Sometimes longings are revealed in unconventional ways. Recently, I read an article in the Washington Post about life in Baghdad, Iraq. Torn apart by years of war, the story told of a city experiencing once again moments of peace and with it a sense of joy.
Our world is currently experiencing an unprecedented amount of turmoil. Across the globe, people are fleeing war, enduring corrupt and power-hungry leaders, and living in the midst of societies polarized by different cultural viewpoints. It is a time of unease that runs deep. Nothing seems normal anymore. Like having a low-grade fever, you know you don’t feel right, but you just keep going, hoping soon you will feel yourself again.
What intrigued me about my reaction to the article is the substance of what was described as a return to normal life was anything but normal to me. The description of heavy drinking, the club scene, and sexual liaisons made me sad because I know these do not provide true freedom and peace. But isn’t that the road many people take in an attempt to find comfort and peace in their lives? While that would not be my pursuit, the longing is distinctly familiar. And that is what resonated with me in the article.
The vast migration of people we have witnessed for the past few years, those fleeing war, poverty, and hopelessness, is a search for something better. They believe it can be found within the borders of other nations, so they risk most everything to find it. They long for peace and a better life.
On campus, young people search for acceptance and validation, sometimes going to extremes in part to test those around them to see if they are valued regardless of their appearance or behavior. What they long for is unconditional acceptance.
In our nation, the cultural temperature is hot. Like an August heat wave, it is withering and saps one’s strength. I am weary of the posturing and the lack of tolerance of those with whom we disagree. I long for the cool breezes of moderation and grace.
These various longings can be traced to one Source, to the One who created us. He created us to exist in a perfect realm. It is written into our DNA. Since the Fall, humankind has had a longing to return to that for which we were designed—a sinless world. But, like groping in the fog, it is difficult to find our way back. The terrain is daunting, and our hearts are weak. As C.S. Lewis famously said, we are far too easily pleased. In essence, we seek to satisfy our eternal longings with temporal diversions. But to no avail. The longings continue to persist regardless of our personal circumstances. And even if these circumstances change more to our liking, our longings will soon reappear. The eternal can never be satisfied by the temporal.
We are meant for something far greater and divine. That was established in the Beginning and re-established by our Lord when he said,
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3 NIV)
Our deepest longings, if they are exposed, involve being in the presence of our Creator and Lord. Instinctively, we know life is meant to be far better for us. But our enemy offers up many counterfeits with promises that he knows cannot be fulfilled. They serve only as distractions that obscure what can truly satisfy.
As a follower of Jesus, I find comfort in my longings even in the midst of upheaval in my life. It is a sign of better things to come regardless of the wait. It is why the Hebrew writer exhorts us to fix our eyes on Jesus in the midst of our troubled world. Our longings are for him and he is the only one who can satisfy them.
© Jim Musser 2018