I was lonely for years.
I longed to remarry, but I didn’t want to admit it to anyone. Not even to myself.
I didn’t want to pin my hopes on something that might never happen. And if I never remarried, I didn’t want to look like I had wasted my life, hadn’t trusted God, and couldn’t be content. I’d be pitied. And embarrassed. I didn’t want that.
So I buried my feelings.
At times those stuffed feelings would resurface and I would ask God for a husband, journal about it, and pray fervently. Then I would try to forget about my longings, surrender them to God, and convince myself I didn’t want to be married anyway. I told myself, and other people, that it wasn’t important, that I was completely content, that I had come to terms with where I was.
That was a lie.
A lie I wanted to believe because it seemed that everyone who loved God was satisfied with their circumstances. Besides, it seemed better to deny a longing that might never be fulfilled than it was to keep longing. It certainly was less painful.
Others had accepted their unfulfilled longings. Regarding singleness. Or infertility. Or discouraging careers. They said that when they finally gave up on their desires, they gained a sense of stability.
Yet God knew my heart. He knew this longing was not going away. It was pointless for me to deny it.
And then God miraculously, wonderfully, unexpectedly fulfilled my dream. Beyond my wildest imaginings.
In two weeks I will wed a man I love deeply.
God gave me the desire of my heart. It has been amazing. And I will be forever grateful.
And yet in other things – with longings just as real and intense – God has not given me what I was yearning for. He has left me with unmet desires. Desires that may not be fulfilled this side of heaven. Desires that I may live with forever.
Right now I want a body that isn’t severely limited. With post-polio syndrome, I am deteriorating daily, much more rapidly than I am prepared for. Some days I wake up with intense pain, which gives way to a dull ache that drags throughout the day. On those days, my arms are limited to basic tasks like eating and dressing. If I can do them at all.
It’s been excruciating.
I have sobbed and questioned God, begging for deliverance. For me, as a “helper” personality type, serving has been one of my greatest joys. And when that role is reversed and I am the one that needs to be served, I feel uneasy. Uncomfortable. A burden. To be honest, I hate it.
I want to be the perfect fiancée who makes great meals, keeps a neat house and has boundless energy. A thoughtful mother who serves her children tirelessly. A dependable friend whom others can count on for anything.
But I often can’t be any of those things. Rather than serving, I have to be served. At the most inconvenient times.
Friends have encouraged me to relax and be content with my circumstances. To give up my longing for things to be different. They say that is the only way to have peace.
I wish I could. I have known for over a decade that my body is failing, yet it is still hard not to meet the physical needs of others. I am wired to serve. So whenever I can’t do that, and the roles are reversed, I grieve.
And in those moments, which are far too frequent for my liking, all I can do is cry out to God. Offer my longing up to Him. Ask Him to change the situation, or give me the grace to handle it.
Strangely enough, that process of crying out to God, and being honest about my pain, has drawn me to Jesus.
False contentment doesn’t do that. Quite the opposite, feigned contentment pulls me away from Christ because I can’t even see my need for Him.
My longings are real, and pretending they don’t exist would be inauthentic – before God and even myself.
My limitations do bother me. Every day. Yet whenever they do, I have an opportunity to surrender them to God. As an act of worship. They become my living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to Him. A precious gift that I can entrust to Jesus. An offering of faith and trust in the God who is ever for me.
The Bible says that godliness with contentment is great gain. God has given us our specific circumstances for a reason and we should not grumble or complain. We should make the best of what we’ve been given. We should learn to see His grace and find joy wherever we are.
At the same time, we shouldn’t pretend to be happy with difficult circumstances. It’s okay to want things to be different. I don’t want to squelch my longings, stuffing them down so deep that I am devoid of emotions and passion.
Contentment that is borne out of suppressing our true longings leads to empty platitudes at best and bitter hypocrisy at worst.
We all have longings. Crying out to God to fulfill them, or change them, or give us the strength to endure them, strengthens our faith. Denying our longings under the guise of contentment may keep us from pain, may look more spiritual, may make us less emotional, but can lead to spiritual deadness.
God may change my desires and bring lasting contentment even when He denies my cherished requests. That would be a great gift. But it does not always happen that way. And if it doesn’t, if I still feel those raw places in my soul, if I still long for something more, He may want me to lean into Him more closely, trust Him more fervently, and cling to Him more tightly. And that is a mercy as well.
Life is full of pain. Sometimes God miraculously delivers us. When He does, we rejoice and give Him glory. He makes all things new and brings beauty from ashes. Sometimes we aren’t delivered, but He gives us true contentment in our circumstances, so the world can see His peace and satisfaction. And sometimes He leaves us with a constant ache, a reminder that this world is not our home and we are just strangers passing through.
This relentless ache is what drives me to my knees, brings me to Jesus, makes me long for heaven. And perhaps in heaven, I will thank God most for my unfulfilled longings because they did the deepest, most lasting work in my soul.
With my upcoming wedding, I will not be writing here for a few weeks. I’ll be back sometime in March!