How Can Unfulfilled Longings Be a Blessing?

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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!

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar
  • February 13, 2015 - 7:13 am

    tricia - congratulations on your upcoming marriage. I longed for a marriage, in fact more than anything, I gave up career, staying w enemies of my faith and endured trials, He still didnt give me one, He gave the ‘one’ to someone else, who probably didnt desire marriage as much as I. I still dont understand God, it doesnt go away, no matter how long or how much I try to act like it matters not. im not really content, tho im starting give up really and wonder if I just need to accept my circumstances. some obtain marriage so easily its like im wondering if its not really made for me. but the longing never leaves.ReplyCancel

    • February 13, 2015 - 9:09 am

      Vaneetha - Unfulfilled longings are so hard, Tricia. I understand that. I’m am praying as I write this that God will either fulfill your deep desires, grant you contentment, or wildly increase your love and dependence on Him through this.ReplyCancel

  • February 13, 2015 - 7:36 pm

    Rani - I came across an article by you on desiring God and hence forth I have been reading your blog. What you shared is so encouraging , thank you!
    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and may God continue to bless you!ReplyCancel

  • February 14, 2015 - 12:39 am

    Vashi - Feb 14 2015

    Wow! It is so wonderful to hear about your upcoming marriage. I wish you the very best and above all the Lord’s Blessings. I see a picture of God’s goodness to you and I rejoice.

    I am a Christian, an ex-Hindu, I am a businessman. I have longed to be a successful businessman. At 53, I do not see it happening. “As you wrote unfulfilled longings are so hard”

    Because of this unfulfilled longings, I have wanted to commit suicide. I could not understand Jesus. On one hand Jesus says “ask” “knock” “seek” , then HE ask us to compare the unrighteous Judge with the greater HIS righteous Father. He says can an earthly Father give a snake to the son who asks for an egg and the answer is of course not.
    Will my longings ever be fulfilled. I do not know. But each year that goes by I find my body is getting weaker. Will I have the strength? He promises that those who wait on HIM will renew their strength.

    So there is frustration. Yet there is Love also. He died for me. Wow!

    Jon Bloom says we walk by “faith and not by sight” and so I continue to wait. I weep in my struggles. I look at the people in CNN and BBC who have made it to the top and envy them. I am so weak.

    Yet I can only wait and I wait on my knees and in tears most often in a closed room. My wife is not a Christian and neither are my children. I have so much to pray for, yet I long for this silly little thing called “success”. The longings are there. Will I rejoice one day?

    Perhaps this is the year of the LORD’S favour for me and Tricia and for the countless others who are waiting for the fulfilment of their longings and desires. I shall pray for them.

    I am praying and rejoicing and thanking God for HIS goodness to you. Congratulations.ReplyCancel

    • February 23, 2015 - 3:58 pm

      Vaneetha - Vashi, how well I understand the pain of unfulfilled longings. It seems that they can envelope us and make us believe their fulfillment is all we need. I have found them all to be a mirage though- and once one is fulfilled I have another longing ready to take its place. And each brings its own ache. I pray that in the waiting, and the crying out to God, that you will find the sweetness of fellowship with Him.ReplyCancel

  • February 22, 2015 - 8:55 pm

    Sherria - This article blessed me and lifted a place in my soul where a longing has been suppressed. I like you never thought I’d be single at this age… this was not the plan. I’m surrounded by aging nephews and a niece, my young sisters in the faith are having children, and although God has given me so much, longing for a family of my own, especially over the past few years, has been difficult to reconcile. I found myself becoming extremely depressed, and have recognized that in this area, I do not trust God. It is the truth, and the truth is setting me free. I have nothing else to lose, but my faith cannot be lost. The fight is currently on, and it is a day to day journey, but this blog blessed me so much. Thank you so much for your transparency, and sharing the depth of your soul. This blog lifted me, and I truly appreciate and love you for being obedient to the awesome call on your life. Many blessings to you on your wonderful wedding day… I know God and the angels will be celebrating along with you. 🙂 Thank you for such a wonderful faith extender! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • February 23, 2015 - 3:50 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m so thankful this encouraged you. Faith can be such a fight, can’t it? Its hard to love and trust God when we live with unfulfilled longings…and yet they drive us deeper into the heart of God. Praying for you today.ReplyCancel

      • March 1, 2015 - 11:34 am

        Sandy Gregg - Thank you for this beautiful writing. Some are good at telling us to “be content in all circumstances” ….God wants us to have a best friend relationship with Him and that means utter honesty! He knows our thoughts before us…so I have learned to tell my best friend exactly how I feel. He is amazing and even has a sense of humor to Christians who act the part. I have also learned that God has put people in my life that have talents and gifts that can be used in my life…to accept these individuals to use their gifts allows me to exit my self and relinquish their help. Having our eyes and ears open at all times allows Gods incredible love to work.ReplyCancel

        • March 3, 2015 - 9:14 pm

          Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Sandy! God does want our utter honesty- He knows exactly how we feel anyway and we get such freedom when we can acknowledge it!ReplyCancel

  • March 1, 2015 - 3:09 pm

    Mimi - Congratulations Van! I was so excited when Melanie told me. Love this post. Thanks for reminding us to press into the arms of our Father.ReplyCancel

  • March 2, 2015 - 10:47 am

    Jennifer Napier - Dear Van,

    I’m so encouraged by your words. So edified to read them. When you came and spoke at church last year (in our Sweet Mercies Meeting) I had felt so burdened by the trials you have experienced. It was so refreshing to be at our last women’s meeting and hear that you were engaged! We cheered and whooped with delight. What a sweet thing to hear something so wonderful happen to you! And Mel, posted your picture walking down the aisle, newly married, and I want to weep with joy! Such happy news!

    Thank you so much for sharing about unfulfilled longings. I have been recently struggling with intense grief remembering my sister. Although it’s been almost 11 years I am still at a loss of words at times over the accident. I miss my sister and unborn nephew so much. I long to see them and I know I will when I’m on the other side… with Jesus, in Heaven.

    Thank you for sharing the following,

    “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.”

    I know I don’t grieve as one who doesn’t have hope. I have the Hope of Heaven… my Hope =Jesus!

    I’ve also longed for health for my 5 children. Michael has cerebral palsy and Samuel is a cancer survivor with significant hearing loss from chemo. I’m grateful they’re alive but there is so much struggle.

    I recently shared that my hope is not in my son’s cancer scan being clear… although I do hope that is the case… my hope is in God, His unfailing love and faithfulness. His promise to never leave or forsake me.

    Rejoicing with you and thankful for the honesty of your post. Thankful that the Lord is taking these longings and using them to refine me.

    XO,

    Jennifer NapierReplyCancel

    • March 3, 2015 - 9:09 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much for writing, Jennifer. Your words mean a lot as I know how you have suffered and how many longings have gone unfulfilled. I am ever thankful that one day there will be no more tears or pain, and all of our longings will be YES and Amen in Jesus. Waiting with you for that day dear sister…VaneethaReplyCancel

  • September 3, 2015 - 7:55 pm

    Junior Konadu - Thank you for being so honest about your struggles, i can relate alot to your post. god bless you.ReplyCancel

  • March 29, 2016 - 10:49 am

    ECoughlin - Thank you so much for writing this article. I am so blessed whenever I read your blog because you express exactly what I am feeling about many circumstances in my own life but can’t put in to words. The next time you are feeling that you aren’t serving the way you feel you should be, remember that every word that you write here serves all of us readers, to help us keep our focus on Jesus. Congratulations on your marriage, I pray you will be abundantly blessed in your new life!ReplyCancel

    • March 29, 2016 - 11:00 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Eunice! I’m so thankful the Lord is using this.ReplyCancel

  • April 12, 2016 - 2:58 pm

    Ondria - Wow! God is so good! I stumbled upon your blog through Crosswalk.com. I asked the Lord for some encouragement today and when I opened the main page of “Crosswalk” your article “Why You Should Stop Being Private About Your Pain” was the first one I saw. Your perspective on Naomi really hit home. What I have experienced in my life over the past few years has made me feel like Naomi. I never want to burden others with my struggles because I feel that I have to be the one to encourage. Through this article you have encouraged me to not be afraid of sharing my pain.
    Congratulations on your recent marriage and may God continue to bless you in many ways!ReplyCancel

    • April 12, 2016 - 7:42 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful this was helpful, Ondria. Naomi has been an good example for me too!ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2016 - 4:39 pm

    Sara - Vaneetha,

    I felt really encouraged by this article (and others I just read). At times I really struggle with embracing the truth that life is hard and at the same time remaining hopeful … the former is the easier part because it’s so obvious that life is hard, but I realize that pessimism contradicts faith in a good God. I always want to resolve things because it is so difficult to live in uncertainty. And because life is hard I feel that it’s safest to be prepared for the worst, which in turn leads to a loss of joy. And I think – perhaps because of your story – you have a wonderful way of being honest about struggles yet pointing your readers to hope. So thank you very much!

    Sara

    – PS: As an Anne of Green Gables fan I immediately thought that you are probably a “kindred spirit”! :))
    – PPS: I forgot to mention that I was also incredibly encouraged by the story of you getting remarried. As a single woman who has been lately digging up her longings it was so beautfiul to see that God is infinitely able to – well, do something about this, which I of course know to be true in theory… but to see a real life example was so encouraging.ReplyCancel

    • May 4, 2016 - 3:30 pm

      Vaneetha - I completely understand the balance between embracing what is and being hopeful things will change. Uncertainty can be crazy hard to live with- but it can push us into a deeper walk with God than certainty does. Because I guess we need to keep going back to Him- which is a blessing… Thanks for writing Sara!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2016 - 12:59 am

    Cecilia - I stumbled across this article – but I’m sure it was by God’s grace. Your words echo exactly the tug of war going on in my heart. One one hand, I think it’s easier to deny my longings and just focus on ‘serving God and church’. On the other hand, I agree that it has made me emotionally dead and spiritually dry. It does not satisfy at all.

    Reading your article has made me realise that it’s ok to struggle with unfulfilled longings – it doesn’t make me less of a Christian. It’s what I do during this struggle that is the key – do I let myself die spiritually and emotionally through denial, or do I cry but bring them to God and let Him speak to me?

    I thank God for using your words to minister and teach me. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2016 - 3:38 pm

      Vaneetha - Dear Cecilia – love the way you said this. “It’s okay to struggle with unfulfilled longings… It’s what I do during the struggle that is the key… do I cry but bring them to God and let him speak to me.” Your words were a blessing to me today. And you summarized that post very accurately and succinctly!ReplyCancel

  • January 2, 2017 - 12:50 am

    Berthine Canty - Vaneetha,

    With the start of a new year I don’t believe it is a coincidence that stumbled upon this post today. For many years I have battled infertility and I would say these past two years I have been living in feigned contentment. I have masked the desire for a child with sarcasm, and wit but God knows my heart even though I have tried to pretend. I am so glad I have read this today. I believe he brought me here to begin TRULY laying this desire at his feet. Thank you so much for your transparency. Congratulations as well!ReplyCancel

    • January 5, 2017 - 5:15 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m so thankful that this post ministered to you. It was a great lesson for me to learn as well- and really freeing! Praying as I write that God will meet you as you trust him with your longings.ReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2017 - 10:58 pm

    Tammy - Thank you so much for this post. I have been a follower of desiring God posts and have known of your book for a few months. I hope to get that soon as I think our stories are a bit similar. I have Cerebral palsy and at 40 married a Godly man but after 4 years of marriage and one year of separation I have lost my marriage, my home and all of our possessions.
    This line you wrote hit me between the eyes
    Contentment that is borne out of suppressing our true longings leads to empty platitudes at best and bitter hypocrisy at worst.
    I have so many longings that I suppress and suppress some more and tell myself that it doesn’t matter and I must just give up my dreams and longings. I must work on changing this by God’s grace! I too find that thankfulness is key and yes this ache that seems horribly strong sometimes…does draw me to Jesus!ReplyCancel

    • August 11, 2017 - 5:06 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry for your struggles, Tammy. You have been through so much. I am thankful that Jesus is comforting you as you cry out to him- I am praying you will sense His love and favor in a tangible way.ReplyCancel

  • July 30, 2017 - 12:25 am

    How Can Unfulfilled Longings Be a Blessing? » Vaneetha Rendall – Simone Samuels - […] Source: How Can Unfulfilled Longings Be a Blessing? » Vaneetha Rendall […]ReplyCancel

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