Hope is what we crave, and that will never change
- For KING & COUNTRY
Confession time. I get frustrated with life.
I guess most people do, though no one admits it. Life - the simple day-to-day of living, breathing, eating, sleeping and the billion and one things in between - is prone to frustration a good deal of the time. I find my list of things to do growing longer than my list of things done, whilst my temper grows shorter with questioning and/or loudness from younger siblings. When my day - that could hardly be called organized to begin with - is blown apart by the unexpected, I'm inclined to huff and grump as I "die to self" in "serving others". I paste on a smile, I do the errands, I work at the chores, I talk with clients, all the while playing the "good Christian witness" yet on the inside all I want to do is run away to a cabin in the middle of nowhere about a hundred thousand miles from the nearest human soul. Look, peasant, if only you knew how close I was to strangling the living daylights out of humanity right now...
That's just the outside. On the inside, the mess is even bigger. I focus on my failing at being the Christ-centred, Spirit-filled active child of God bringing His Kingdom culture wherever I go (not five minutes ago I full on screamed because of a slight change to my afternoon. Yeah. Real mature). I beat myself up over my lack of kindness, selflessness, and consideration of others, all the while the deepest desires and dreams of my heart rot in the corner underneath a pile of washing I should have hung hours ago. Busyness keeps me occupied and out of my brain; away from the haunting questions and the yearning of my soul for something more.
Some years ago during a time of intense longing and discontentment, I read a book called Desire by John Eldredge. He spoke about the depths of the human heart, and the hope that God placed there for His presence; the void, if you will, that only He can fill. It was a very raw and messy read, with the author exposing himself very openly about the struggles of human desire. Having concluded by the middle of the book that life and all its pleasures could not satisfy our deep hunger for "something more", he went on to make a statement that struck me, and continues to have a profound effect on the way I see life. He said:
"The fact is, at this point in our journey, we have only three options: 1) to be alive and thirsty, (2) to be dead, or (3) to be addicted. There are no other choices."Essentially, he's saying that we all have desires. We all have dreams of living a fulfilled and satisfying life; a yearning to be and achieve things unimaginable with unfathomable hopes and aspirations that we dare not entertain for long. Why? Because if life has taught us one frustrating thing, it's that hopes get disappointed. Dreams don't come true. Hope is wasted. So what do we do?
On the one hand, we kill our desire. We bury ourselves up to our neck in anything but what we long for; things that are - at best - kind of likeable but never our passion. Things we sort of enjoy but never love. Anything to distract us from the hope and the hole in our heart, that gnawing hunger within us we are desperate to ignore. So we live dead, insipid, boring lives being cynical about everything. As we busy ourselves and fill our ears with the sound of our own activity, eventually the voice of our dreams quietly dies, until one day you're sitting in a chair without any idea of what you want any more. You have nothing but the lonely hollowness of a now empty heart.
On the other hand, we feed our desire. We throw any and everything to our appetites. Food, excitement, play, comfort, material possessions, sin, the works. Maybe if will fill ourselves up on every pleasure the world has to offer, it will make a difference to the yawning cavity inside our hearts. Gorge on every sinful delight and every promise of success until you feel ready to burst, but it only seems to make you hungrier. This doesn't just apply to worldly offers either. Christianity will give you plenty of opportunities to "serve", whether you're lapping up music practises, kids' ministries, hospitality, conferences, concerts, speaking engagements, and whatnot. You end up so overwhelmed and burnt out you doubt you even want what you dream for any more.
In the middle however, we have holy longing. For the past couple of weeks, I have had the keenest understanding of just how little the world has to offer, and how much joyful bliss there will be someday in heaven. I long for heaven, for home. I miss it though I've never been there. In this lies the key to understanding what it is to desire things in life, and how that must first be found in knowing the One who satisfies the desires of every living thing (Ps. 145:16). The Christian life is marked by waiting. We are waiting for Christ's return, and whilst this should not be an excuse for inaction or laziness in His kingdom, it does show us why living in this world can feel so empty at times. This is not our home. This is not where we belong, and what fills it cannot be expected to fill us.
There is actually a sweet pain in longing if we will let it draw our hearts homeward. (Eldredge)So when I feel alone and I dream of being married, I understand that a relationship will not fill me. That's not what I truly desire. When I'm down and all I want to do is eat cake, icecream and a whole box of chocolates, I recognize it's not my stomach that is hungry, it's my soul. When I've had a hard night and I still feel tired when I wake in the morning, I can see that it's not sleep I need, it's the rest that only God can give my spirit. Desire, yearning, longing... all of it points back to our destiny of heaven, that we were made to be in the presence of God, gazing at His face and receiving from Him all that we would ever need or want. What truly desire, is Him.
We were made to crave. We were made to never be quenched. God has set eternity in the heart of mankind (Ecc. 3:11). It's not surprising then that we live with an insatiable desire for things not of this world. In fact, it would be a crime if we ever found that we were truly satisfied and content whilst alive on this earth.
There is a widespread belief in the church that to be a Christian somehow satisfies our every desire. As one camp song has it, "I'm inright, outright, upright, downright happy all day long". What complete nonsense! Augustine emphasized, "The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing. What you desire ardently, as yet you do not see." So, "let us long because we are to be filled... That is our life, to be exercised by longing." There's the mystery again. Longing leads to fullness somewhere down the road. (Eldredge)We need to feel our desires; to feel deeply the weight of our dreams, our hopes, and the treasured wants we hold close to our hearts. We have to. For if we can no longer feel the vacuum in our souls for the eternal presence of God, how are we to know Him? To kill our desires, and to numb ourselves to our dreams is to smother the very voice of God calling for us to come to Him. How then are we to live? Romans puts it like this:
We know that everything God made has been waiting until now in pain, like a woman ready to give birth. Not only the world, but we also have been waiting with pain inside us. We have the Spirit as the first part of God’s promise. So we are waiting for God to finish making us his own children, which means our bodies will be made free. We were saved, and we have this hope. If we see what we are waiting for, that is not really hope. People do not hope for something they already have. But we are hoping for something we do not have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently. (Rom. 8:22-25 NCV)We wait, and we groan. The pain of our spirit's utterances we may not always understand (Rom. 8:26), however in the words of John Eldredge, "How can we live without groaning? If we do not give our ache a voice, it doesn't go away." We must give ourselves permission to grieve. To feel the ache of emptiness and longing. To let our desires be sharpened by pain, so that we may turn to the only One who can fulfil those desires. We must live hungry, yet with the assurance we will be filled.
Manna kept overnight did not last. God only gave enough for each day. We cannot hoard success, cannot hold onto these earthly things we wish to keep, even those times when heaven comes so close: in the laugh of a baby, in a friend's warm hug, in the fellowship of loved ones, or in the thrill of a grand sunset. They don't last. We need to let them go, and trust in our good, good Father, the giver of all good gifts, who loves to bless His children.
I have lost my grip on desire. I am out of touch with those dreams God placed within me. I have buried them beneath the sounds of the devil whispering insecurities in my ear, beneath my busyness, beneath feeling productive, or wanted, or useful. I've come to that panicked place where I can't hear their cries anymore, but I know that my God is faithful; He has been waiting for me to stop and rediscover them. He will take my hand and lead me back to that painful place of passion, where my deepest loves collide with the impossible. I will hurt again. I will feel the void. But that is okay. If His presence is there, it is enough. I need only remember: He is coming back... and He will carry me Home.
Homes are taken away from us, times change; all of which remind us this is not our home. What you felt really didn't come from those places in and of themselves. They are echoes of heaven. If you chase the echoes, you will never find what you were looking for. Men have driven themselves mad that way. But if you chase the real thing, and set your mind on eternity, you can find much of what you thought you had lost. - Brendan Hanley
It's written on my soul
Hope's what we crave
And hope's what You gave
- For KING & COUNTRY