Longing is a tricky thing. Either our deepest hopes are designed to drive us toward true Joy, where all our hopes converge, or the human experience is an astonishing ruse. Sometimes these longings lay dormant — unnoticed amidst the busyness of life. Then there are days when, out of nowhere, deep longing hits us. The weight of the world seems to be in sharp focus, and our hearts feel encumbered by circumstances that are quite insignificant. It seems as if we are homesick for a place we have never been. Ironically, this type of restlessness often comes when the circumstances of life are going well. Perhaps this seems counter-intuitive, but should we not expect discontentment to taunt us when good times come? Often, it is not the bad times, but the good times which remind us, nothing in this world will ever satisfy our deepest longings. Like the mythical Tantalus — who was made to stand in water but never drink under a fruit tree from which he could never eat — we frequently grasp after that which promises to sate our longing. Yet without fail the fruit continually eludes our grasp, and the water recedes before we can quench our thirsty souls. How should we answer the cries of our heart when the very thing we have been reaching for fails to satisfy?
Praise God for the Longing
Unmet longing is evidence that we were created for something greater than earthly satisfaction — you are created to find Joy. In every situation the longing is pointing us to something great — it is leading us to Jesus. So praise God for the longing.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
When life leaves us dissatisfied, it is not evidenced that our existence is a hoax. Instead, our longing is a blessed reminder that there is much more to live for. Rather than becoming discouraged, praise God for longings in your heart that no earthly thing can satisfy. As long as we live in a fallen world we will have unmet longings — they point us to Jesus.
It is easy to become frustrated by unanswered prayer. Yet, it is often in the midst of seemingly unanswered prayers that Jesus meets us and shows us that he alone satiates our greatest longing. Sometimes God allows the desires in this life to remain so that our hope for the next life would grow.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
History is teeming with examples of men and women who gave their lives for something they never attained. Their desires were never met in this life. Does that mean their desires were a fraud? Absolutely not. Instead, the things they desired were more significant than anything this world could offer. They desired a better country.
Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
We are called to respond the same way as those who have gone before us. When life brings nothing but “unmet” longing, we are encouraged to run with endurance; to look beyond our circumstances to Jesus who is both the perfect example of faithfulness in the midst of difficulty and the very reason why difficulty will be worth it someday.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
We do not toil and struggle in vain. Instead, we have our hope set on the living God who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus. Satisfaction in this life is attainable and should be sought after, but it is found only through a relationship with God. In fact, the writer of Hebrews later says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you(Hebrews 13:5).’” It is evidence of a sinful heart when we are not satisfied with the things God has provided for us. However, in the midst of the unmet longing, don’t lose sight this great reality. The very existence of longing is a signpost pointing you to the one who can meet your need and make you content in him. Run with vigor toward the only one who can truly satisfy the deepest longing of your heart. Run to Jesus.