Longing for God


Nothing on this earth can compare to the glory and fulfillment of our Creator; it's only in Him that we can find true meaning.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2).

Here I will discuss the spiritual source of motivation that I believe is the least commonly experienced: the longing for God Himself.

Moses’ great prayer in the wilderness was “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (Exodus 33:18); the psalmists cultivated a passion for God’s presence and understood that anything of true value comes from His hand; the sages who wrote the wisdom literature stressed that nothing at all can compare with knowing God; the prophets were overwhelmed with the splendor and majesty of God and endured ridicule and rejection in order to be pleasing to Him; Jesus taught His followers to hunger and thirst more for God’s kingdom and righteousness than for anything else; the apostles’ deepest longing was to behold the infinite lover of their souls.

Longing to see God and to enter His consummate presence is an oft-repeated theme in the writings of the great saints in the history of the church, but it is rarely seen in the Christian literature of this century. In my own experience, I find myself longing to long for God in the way some of these men and women did. Six hundred years ago, for instance, Julian of Norwich, in her Revelations of Divine Love asked God for the three faithful wounds of contrition for her sins, compassion for others, and an intense longing for God. She wrote:

At the same moment the Trinity filled me full of heartfelt joy, and I knew that all eternity was like this for those who attain heaven. For the Trinity is God, and God the Trinity; the Trinity is our Maker and keeper, our eternal lover, joy and bliss—all through our Lord Jesus Christ... We have got to realize the littleness of creation and to see it for the nothing that it is before we can love and possess God who is uncreated. This is the reason why we have no ease of heart or soul, for we are seeking our rest in trivial things which cannot satisfy, and not seeking to know God, almighty, all-wise, all-good. He is true rest. It is His will that we should know Him, and His pleasure that we should rest in Him. Nothing less will satisfy us... We shall never cease wanting and longing until we possess Him in fullness and joy. Then we shall have no further wants. Meanwhile His will is that we go on knowing and loving until we are perfected in heaven... The more clearly the soul sees the blessed face by grace and love, the more it longs to see it in its fullness.

C. S. Lewis in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, related true joy to what he called Sehnsucht or "longing." In The Weight of Glory, he spoke of the stab and pang of acute longing as homesickness for a place and a time we have not yet visited that is beyond the edge of the imagination:

The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last... Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

There have been times when a walk in the woods, a painting, a photograph, or a piece of music created a sudden and profound sense of longing within me. When I thought about it, I realized that in each case, the vehicle that caused the longing pointed not to itself, but to that which is beyond the created order, to God Himself. These are fleeting moments, but they are enough to remind me of the reality of my pilgrim status and to awaken desire for something more than anything this world can offer.

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth


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