I want to run away from these words. I hit “publish” so you wouldn’t feel alone when your hopes rise and fall in a tumble of confusing might-have-beens.
It’s embarrassing to admit after thirteen years of one-lined tests that sometimes I still find myself entertaining a glimmer of hope that my situation might change. It’s a small hope, nearly nothing really. But that doesn’t seem to matter. It will still swell and grow and cloud my memory of the way things have always been. I spent a week wondering if maybe everything I’d fought to squelch down over the past decade would find room to breathe in the way of Sarah or Rachel. Hannah. Elizabeth. Every alarm went off in my head—don’t do it. Don’t unlock that door. Hope doesn’t live there.
But I did it anyway. And now I’ve added an extra padlock to the door because the answer was no. The answer is always no. And deep down, I know that the answer will likely always be no because for some reason I cannot fathom, God is more glorified this way, in this continual no. I pressed down the feeling of disappointment as I tucked my kids into bed last night. There’s no reason or room for complaining here in this house where we tuck in our answered prayers with comforting regularity.
I just wanted to see You do it, I told the Lord later when I climbed into bed. I turned this way and that trying to find a position that lessened the familiar grip of physical pain clenching my lower back. It’s not that You can’t. I know You can. Why wouldn’t You do it? It’s not like it’s hard for You. I just wanted to see You do it.
How can a thirteen-year-old wound still reopen with such presence? I thought it was closed up tight. Most of the time it is. So when it opens after such a long time, I’m caught off guard by the way it rubs against my faith. I’m surprised that the remembered pain is just exactly the way it feels now. I turned over on my side and wedged a pillow between my knees to relieve the pressure of a painful back spasm that, to be honest, hurt a lot less than the ache in my heart. I turned out the light and prayed for sleep to come before the sadness swallowed me whole.
Morning dawned gray but not without mercy. I sat on the couch during the early morning hours with my coffee cup and my Bible. I pondered the words of Paul as I read all the way through Ephesians. I pictured him writing from jail. His chains were for our good, he said, and he was right. We needed him to sit in jail and pen the words about who we used to be before Jesus made our hearts new. We needed him to sit in one place and encourage us to be who we are, who we really are in Christ. Like his original readers, we need the reminder that God has given us Himself and that He is always enough.
Maybe the tears on my face haven’t dried up just yet. Maybe the no still stings as much at thirty-six as it did at twenty-four. Maybe the Lord’s path for me will never include the thing I only pray for when I think no one is looking. Maybe a year from now I’ll still feel disappointed in the no. Maybe.
But this I know to be true: God has blessed me with a lot of physical blessings as well as every spiritual blessing. He has lavished His love upon me. He has breathed life into my dead body and resurrected my dead heart. He has secured my inheritance.
He withholds no good thing from His children, He says (Ps. 84:11). So how does that measure up when the good things I’ve longed for still go missing? If He had satisfied my every physical longing with every physical blessing, I might not feel the hollowness inside, might not learn to name it. Having every desire met might distort my vision of what it is I need. It might keep me from seeing just how much I need Him. Him. The Giver, not the gifts.
There’s blessing in the longing.
I feel like that’s the most upside-down sentence I’ve ever written, so I’ll say it again to make sure I believe it: There’s blessing in the longing.
Longing reminds me that the things I want in this life are unlikely to fill my heart. Good things, even, can turn my heart away from loving Christ the most. If their absence requires me to keep cracking open this heart of mine before the Lord and letting Him tell me what’s most important, then let them be absent. If it keeps sending me back to the Word for what I need the most, let the test always carry a single line.
There is blessing in the longing, it’s true. Oh, it hurts like someone’s bulldozed your imagined future until all that’s left is rubble and chaff. It hurts. But the ache, the longing, the desire for something to be sealed up is an internal reminder that what we long for the most is the One who spoke our very lives into being.
It’s always been Him beneath the ache. It will always be Him.
I don’t know what your heart is longing for today. I kind of hate the fact that the things I think I’ve conquered can pull me back to a place of mental reorganization. I slide the file labeled “infertility” back to its corner, hoping I don’t have to pull it out anytime soon. Maybe you feel that way about the thing you’ve just thought of without even trying. Didn’t take long to conjure up that void, did it?
Here’s the good news: it’s not really a void. It’s a reminder.
Paul says in Ephesians 3 that because of Jesus’ work at the cross we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.” So you see, it’s not really a void. Unmet desires make it feel like a void, but you can’t be empty when you’re filled with the fullness of God.
No, you can’t be empty when you’re filled with the fullness of God.No, you can’t be empty when you’re filled with the fullness of God. Click To Tweet