Monday, January 3, 2011


How many great Christians have said memorable things on the subject of yearning. We suspect (and in some cases know) that this was because of profound personal experience with it: at once wonderful and awful, sometimes overpowering longing for something beyond.

Augustine said it, "Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till we rest in thee."

Luther spoke of sehnsucht --the intensity of longing.

Lewis said it in many ways, among them "“The experience is one of
intense longing ... this desire, even when there is no hope of possible
satisfaction, continues to be prized, and even to be preferred to anything else
in the world, by those who have once felt it.” One might argue that all of Narnia was the unfurling of this sentence.

No question that Augustine was talking about the soul coming to know God in this present world, but those of us who know God experience longing too. We long for the place where we finally fit, finally feel at home, finally have rest from our worries, happy fellowship with no tension, productive labor --when we finally and completely are able to fulfill that for which we are created.

As believers, we know that this longing is never fulfilled in this life. Yet, we keep looking for it here. We look for it in an irretrievable past --trying to "go home again." We look for it over the next hill of human notoriety or achievement, or the next geographic locale, or the next house, or the next amount added to our portfolio. We reach that particular place, and, like a mountain range, discover that there is another, higher peak beyond, the seeing of which creates even more longing.

Longing waxes and wanes, but its right target is the eternal kingdom of God. Our longing ought to cause us to cry out "Maranatha --come quickly, Lord Jesus." The whole creation longs for the revelation of the sons of God. We need consciously to target our longing in the right place, and work to cultivate contentment here in our present circumstances. When I figure out how that's done, I'll fill the rest of you in. The Puritans seemed to get it --they wrote some great and helpful little books. But, I am not yet where Paul was, content in every circumstances.

One of my chief sins, I think, is discontent. God help me. There is no pleasure in that particular sin, and yet I indulge it. Buddhism builds content by the destruction of yearning, and the acceptance of circumstance. To me, that is bleak beyond words. The Christian builds contentment by finding his joy in the source of all joy --communion with Christ. Yet, this is a cultivated discipline, and one which I need to pursue more diligently.

Those are my rambling Monday thoughts...


  1. Ken, well written!

    I think you answered your own question at the end - Communion with Christ and following him. I was rewarded through my study this past week of Jesus' feeding the five thousand when he told the disciples "They do not need to go away", i.e., Jesus himself would provide for the needs of those who cleaved to him, even in this life. That's a comforting thought! It doesn't do away with the yearning for what we're confident in for the future, but it does suggest our yearnings in the present can be filled by looking to Christ, who provides both rest and contentment.

    I always appreciate your writing. You have a gift!

  2. I think the hymn I just sang is relevant.

    from O For a Closer Walk with God by William Cowper

    vs 2 and 3

    Where is the blessedness I knew
    When first I sought the Lord
    Where is the soul refreshing view
    Of Jesus and His Word?

    What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
    How sweet their memory still!
    But they have left an aching void
    The world can never fill.