“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
“O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
We humans are embodied longing. We long ceaselessly for more, better, newest, and different. Gadgets, cars, houses, conquests, and experiences never fill the God-sized longing within us. We are always left wanting for more. Yet Scripture leads us to conclude that our problem is not wanting too much, but that we want too little. Our longing is not too excessive, but way too small.
Longing is everything, so rather than throwing cold water on the flames of our longing, I want to add fuel to the fire. The great writers on spirituality from the Psalmists to Augustine and C. S. Lewis all extoll the singular importance of longing. This is longing that encompasses God’s longing to unite us with Him and our deepest longing to settle for nothing less than God. We are summoned into this world by the force of God’s longing, and enflamed with longing, not because we are fallen, but because we are made in God’s image.
What we do with longing, how we channel it, will shape the course of our lives. Long before we do anything religious we have to do something with our longing. Notice how many of the news headlines have to do with the tragic misdirection of someone’s longing.
Longing burns at the heart of God’s Redemption story, yet how seldom do we think about this powerful engine that churns within us! Does longing not seem spiritual enough for us to talk about in church? Are we embarrassed, perhaps ashamed, that we long, and long insatiably?
Thomas Traherne has helped me sort through my thoughts about the longing God daily ignites in us. I first came across the writings of this little known seventeenth century churchman and writer as I was reading C. S. Lewis. Lewis described Trahern’s Centuries of Meditations as “almost the most beautiful book in English”. Today, as I thumb through my worn copy of the Meditations, I note that Traherne thought our longing to be the image of God stamped on us. Longing is God working in us, gracing us with a holy discontent with anything less than Him. Our deepest longings all point us in the direction of God.
Read Traherne’s words and ponder:
- “You must want like a God that you may be satisfied like God. Were you not made in His image?”
- “The soul is also inclined to possess all. Its longings cannot be satisfied by anything short of infinite perfection. It must possess God or be dissatisfied.”
- “It is of the nobility of man that he is insatiable. For he hath a benefactor so prone to give, that He delighteth in us for asking.”
Reading Traherne has led me to read the Psalms in a new light. Today’s two Psalm texts are written by spirited, passionate men (David in Psalm 63, and the Korahites in Psalm 42), who unleash their deep longing for God. Like wayfarers longing for water in the blistering desert they feel their souls burning for more and more of God. They are men who have longed for many things, but know that their deepest and best longing is for God. They have tasted enough of God to know they want more, and still more. God’s satisfaction for their longing will stir yet more longing. God longs for them to long infinitely so that He might satisfy them infinitely. Like the Apostle Paul they long “to be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
I consider the Psalmists and that rich fellowship of people longing for God, and I look for longing in my own life. Why am I satisfied with so little of God and His riches? I look for signs of longing in today’s church. We long for more money, more things, more exciting experiences; it never seems to end. But are we longing for God?
- Think of a time you longed for a person, thing, or experience. How would you describe that longing?
- Have you ever experienced the kind of longing for God that the Psalmists describe in today’s Scripture texts?
Because God longs for you to long for Him, He will give you more longing if you ask Him. Why not ask God today and everyday to set you afire with longing for Him. That would make Him very happy.
Grace and peace,
photo by indiawaterportal.org