What do you long for in this life? Perhaps you long for love from a parent, a spouse, or a child. Maybe your desire is for something for others, or maybe your longing is based on a desire for yourself. True longings, meaning those deep desires based on the truth of who you are and who God is, are good things, even if they remain unfulfilled.
Jesus expressed deep longing. He longed for His children to come to Him and rest in the shelter of His arms: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37). You can almost hear the pleading in His words: please come to Me; please let me hold you and comfort you and protect you; please receive my love. But they were not willing, and His longing was not realized. Despite His longing being unfulfilled, He continued—and continues—to long for the same thing, His true heart’s desire to gather us to Him.
Just like Jesus, sometimes our longings are not realized, whether due to the choices of others, circumstances beyond our choosing, or even our own poor choices. But without Christ to guide us, walking on the path He walked where the longing was unfulfilled can be discouraging or feel hopeless, and we can get quickly caught up in the failings or sins of others and fall into sin ourselves. However, Jesus did not lose Himself or forget who He was in response to Jerusalem being unwilling to respond to His plea. He did not abandon His calling. He didn’t give up. He didn’t shut out those He longed for, turn His back on them, walk away, or stop loving them. He didn’t choose to suppress His heart’s desire and turn toward something else to “fulfill” Him in its place. He didn’t hide, deny, or blame. He continues to pursue His longing.
If we try to face our unrealized longings on our own, we may want to give up on something we truly desire. We may be tempted to reject someone who has disappointed us. We may want to retreat into self-protection, to hide ourselves away from being hurt, or to close and harden our hearts in order to shut out the feelings of a longing unrealized. This is not the example Jesus set for us. He calls us to walk the path of longing all the way to the cross with Him.
What does it mean, to walk the path of longing with Christ? I believe He wants us to share in His heart, and to fully share His heart and experience Him, we must walk with Him in both joy and difficulty, in both gain and loss. He desires us to be willing to love completely, no matter what. We are called to love, above all else – to love with His heart, as He loves us, which means seeing ourselves as He sees us, loving ourselves for who He made us to be, and valuing ourselves exactly as He values us. It also means loving others, even if they do not know how to love us, and seeing others through His eyes. It means choosing the loving thing to do in every circumstance, which means discerning with Jesus the answer to the question, “What is the loving thing to do?”
I encourage you to walk the path of longing hand in hand with the One who loves perfectly. Allow His love to guide your steps and listen for His voice to gently lead and correct you and sustain you during those times of unfulfilled longing. Ask Him to help you identify the loving thing to do in every situation, whether your longing is realized or not. Refuse to suppress or give up on your true longings, just as Christ did not give up on His longing for you. The closer you walk with Him, the more you will find peace, no matter what the outcomes or circumstances may be.