strong wish or desire, especially for something unattainable. In my mind, I think of desperation when I think of longing. People who are thirsty long for water. People who are hungry long for food. People who are cold long for warmth.
But, wait a minute. The definition of longing states that it is especially intended for that which is unattainable. So in other words, we use the word "longing" when we strongly desire something that we think we will never get? Possibly. According to that definition. So my next question is, what are you longing for? Besides the outcome of the election and to move past this day, what are you truly longing for? Deep down, maybe the thing you've never even spoken out loud because, like this definition, you don't believe that you can ever really have it?
For many years, I lived in spite of my unmet longings. That is to say, I had them. There were a lot of things I longed for, but for a variety of reasons, I never thought I would achieve or receive them, so I just tried to act like they didn't exist. I lived in spite of them. I tried to pack them up in a box and move on, never even considering that they would ever be possible for me. If I'm honest, that mostly came from a place of feeling unworthy. Unworthy to even have longings, much less for things like hope and peace and love and acceptance. As a child, I longed for a more "normal" family. I longed for genuine accpetance from family and friends. As I got older, I still longed for authentic, transparent relationships. I longed for the ability to not have to pretend that everything was always fine when it rarely ever was. I longed to break the cycles of dysfunction and chaos that were all I had ever known. All of these longings were for good things. But for the most part, I stuffed them way down inside and chose to live in spite of them- after all, who really cared what I wanted? Or, so I thought.
Even as I began to grow in my relationship with the Lord, I still often tried to hide my desires from Him. I did and served and said all the right things, but I did not consider my wants to be worthy of His time. There was a period of time that I attempted to fulfill some of those longings I had, in my own way, on my own terms... and the results of that left bigger voids than the desires had. You see, there is NO way to fulfill these longings, or any longings- whatever yours are either- without seeking Jesus. I know, I know. That's what everyone says. "Just seek the Lord." That did not mean anything to me for most of my life. No one was modeling that for me. No one was showing me what that looked like in reality. And by shoving my longings aside as though they didn't exist, I was just continuing the cycle I had been taught growing up. If you ignore it, it will go away.
That. Is. A. Lie.
Let me just say this:
Our longings are meant to lead us closer TO the Lord, not away from Him.
The Bible, as I found out later on in life, speaks very clearly about our desires. Psalm 37:4 says,
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." We tend to want to hone in on the "and He will give you the desires of your heart" part and just gloss right over the first half of that statement. That is not the most important part, though that is what we like to repeat over and over. That is actually the result. See, "He will give you the desires of your heart" is a promise. But that promise hinges on a command. "Delight yourself in the Lord." That is a command. If we see it as optional, then we have to understand that the promise is then optional also. Why? Why do we have to do something in order for God to give us the desires of our heart? Why wouldn't He just give us what we want? Doesn't He love us? Yes, He does. So much so, that He knows far better than we do what those desires will result in if we obtain them. Just because we long for something does not mean it is the most good thing we could have. Our definition of good and God's definition of good are not always the same. Even when our longings seem to be for good, healthy desires, they may still lead us to sin, ruin, and pain if they are not funneled through the hands of a perfect, sovereign God. I began to realize that maybe it was more about submitting and surrendering my desires then it was about packing them up and shoving them away. I had been fooling myself the whole time I chose to believe that God was unaware of them anyway. He created us. He knows our heart better than we know it ourselves. There is no hiding place that He cannot see. He has known from the beginning of time that He would need to tell us to delight ourselves in Him, because without knowing Him, none of our desires CAN be met. Why? Because no longing will ever be completely satisfied apart from Him. We may find some temporary feel goods and quick fixes here and there, but our deepest, most basic desire as humans has always and will always be to know our Creator. We will always want more. Our sinful nature, with no reigns or restrictions, cannot be satisfied without a relationship with God. In His goodness, He gave us a simple command that would have profound results. "Delight yourself in the Lord." You want to know what that looks like? It took me years to understand this. You will know that you are truly delighting yourself in Him when you decide that you want Him more than you want what you want Him to give you.
Simply put, we have to want the Creator more than the creation.
We have to determine in our hearts that He is sufficient, He is enough; He is the true prize.
Anything else He gives us is simply extra. Blessings. Grace.
If He never granted another request, answered another prayer, or fulfilled another desire, would you still love Him? Would you still serve Him? Would you still delight in Him?
Y'all. I did not "delight myself in the Lord" for a very long time. All because I did not have the right perspective of Him. It's hard to delight yourself in someone that you are terrified of disappointing, that you think is out of patience with you, that you see as someone with bigger problems than yours to be concerned with. Over time, the Lord was gracious enough to allow me to see that He was not disappointed in me. He was not out of patience with me; He literally longs to show us mercy. He is aware of those big problems others have, but He is no less concerned about or sovereign over my small problems. And because I was not delighting in Him, I was hiding my desires. My longings were longing for light because I had hid them away, afraid that they would never really matter to God. And let me just say, that is such a sad, unbiblical view of our God. If you hear anything in all of this, please know that you do not have to unpack and live in those lies. God knows our longings- many of them He even gives to us as a tool to be used by Him. To draw us closer to Him. To show us our need for Him. Because now, although I have a proper understanding of my desires and I am not as afraid to bring them before Him.... I am also aware that unmet longings can still sting. There are longings we will experience this side of heaven that will always leave us feeling wounded. Left out. Like we don't measure up. And the beauty of all of that- even through the pain of unmet longings- is that we can still know, trust, and believe that our good, gracious, loving Father is completely aware of and present in those longings. We can have full confidence that whatever He gives or does not give is ultimately for our good. When He fulfills our desires- our rightful response should be worship. But when He doesn't fulfill them, or when it takes a lot longer than we would hope for, that is still our rightful response. To worship. Because He is worthy regardless, and our delight is in Him, not in what He gives.
He is not asking us to live in spite of our longings, but in light of them.
Please, please do not read this and leave thinking that I must be out of touch with reality or that I don't know what it is like to long for things and never get them, or get them and lose them. We live in a fallen, broken world, and we will not ever be fully at peace here with no problems or pain because this is not our home. I knew this is what the Holy Spirit was prompting me to write about because it is hard for me to type this out knowing full well that there are prayers I've prayed that have yet to be answered or questions I've asked with no adequate response. God is a big God, and He is okay with us asking the hard questions. We will not always know the reason behind everything He does, but we can trust His heart.
Psalm 38:9,15 "O Lord, all my longing is before You; my sighing is not hidden from You...But for You, O Lord, do I wait; it is You, O Lord my God, who will answer."
Our longings. Our desires. Even our sighs. He sees. He hears. He knows. He is working.
Thank You, Jesus
Until next time,