Longings of the Heart

Most days, by God’s grace, I am happy and content, even joyful.

But not today. And no, it’s not because of the playoffs this weekend. (Not that they helped, but the groaning and crying out of Romans 8 is a lot bigger than the NFL.)

I had a wonderful church experience this weekend, and some great conversations with my wife and others. It’s been six months since I last experienced a couple of days of depression. But today I feel drained of joy.

Perhaps you feel this way too. If so, and even if not, this won’t be a pity party, but perhaps we can walk together toward God. His is a path familiar with joy, both its presence and its absence, as the Psalms testify. Or Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

There is a sweetness and comfort to God’s presence even in times of heaviness, and I’m grateful for it. The Holy Spirit always takes me to His Word for perspective, encouragement and hope. Today He has taken me to the subject of the longings of the heart. I think I’ll devote several blogs to this, dealing with different aspects of our longing.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.”

People are made for the eternal and therefore cannot be ultimately satisfied by the temporary. When you are made for another world you cannot be fully happy in this one. Realizing this can help us as we face both difficult times and wonderful times.

When we consider the biblical promises, we are able to identify the right and wrong objects of our longing and recalibrate our expectations. We’re even able to see, as I am seeking to, how God is glorified in our not getting what we want…or what we think we want.

First and foremost, we long for a Person.

“In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the Desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty.” (Haggai 2:6-7)

Who is the desired of all nations? Who is the one all peoples long for? Messiah. The One sent to accomplish redemption.

Who is the Messiah? “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

It is God who made us, and God we were made for. It is God we long for, and Jesus, God’s Son, who brings the Father to us.

Consider this great passage, John 14:6-10:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

God has made us to long for His person, but also to long for His place.

Hebrews 11:13-16 says,

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

2 Corinthians 5:2-4 says,

Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 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.

We long for the resurrection, and our new bodies, and the New Earth we will live on. Peter says, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). God’s people are to look forward every day to living with Him in a new world. But…do we?

Nothing is more practical than the realization we were made for another world. This is why Peter doesn’t skip a beat when he says in the next verse, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

Longing for the day when we will live with our risen Lord, the King of Kings, as sin-free and suffering-free and death-free people on a new earth, here and now we will live in radically different ways on this fallen earth.

I’ll talk more about longing in the coming blogs, with citations of Augustine, Pascal, C. S. Lewis and A. W. Tozer, among others. In Scripture we’ll look at longing described as hunger and thirst, longing for joy, and the ultimate longing: to see God.

AugustineWhen life doesn’t go as we hoped, may we rejoice that God knows better than we do, and that our characters are being conformed to the character of Christ. And that “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

And, that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Meanwhile, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).

As for our heart’s deepest longings, Augustine (who was generally happier than this painting suggests) put it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O God, and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in You.”

Coffee image credit: Hello Goodbye, via Unsplash

Augustine painting: Public Domain, via Wikimedia

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries