Is anything more disruptively unsettling or existentially challenging than having to deeply feel a desire that will never be fully satisfied in this life? It seems reasonable to assume that a good God who loves the human creatures He created would never build into them a longing that could not be satisfied, a thirst that would remain unquenched. God made a fish to breathe in water. There are lakes and oceans. He made people to need nourishment. So healthy food is available.
And yet He creates us with a desire to live in a perfect world where nothing goes wrong and to enjoy perfect relationships with no possibility of tension. Neither desire (and there are others, such as a desire for meaning that requires no suffering in its pursuit) finds complete satisfaction in this life. But He does promise the full satisfaction of every legitimately human longing in the next life, in the next world which Jesus assures us He will make wonderfully new when He returns to this world a second time. And He expects us to wait without complaining about unmet needs as we wait.
At the end of her life, Mother Teresa, dying a painful death after a half-century of never feeling as close to God as she so deeply desired, whispered, “God, it’s too much”. And then unable speak another word, motioned for a pencil and paper, and scribbled, “I want Jesus”, the Lord who never gave her the experience of His presence that she wanted so desperately.
And our hearts say, “God, your ways make no sense”.
But He is good. And He loves us. And He is fully in control of whatever He chooses to control. Could it be that the longing we experience as inconsolable in this life intensifies a thirst for what’s coming in the next life that keeps us from quitting on God in this one? Perhaps this is one of those thoughts that deserves a long unpacking.
Dr. Larry Crabb is a well-known psychologist, Bible teacher, speaker, popular author, and founder/director of NewWay Ministries. He is currently scholar in residence at Colorado Christian University in Denver and visiting professor of spiritual formation for Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta. Dr. Crabb and his wife, Rachael, live in North Carolina.
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