Have you ever wanted something so badly your heart ached with each thought of it?
When we’re in this place, it seems like life would be so much more complete if we just had that one thing. We even begin to believe that one thing will bring us more happiness.
And eventually we can start living for one day instead of today.
Honestly, that would have been an understandable perspective for the people of God, who waited thousands of years for the prophecy of the Messiah to be fulfilled. As we work through the Bible together for the next 40 days, it will be easy for us to read this as a history book. But we must not forget the angst that the people of God would have felt. At times, it would have been excruciating waiting for these prophecies to be fulfilled. They waited. And waited some more. And waited even longer. They knew what it felt like to ache with longing for something that had not yet come to pass.
To prepare your heart for this study, identify some longings you have. These could be longings for your circumstances to change or even for a relationship to change. List whatever you have been hoping and praying for.
Longings are complicated feelings. They are desires with an intensity and drive behind them. They consume our thoughts, make us frustrated with others, and even make us question God.
It’s not that all longings are bad. But as we will see in our study, if we become so convinced that the only way for us to feel better is to get what we long for — our longings can become misdirected. We can end up seeking things outside of God’s best for us that have the false promise of fulfillment and satisfaction, but only bring more confusion, deeper bondage, and entrapment.
How can unhealthy motives driving your longings cause problems?
Our longings produce an ache within us, and the enemy loves to use this to tempt us to turn away from God and ultimately turn inward to satisfy our longings. Turning inward tempts us to look to things like food, relationships, money, and success for our satisfaction. But, these things, void of God, will leave us restless. James wrote,
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. — James 1:14-15 ESV
Scholar, pastor, theologian, and church father St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in You.”1 There is a spiritual and physical reality to our longing, and we see it play out in the human heart.
Physically our bodies long for food and water. It doesn’t take long for us to be desperate for both. And spiritually we have the same longings. Only for many of us, we live chronically dehydrated, looking to sources for satisfaction that were never meant to satisfy.
Read Amos 8:11-13 below.
“ The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.”
What type of famine did God predict? How will people respond?
God was promising to send a flood unlike any other. But it would not be a thirst for physical water. It would be a thirst for living water. The source of our living water is God.
In Jeremiah 2:13, we read:
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
The actual Hebrew word isn’t spring; it’s source. So we can actually read it like this,
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the source of living water… — Jeremiah 2:13
What are some broken cisterns that people are turning to in our world today? What does the Bible tell us that broken cisterns cannot do?
Remember what we just read in Amos. God tells His people there will come a day when they will thirst. They will thirst without being quenched. What are they really thirsting for? The same thing we are.
We’re thirsting for God. We’re thirsting for the living water of God.
But instead of going to His well of life, we keep digging broken cisterns seeking satisfaction from soiled substitutes. We keep trying to quench that deep-soul longing only God can quench. And I believe this misplaced seeking has led to an absolute famine in our land of the Word of God.
As we start this study together, identify some things you are hoping to learn or experience. Write out a prayer for God to meet you and satisfy the longing of your heart for Him.
Let’s pay attention to what we are using to try to quench our thirst. And then let’s resolve to turn to God and His Word — especially if we keep finding ourselves drinking from sources other than Him.
As we journey through the storyline of Scripture in 40 days, we find deeply rooted into the sentences, verses, chapters and books of the Scriptures the reality of longing fleshed out in very specific ways. Humanity essentially longs for eight things that we will discuss each week:
Week 1: Purpose
Week 2: Freedom
Week 3: Security
Week 4: Rescue
Week 5: Redemption
Week 6: Fulfillment
Week 7: Identity
Week 8: Christ’s Return
The pages of Scripture are filled with examples of humanity’s feeble attempts to find satisfaction through the pursuit of these eight longings. As we go through the Bible in 40 days, we will witness both the devastation and great joy of longing.
Oh friend, our souls were tailor-made to be filled with God and His truth. That means nothing else will be able to seep into every part of us. Nothing else will be able to refresh, restore, and transform us. Nothing else will ever truly satisfy our soul.
- Augustine of Hippo, “The Confessions of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff , trans. J. G. Pilkington, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 45.
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