Let’s talk about longing for a minute.
During the pandemic, I have spent the most amount of time by myself probably since high school 😂 It was really uncomfortable at first; I’m used to bee-bopping around town getting stuff done, seeing people, cramming my schedule … you can resonate, right? Life screeched to a halt and we were all confronted with how to handle life without. Without jobs, income, friends, family gatherings, community and church.
The daunting reality was that living “without” was to become our normal.
We’ve lived in isolation pods for a year, limiting contact and restraining ourselves from very natural human desires to connect. But now when I do get to hang out with people (which tends to be more these days now that the vaccine is making its way across the country and spring temperatures make outside gatherings bearable), I can breathe deeper and the feelings of isolation melt away for a few hours.
However, at the end of the night, there’s still longing in me.
It’s the longing to really connect and live in community consistently again.
It’s the longing to settle down for the night with a spouse.
It’s the longing to be rid of fear of infecting others.
It’s the longing to gather freely without restrictions
… the list could go on.
I’ve wrestled with these questions in recent months, and hope to walk you through some things I’ve been learning as a single woman in a pandemic.
Yes! In the Bible, we see many people long for something. Hannah longs for a son. David longs to be remembered by God. Paul longs to be reunited with his friends. Countless examples of people crying out to God with their longings. It is okay to have longings.
So often I can think that my longings should be trumped by trust in God. “If I long for something, it means that I don’t trust.” Right? Wrong! Based on the characters I mentioned in scripture, even people of great faith longed for things. They told God about them. They wrote letters to people telling them about it. They spoke prayers in the temple about it, and they wrote songs of desperation about it. I think I’m in good company writing this blog post! Let me say it again: it is okay to have longings.
Consider this: What are you longing for that you’re scared to ask God for? Can you begin humbly asking Him today?
This always has to be a question for your heart, measured against scripture. Philippians 4:8 encourages us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
This is our measuring stick as believers! Bring your longing before God and ask, “Is it true to your Word? Is it honourable in the sight of you and others? Is it just? Is it pure? Is it lovely and good? Is it commendable? Is it excellent or worthy of praise?” Through the conviction of the Spirit, the Lord will help you discern those answers!
Consider this: Even if longings meet all the criteria, we have to be careful that they don’t turn into idols.
Elisabeth Elliott once said, “Let my longing not slay the appetite for my living.” I’ve come back to that quote many times in my life, and I want to embody that quote fully! Because Psalm 16:5 says, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot”, we can confidently trust that wherever the Lord has us, there is purpose in it. It’s tempting to waste time waiting on the next season, going about life grumpy and sad over all the things we haven’t achieved or received. But life with Jesus is wayyyy more satisfying than that lifestyle! We can hold longings in our hearts and tell God about them, while also not shying away from what is right in front of us. Even if it isn’t what we thought it would look like.
Consider this: are there ways you’re holding back from really living because you’re so consumed with your longing?
One thing I’m learning is that life won’t be like this forever. The feelings will always dissipate, the pain will heal, the hardship will either ease or produce fruit in you someday. So, I’ll say it again, life won’t be like this forever! At the same time, if we’re always chasing an easy life rid of complication, busyness or overwhelm, we’ll be exhausted in the pursuit. So, throw yourself into your season wholeheartedly, because although life won’t feel like this forever, these days won’t last forever.
Consider this: how has your live improved since COVID? Have you had more time to read? Have you gone on more walks? Think on the benefits that the slower pace has brought.
Body clocks, dating relationships, career moves, vaccine appointments, mask mandates … we all want control of something, and most of those are out of our control! By now, we should be used to throwing up our hands in surrender of the way we thought life would be.
Psalm 145:16 says, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” This verse tells us that it’s the hand of God that feeds us and provides for us. If God’s hands are open to satisfy us with himself, we should have open hands to receive. If our hands grip tightly, we’re unable to receive what He has for us.
I’ll be honest, this is a really hard one for me. I desire to be a wife one day; to love and serve and walk with a man through the ups and downs. Many would caution me and say, “But marriage is hard. Wait for the right one.” And though I’m thankful for that advice, enjoying so many aspects of life right now and thankful that I’ll be a more mature me when I marry someday, it doesn’t take away the longing or the times I feel left behind (and I’m not talking to you, Tim LaHaye!). I could meet my future husband next week, or it could be eight years from now. That thought scares me because it strips me of control. And that is hard for a planner like me! So, my continual prayer is that God would give me joy in a season I would’ve never chosen but that I wouldn’t trade; that He would use me how He wills; that He would keep me humble and tender-hearted, not closed off and scared; and that He would pry my controlling hands open to receive the goodness He has in store through life in the Spirit.
Consider this: Are your hands open or shut? Are you holding onto something out of fear? How can you shift your perspective and fully embrace this season?
I believe the answer to this is a fat NO! Contentment doesn’t mean being rid of longings and desires. But, it’s simply putting them in the right place in your heart.
Are you really happy with your entry level job right now but are patiently climbing the ladder at work? You don’t have to believe the lie that hustling is supposed to be your life. It’s totally possible to balance the two.
Are you really content as a married couple without kids, but would like kids down the road? You don’t have to believe the lie that you need to rush. You can hold those two things at the same time, enjoying this season and being expectant for the next.
Are you enjoying your work and schedule as a single person but long for a spouse? You don’t have to believe the lies that you’re insufficient by yourself, and instead you can enjoy this season and wait on God for the next.
See? It’s possible. Society tells us that immediate gratification is best and we are not complete without our longings. But 1 Timothy 6:6 tells us that, “… godliness with contentment is great gain.” Let’s strive for that, friends!
I think generations before us longed too. David in the Bible even asks “How long, O Lord?” in Psalm 13:1. They longed for a Messiah. They longed for deliverance from their enemies. They longed for a promised land, God’s presence, freedom from slavery, rescue from persecution. Some generations even longed for 400 years for the Messiah before Jesus came on the scene. We’re not alone in these feelings.
Our ancestors didn’t do it well sometimes; nor do we. Like us, they sought to fill the longing with physical idols, kings, relationships and worldly goods. When you sense the longing today, don’t fill it with things that won’t satisfy, but take it to the Lord and allow Him to shape you. If you’re longing for something, it’s good to tell the Lord about it. He loves to answer prayers and He loves to teach in the midst of longing.
The Christian life means holding hard in one hand and happy in the other, and resting there. God holds it all, so we can trust Him!