Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lie No. 12: I Should Not Have To Live With Unfulfilled Longings

Follow your heart. Pursue your dreams. Do what makes you happy. Sound familiar? We are inundated with phrases like these to the point that we actually believe it is wrong to deny yourself any wish or desire. Even Christians may say that as long as it's not really sin, you should find what makes you happy and go for it.

Common desires include wanting to be married, wanting to have children, wanting a career (or a different one than you have), wanting hobbies or an independent life away from your husband and kids. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting. There is no sin in the desire. In fact, the desire and longing, when left unfulfilled, should draw you closer to God, making you long for the day that you will be with Him and all of your desires will be fulfilled.

I'll give you one example from my life. Just this past year, after Patrick was born, I felt like I was missing out on something, like I should be pursuing my art and design, or a business of some sort. I weighed through several career possibilities as well as lots of hobbies, feeling as though I was denying myself some great part of who I thought I was if I was "just" a mom. (We'll talk more later about careers vs. motherhood.) The point right now, though, is that I may have a longing to be a designer, to own a shop, to do any number of things, and that desire may feel so strong that to deny it just feels wrong. But remember, we are not in the business of following feelings. We are in the business of following God. That may be a delayed desire, one that I pursue when my kids are grown, or it may be one that God never intends to fulfill for me. And I should be okay with that. I should not be so weighted by that desire that not having it fulfilled makes me sad or depressed. Denying our desires should never feel like we are denying ourselves. If your identity is so wrapped up in something other than who you are in Christ, an artist in my case, that you can't imagine living without it, you have seriously misplaced your calling in life. The longing may remain, but it should cause me to long only for heaven.

We as Christians often candy-coat these desires by calling it a "desire of our heart," a phrase that God actually uses in the Bible. And God wouldn't give us a desire of our heart if it wasn't meant to be fulfilled, would He? I believe, in fact, that He does. Look at these two verses:

"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

"But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control." Philippians 3:20-21

If you put these two verses together, what do we learn? We learn that God has "planted eternity in the human heart," and "we are citizens of heaven." What does that mean? I believe God has placed something within us that connects with and understands eternity to the extent that we are capable. We naturally, or supernaturally rather, have a deep longing for the wholeness and finished completeness that eternity is. And when and how do we achieve that end result? As the second verse seems to suggest to me, we can only reach that when we have returned home, to the land of our citizenship, heaven. Think about going on a long trip to some remote, desolate, barren land, far from any kind of civilization, much less anything "American" that we are so accustomed to. Almost immediately, certain desires will begin to appear, reminding us of home, making us wish for home, becoming desperate to find something, anything that will make us feel like we are back home. But no matter what you do, there is no way you will ever find those comforts of home until the day you finally travel back to the U.S. Now translate all of that to heaven and earth. As long as we are on this earth, we will never be satisfied. And that's okay. We shouldn't be satisfied. If we become satisfied by the things of this world, we will soon cease to long for home.

It is not a tragedy if the desires of our heart are never fulfilled here on earth.

"...we must recognize that it is not wrong to have unfulfilled longings- they do not make us any less spiritual. We must learn to accept those longings, surrender them to God, and look to Him to meet the deepest needs of our hearts." p. 86

Let us live our lives with the hope and faithfulness that we see here in Hebrews:

"All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they would have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11:13-16

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