Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Longing That Won't Go Away

I thought it would go away if I could just find the secret. The longing, the deep yearning that says, “There must be more than this.” We all land there pretty early in life.

Sitting at the kitchen table with my mom in our little starter home shortly after John F. Kennedy was assassinated I said, “Mom, I don’t want to just die, be buried and be forgotten.” The longing was there.

In high school I thought if I could be accepted and applauded then it would satisfy the longing. I experienced it and it didn’t.

Well, maybe when I go to college, live on my own, make my own decisions and not be controlled by my parents that will satisfy the longing. I went and it didn’t.

Perhaps if I find a wonderful, beautiful, loving woman and marry her, that will satisfy the longing. I did and it didn’t.

Surely when I go into pastoral ministry, preach God’s Word, help other people, give my life to the service of the Lord and people, that will satisfy the longing. I did and it didn’t.

Possibly if I have children, that will satisfy the longing. To invest myself in other, to make a difference in young lives. I had four and it didn’t.

If I could gain some notoriety, some success in preaching and writing that might satiate the longing. I did and it didn’t.

Then I thought, maybe I just wasn’t close enough to God. If I pray harder, take more time in the Bible, worship more deeply, fast consistently -- that will satisfy the longing. But no matter how much I did the things preachers say will make me close to God, something still burned within me. The longing.

After all that, I read a book by Larry Crabb called “Finding God.” The lights came on as I read his explanation that there will always be a longing within us while we are alive on earth because the longing is a desire to be with God. What a relief! There’s nothing wrong with me, this longing is normal. Okay, so there may be some other things wrong, but not this.

C.S. Lewis said it this way, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity).

God, speaking through the Apostle Paul, attempts to show us this truth. My comments are in parentheses.
"Now we know that if the earthly tent (our human bodies) we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven (a glorified body), not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed (be in Heaven with Jesus) with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked (in our earthly bodies). 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Cor 5:1-5, NIV

God, Himself created us with this longing. Because He is mean and doesn’t want us to be happy? No. He did so out of love, to lead us to Himself. He has placed a deep, intense, profound longing, a yearning, a soul-hunger, an ache, a desire for something beyond ourselves when He created the human race, even before sin landed us in such trouble. He does not want us to be satisfied with this world, but to live and long for that for which we were made.

The wisest man who ever lived put it thus, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

We naturally strive to satisfy this longing. As I did, we look to pleasure or possessions or position or pride in accomplishments to fill the vacuum. The human soul cannot sit idle while this longing boils inside. But nothing we seek ever satisfies.

Here’s the test: What do you do when you feel bad? What do you turn to when you are sad, angry, hurt, lonely, feeling bad about yourself? Pleasure (food, alcohol, things that make feel good), possessions (playing with toys, shopping, trading up), pride (doing things that accomplish, tinkering, hobbies). Whatever we turn to is THAT to which we look for satisfaction. It delivers momentarily, but the longing comes roaring back with ever increasing energy. Instead of trying to medicate the pain or cover up the fear, sometimes we need to hold on to it, take it to God to find out what He is trying to do in our lives. If we do so, we discover that God does offer to satisfy the longing.

He offers “samples” here on earth. You know the tastes they offer in the grocery stores on the high traffic days. Amber and Chadd loved to grocery shop with Sheila when they were pre-school. Sausage in one aisle, crackers in the next, cheese farther down, juice near the dairy. They could get a full toddler meal. But for adults those are only tastes, a concerted effort to whet your hunger and convince you to buy the product. They did not, could not satisfy the hunger because they were only tastes of what you could have for supper if you purchased the product. So with God, He has given His Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come, but the deep longing cannot be satisfied on earth.

God offers complete satisfaction in Heaven. Not floating around playing a harp or singing songs we don’t even like, but the deepest satisfaction being in the place we were designed to occupy.

If we make Jesus Lord of our lives, Heaven will be home. Like that trip you took. You remember, the one where the wheels came off. You’re driving the 15 hours home with a carload of people who are tired, grumpy and smell like they’ve been in a hot car for 15 hours. They complain until they finally fall asleep, leaving you to drive alone in the dark. Then it starts to rain, hard. Your body aches, you can hardly stay awake, you desperately need a shower and you’re wondering why you brought all these people along on such a depressing adventure. Then your headlights hit it – home. You feel the relief the moment you step out of the car. Your heart leaps as you walk in the door. Home where you belong.

That is a very frail picture of Heaven. It will be complete satisfaction for those who live for the destination rather than the journey.

So what are you doing with that longing? Trying to satisfy it with the temporary? Deny that it is there? Keep busy enough to ignore it? Pursue a dream in hopes of satisfying it?

STOP IT! Enjoy the tastes God offers. In fact, grab as many samples as you can get. But focus on “Home.” Let the longing capture your mind and heart with an eternal perspective.

Boldly, Herb

No comments: