Learning to Long for God

Contentment, or the lack of it, is really an issue of the heart. In order to really understand our own feelings we need to look at our wants and longings. We cannot be content apart from knowing what we want or long for.

I took a long hard look at my wants and longings when I went through my first Recalibrate Life read, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. And I revisited the responses of my heart again as I read Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johnson in February.

One of the questions at the end of the second chapter in Abundant Simplicity is,”How would you like to see your life progressively more organized around God and His eternal life?” This is a question that intrigued me– especially since it came near the end of a chapter about contentment, wants, and longings.

The question took me back to my responses in Sacred Rhythms on my wants and longings. The act of talking with the Lord about my hearts’ desires was very precious, it was a very tender time. I shared about this in my post last month, My Response to Sacred Rhythms. I think this was true because I finally realized that all of my longings come out of a deeper neediness for more of the Lord.

In a way that surprised me, even though I knew this truth as head-knowledge. But the things we want whether it is about money, deeper intimacy in our relationships, feeling more loved, having more or better possessions, or accomplishing certain goals, are all rooted in our hunger for God and His love. I believe our longings are God-given. But, our longings are put in us to draw us to know Him more, to depend on Him more, and to find what we need in Him more.

In looking at my personal longings and seeking to reach for them, I realized that when I am not reaching for the Lord and especially for Him to meet my hearts’ longing, I am on the wrong path. If I am instead pursuing the end product or result for my own glory or others’ acceptance or personal security, I am missing the point.

The Lord delights in meeting our needs and satisfying our hearts’ desires, but if He sees those desires leading us away from Him, He will try to turn our focus back to Him.

So, back to that question, the one that has really tugged at my heart: How would you like to see your life progressively more organized around God and His eternal life?

Simplicity and contentment of heart depend on my focus. If my focus is scattered and I am living distracted, going after all of my desires to fulfill my own longings, the Lord will intervene. He will intervene because that is the wrong path. and He knows that I will not find contentment in the chaos that brings.

When I pursue God and my focus is on my relationship with Him, when it is on pleasing Him, and living for Him and His will, then, that is where I will find the heart of simplicity. And I have found that He will grant me contentment as I recognize Him as my All in All.

So, yes, I may want to grow my blog or finish my manuscript. But what do I do with that longing? My goal is to connect with the Lord in each longing. It is about wanting to bring Him into the longing, for Him to be at work within it and within me. And in that longing, as I prayed, I realized that I want Him to work in me and my life so other lives can be touched by Him through my words. I need to know Him more. I need to see His hand and heart touching my life, so I can share the glory of His wondrous work.

This demonstrates “organizing my life around God and His eternal life.” No matter what the longing is, if my life is to be more organized around God, I have to see that He is always what I want, or Who I want more of, more than anything else.

Our longings can so easily be mixed up with wrong motives. That is why Johnson’s question is so important to explore. We can get so caught up in self and self-sufficiency. We tend to live so unaware of the relationship of our longings and our need for God. It is so very important that we take it all, each of our longings, into His presence.

As I took each of my longings and brought them back to my deep need for the Lord, I sought to see Him as the center of my longings. This process helped me to see the path to simplifying my life. I also came to learn much about my deep-ceded personal fears. Fears of rejection, fear of replacement, fear of not belonging, or of lack of acceptance, fear of being misunderstood, and the fear of not having all I think I need. I discovered lots of fears within my longings. But all of this took me back to seeking God. That is what organizing my life around God is about.

Johnson says, “If we want to want God our next step is to come to terms with our underlying fears. We start where we are. We invite God to work with us on these fears so we can begin drinking God’s living water, God’s own Spirit…”

I know that I want to want God more, I want to love Him with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, but I continuously fall short. So I must daily look at these inner longings and talk with Him about them. I need to look at my calendar and my planner and see what my life and my schedule really say about what I want. Where am I spending my time? How am I spending my money? Where am I seeking security and acceptance? The proof and truth will shine brightly there.

This isn’t a “one-time-and-done” response regarding how to organize life around God. It is an ongoing check and re-check of our longings and what our lives are says about how we are living them out.

So, I am learning to long more for God in all of life. And it takes time and focus and prayer and soul-searching. I want to live my life longing for God moment-by-moment. This is becoming an important part of learning to recalibrate life here in 2019.

What about you? What are you longing for? Have you looked deeply at your longings and how the Lord is such an important part of your hearts’ cries? Take some of your longings to Him today. He wants to hear about your deep desires.

 

 

*Note the featured image is a photograph by Paul Varnum on Unsplash.

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An Invitation to Celebrate Even in my Fear

Bekah Pogue shares in her book Choosing Real, “Choosing Real is opting to see how present Jesus is in real-life circumstances… Choosing Real trusts God has a beautiful plan in the mess, in the scary, in the unknown, in the tears, and in not feeling enough.”
Are you in one of those places? The mess? The scary? The tears? Or not feeling enough? Pogue suggests that we should shift our perspective from self to the Lord. She suggests that we look for His invitations in the midst of all that life brings. What invitation do you see the Lord offering you right now in the mess you are in? What invitation do you see the Lord offering you in the scary place life has you in? What invitation do you see the Lord offering you in the middle of the tears that are streaming down you face?
Is it an invitation for rest? Or hope? Or freedom? Or an invitation to choose to have a thankful heart? Or maybe it is an invitation to serve? What is He inviting to share with you?
I am finding the truth of Hosea, and how it is in the wilderness times the Lord allures us. He draws us in to teach us more of His love for us, He draws us in to speak to us. He wants to know us that much, to show us how He sees and hears us and knows our deepest pain, as well as what brings us the greatest joy. He wants us to celebrate His love and His nearness. He wants us to know more and more how we really can trust Him in the midst of whatever He has allowed. He wants us to know that we are not alone. He invites us to know Him in a new way. He invites us to snuggle in and find out what He has for us. Because He has exactly what we need. You see He knows what we have been wandering after, searching for, dreaming of, wishing for.
He knows the deepest yearning in the depths of our hearts and He desires to meet that need. He wants to fill that emptiness. He just wants us to trust Him enough to ask. He wants us to show that we really know He is present and able.
Emotional pain often makes you desire to run to find a way to not feel. It hits you at unexpected times and sends you reeling. So when the Lord comes and meets you in that pain, when you feel Him reaching for you, when you feel overwhelming fear and you know your trust is lacking, you suddenly find yourself at the edge. It feels like a crisis of sorts. Here you are face-to-face with the One Who can help, but you feel frozen in fear. He urges you to give Him your pain, to trust Him with it all. What will you do?
I was recently at that place. Tears came easily, unexpectedly, at the most inopportune times and I felt nauseous with upset. I felt so alone, but realized His nearness. Why had I separated myself, this painful part, and not given it and all the neediness to Him? Don’t I trust Him enough to give Him the pain? I hadn’t, but then I did, I gave it to Him. In fact, I took time to find a Bible verse for each part of the pain, ones that spoke to me of His love and nearness, verses that gave comfort. I gave Him all of the emptiness and ache. I asked Him to hold it. I fell asleep exhausted and dreamed of Him holding it, holding me in my pain. And now each time something triggers the pain, I tell myself Jesus is holding this, I am not alone, I don’t have to carry this alone. And it gives me joy. It gives me hope. It gives me rest.
Yes, I still feel the pain at times, but I feel His nearness with me in it. I read the verses of comfort. It is too easy to get buried in the painful feelings, and get lost in them. When I choose to stay there, I miss knowing Who He is and what He has for me. So now, I am beginning to learn to look for Him in the difficult places, I am learning to celebrate His nearness when celebrating seems like the last thing one might do.
It is easier to push the hard stuff away, or try your hardest to act tough and try not to need, just keep busy. But you can only do that for so long and then the pain starts screaming too loud and your ears bleeds and your heart aches. But in reality you really are not alone in it at all, the Lord is with you in and through it all.
The Lord wants us to reach and to follow and to trust, He is near. Celebrate His presence and His love in all of life.