The longings, yearnings, and groans we have in life are of course diverse. I came home from work the other day to something that we had not had for dinner or a meal in a very long time. When I made mention of it to my wife, she simply said; “Well, I was hungry for it.”
Have you ever wondered what causes us to hunger, long, or yearn for certain things? In these two prior examples, we actually see a yearning for something and a yearning for someone. Both can create varied levels of intensity and duration. I have experienced both short-lived “hunger pangs” when my appetite was in a rage, as well as drawn out “longings” such as I had for my young family all those years ago.
There are also a wide variety of scriptures which speak to this subject of longing. A variety of metaphors, such as hungering and thirsting, are used to help us grasp this power of longing. Some have to do with things to be sure, but more have to do with relationships. Some of these are man-to-man, such as brother to brother. Others have more to do with the man-God relationship. Some examples are:
Man-to-man (earthly relationships)
He (Titus) told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. [II Corinthians 7:7]
But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. [I Thess. 2:17]
Man-to-God (heavenly relationship)
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? [Psalm 42:1-2]
My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. [Psalm 119:81]
Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling… [II Corinthians 5:2]
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. [Hebrews 11:14-16]
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. [Matthew 5:6]
I find some intrigue in that Jesus promises a “filling” to those who hunger and thirst (long) for righteousness. In this, it was purposeful (I believe) that Jesus makes it a point to mention that they will hunger AND thirst, as if one or the other just doesn’t seem to describe the longing intensity quite good enough. At face value, we may quickly conclude that righteousness is what we will be filled with. That is, after all, what is longed for in this verse. Right?
I have now been a Christ-believer and follower a long time. However, I must admit that not once prior to salvation do I recall longing for righteousness. But when I met Christ, and He came to reside in me, all of a sudden I had a desire (a longing) to become like Him. That desire has intensified over time. This is a desire that the Holy Spirit keeps instilling and working in me. When I came to realize that it was not just any righteousness, but His righteousness I was to seek (Matthew 6:33), I found that the only way to hope to accomplish it was to trust in His perfect sacrifice for me, and to rest in Him. In essence, it is not really righteousness that I long for, but rather, the Righteous One.
I must admit also that I am in a season of, for lack of a better description, longing for a longing. I want my desire and longing for the Righteous One, Jesus, to be a marked feature in my life that is never missing. Sometimes I wonder if it is, or at least, has waned. If there is such a thing as spiritual hunger pangs, how might they be recognized in me and in you, and how often should we experience them? There are some worship “lyrics” that speak to this issue of longing, such as:
How I long to be with You; to sit at your feet and worship. My life I give to You. So use me as You will.
Or… Hungry, I come to You for I know You satisfy. I am empty but I know Your love does not run dry. So I wait for You, and I wait for You. I'm falling on my knees offering all of me. Jesus, You're all this heart is living for. Broken, I run to you for Your arms are open wide. I am weary, but I know Your touch restores my life. So I wait for You, and I wait for You. I'm falling on my knees offering all of me. Jesus, You're all this heart is living for.
I can sing these song lyrics, but doing so won’t produce the longing the words describe. However, I am quite sure that these songs were birthed from a longing. It is also what birthed Psalm 42:1-2. I have a longing for this manner of longing. I long for it in my life and I long for it in yours. I am also reminded of a truth I heard in another song; Only Jesus can satisfy my soul. If that is true, and I am certain that it is, then perhaps we should find ourselves longing no longer for the things of this world, but rather, for the One in whom our soul delights. The perfect One. The holy and anointed One, Jesus. The world is offering us so much that is competing for our affection. However, it will never ever satisfy our soul.
Precious Savior, Redeemer, Friend, bring us to the place of longing again…