Oh, Christmas time! There are many parts of this season I love! Decorating. Putting up the Christmas tree. Visiting and sharing meals with family. Enjoying festive lights. Receiving Christmas cards and hearing from friends and family. Giving gifts. Singing and listening to Christmas music. Celebrating Jesus’ birth.
This Christmas, as I thought about Advent — a time of anticipation and longing for our Savior’s birth — I became more aware of the word “yearn.” I started to think about yearning and longing as we studied Psalm 63:1 in our last Bible Study, Falling in Love Again with Your Lord. The psalm starts with David longing for God: “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You” (Psa. 63:1 NASB). “Lord,” I asked, “what does it mean to yearn for you?”
The Lord, in His lovingkindness, opened my eyes to how hard it is to know what longing looks like unless you have experienced the opposite: not having, not wanting. The example He used for me was through my children this Christmas. When I asked them what they wanted for Christmas, neither of them could give me helpful guidance. Parents with small children are still in the phase of their kids wanting a long list of toys, games, or electronic devices. But my children are teenagers. The “magic” is long past. And the truth is there is nothing they really want because they already have it.
Humans are experiential creatures. It is hard for us to understand that which we have not experienced. God, our loving Father, our Creator, knows this about us – and so He sent Jesus, His only Son, to come in human likeness so that we could relate to Him. Jesus’ life, His actions, His words, His death, His resurrection – all were observed and experienced by real people and recorded for generations to come, so that we, too, might experience Him, encounter Him in the written record of the Scriptures.
After thinking through all of this, I am beginning to develop gratitude for the valleys I’ve endured in my life. I’m grateful for the trials and the sorrows. I’m grateful I have known times of suffering, because without them, I would not know what it is to long for change, for deliverance. I am grateful that the Lord has opened my eyes to my sin or I would never long for the Lord to rescue me from that sin. I can relate to Paul as he writes: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).
I am in a season of life in which I do not yearn for God. It saddens me to admit this. I think the reason I do not yearn for Him is because I am too self absorbed, too dedicated to serving my own wants and needs and feeding my flesh. I yearn for what is easy and comfortable. I do what I want to do, and as a result, serving God and others are distant priorities. A.W. Tozer said, “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.” I am guilty of the sin of complacency.
I need the Lord. I need time with the Lord. These statements are facts, they are truths. I am guilty of trying to remove God from His throne and sit there myself. I make time to text and email family and friends but not to spend time in God’s Word and pray. God tells us that in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psa. 16:11)! Why do I not believe Him?
A friend told me about a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life. She explained that the purpose of the book is to help the reader choose one word to establish the core of the reader’s focus and intention for the coming year. I have not read the book, but I already know my word: yearn. I pray that God will give me a fresh desire to know Him. 2016 has been a very hard year. But I trust God will use the hard times to carve out in my heart a deeper need for Him, to help me yearn for Him, first and foremost.
Growing in Grace