O God, You are my God; I earnestly search for You. My soul thirsts for You; my whole body longs for You in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise You! — Psalm 63:1–3
And this God, the living God, your God, our God, is in me, is in you, lives in us, and we live and move and have our being in Him. And He is in us by virtue of the hunger, the longing, which we have for Him. He is Himself creating the longing for Himself.1 — Miguel de Unamuno
His name is Big Billy. He’s the teddy bear I’ve had since I was two, and he smiles down at me from the second shelf of the bookcase in my study as I write. I believe he used to have fur, but now, as with the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, it’s all been “loved off.” He used to speak when you squeezed his tummy, but he hasn’t said a word in years.
I’ve lived in five countries and many more homes, and along the way, furniture styles have changed, lifestyle has been minimized or enlarged, bags of stuff have been donated to the Salvation Army, but Big Billy remains. He is one of the few things, after my family and dogs, I would grab if we were ever threatened by fire. Sometimes I wish he could speak. I know I whispered things to him as a child that I’d love to remember now. Do you have a Big Billy? Perhaps for you it was a blanket or some other toy?
Why do you think we do that as children? Why do we cling to one thing that brings us such comfort? I believe that it is the earliest sign that we long for God.
We are born with an innate longing deep inside to connect to something or someone who understands us completely.
It’s a longing that began in the garden of Eden. When the perfect, intimate relationship that Adam and Eve shared with God broke, the longing began. Before that devastating moment, there was no longing because God walked with us in the cool of the evening. Life in fellowship with our Creator was as it was supposed to be. Our hearts had no gaping hole because God was everything to us. He walked with us. That distant memory still courses through our DNA.
There is a quotation that’s been ascribed to G. K. Chesterton, St. Francis, and St. Augustine, but the only documented source of this quotation I can find is in the book The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall (1945). It reads, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”2 The first time I heard a speaker share that quote, I thought, What a bunch of baloney! That’s just a nice way for a man to justify his lust by saying, “Yep, I saw the red light, but really, I was just looking for Jesus!” But the more I’ve sat with it, the more I believe it’s true. I believe we search for God with all our longings and all our lusts.
The woman who has a hundred pairs of shoes in her closet is longing for more than foot fashion.
The one who reaches for another drink until the day is obliterated is longing for more than just an alcohol-induced coma.
When you shove one more cookie into your mouth that no longer even tastes good, it’s not because you are hungry for cookies; you are hungering for more.
The one who takes another pain pill after the original pain is gone is trying to quiet a pain that will never permanently respond to medication. When one disappointing relationship leads to another and another, yet you keep moving on, perhaps it’s not that you haven’t met Mr. Right yet, but the One you long for is above them all. Every longing that we try to satisfy apart from God will always fall short because, as Augustine of Hippo wrote, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”3
That almost seems a little sneaky of God. He placed us in a world surrounded by a million and one temptations, knowing that not one of them will ever fully satisfy us apart from Him. It’s either sneaky or the most radically beautiful love story ever told. Just as God in Christ pursued us through the mud and mire, the beatings and the bloody path up to a cross, He calls us now to pursue Him. Not only that: He promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him. So this is not a cruel joke. No, this is a promise written in the Lamb’s blood.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord. — Jeremiah 29:11–14 NIV
That’s a beautiful promise, and I believe it. It’s one thing to believe that something is true; it’s quite another to live, to stay, to remain in its truth. I have believed that what Augustine wrote is true for most of my adult life. I just haven’t known what to do with it. How do you rest in God? What does that even mean? Honestly, that’s what led to writing this book. I know that underneath the rubble of the chapters of my story, the true longing of my heart is for God and Him alone.
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During his lifetime King David watched his kingdom rise to the heights promised to Abraham. Heady days, those. He defeated vast armies and watched as God interfered with the plans of those who attempted to take him out, restoring him once more to the throne of Israel. David allowed his longings to lead him into the kind of sin that caused death and devastation to others. Humbling days. Yet Paul, the great apostle, said,
God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’. — Acts 13:22 NIV
As we’ve turned through the pages of David’s life, we’ve seen sin, but we’ve also seen humility, worship, trust, hope, repentance, strength, and love. The greatest gift of King David’s life to me is this: his absolute trust in the goodness and mercy of God no matter what raged around him. David’s story reminds me that it’s not how you start life that matters; it’s how you finish. When Samuel the prophet came to anoint the next king, you’ll remember that David’s father didn’t even think to include him. He was just the boy in the field with the sheep. I was just the girl who walked in her sleep and had nightmares that her dad wasn’t really dead and would come back and finish her off.
What about you? What occurred in the first couple of chapters of your life that has caused you to count yourself out? I believe that’s going to change. As I travel around the world, I see that God is raising up a ragtag army of women. We don’t look like much to be concerned with, but we are mighty. We are the ones who are tired of listening to the enemy’s no about our lives and are ready to believe God’s yes!
Saying yes is the passionate pursuit for the rest of my life, this calling of God’s daughters to live a better story, a bigger life. Whatever your path has looked like up until this point (unless there is a white chalk mark around your body), it’s not too late to change, to rise up and be the woman God has called and created you to be. You are not defined by the past. You are qualified by the great I Am.
As I charted the course of this manuscript, I did so with an awareness of several things in my life. I knew that the longings I’ve had in the past for protection or closure have led to dark, difficult, and dead-end places. Anytime I’ve expected to find complete fulfillment in another person or situation, I have always experienced disappointment. I know, too, that the desperate desire of my heart is to navigate through the maze of this messy world to find the One who loves me as I long to be loved. Those two realities have driven me. I’m not one who writes as an expert on a subject. I’m one who writes out of a hunger to understand.
As I sit at my desk today and look back on my life, I see two inescapable things: the brokenness of my choices and the faithfulness of God. I so want you to see this, girls! In the worst days of my life, living with the poorest choices I could have ever made, God was there. He never left me. He never sat back and said, “Well, you did it again. That was your last chance!” He’s never left you either — never did and never will. His love for us isn’t based on our perfect performance, but on the perfect love He has for us.
God is for you 100 percent. He loves you and welcomes you just as you are. He will never turn away from you, never be too busy, never stop listening, and never choose to be with someone else rather than you. One of the attributes of our great Father is that He is omnipresent. He is with you right now just as He is with me. But unless you believe that, you’ll never trust Him with your deepest longings. Instead you will try to satisfy your longing outside of who He is and what He provides.
So that’s the choice. Will you believe?
- Miguel de Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J. E. Crawford Flitch (n.p.: SophiaOmni Press, 2014), 145.
- Bruce Marshall, The World, The Flesh and Father Smith, book club ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1945), 108.
- Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, book 1.
Excerpted with permission from The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God by Sheila Walsh, copyright Sheila Walsh.
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Take a moment to think about your deep longings. How might those be in reality longings for God? Come share with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you about the disappointment that comes from any other source of fulfillment but Jesus! ~ Devotionals Daily