Our Scattered Longings
I’ve been thinking lately about my adolescent days. This is mostly likely because I spent the last week reading Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. It’s a heavy book (you can check out my Goodreads review here), and while my own story is quite different, it prompted me to think on the longings that have consumed me throughout the years.
Like most girls my age, I struggled with my own body. The number on the tag of my pants seemed like the gateway to true happiness. I scanned the girls in my middle school and high school and concluded If only I looked like her… The end of that sentence was long. I’d be happier. More comfortable. More adventurous. Confident. Assertive. And obviously no longer single.
I believed reaching my dream would cure me, but every time I grasped that ideal, I realized it never satisfied. There was always a need for something new to change.
After I got married and had my first child, I may have matured past the peer pressures of adolescence and became more comfortable in my body, but my longing for a fix for my life didn’t suddenly disappear. Instead it morphed into other hopes.
If only my child would reach that next milestone. If only this difficult parenting stage was over. If only we could get another weekend out alone. Yet each time the prize was won, I plopped another in its place. The carrot stayed perpetually suspended out of reach.
We all have those carrots. Sometimes they are a vacation, a completed project, the approval of a friend, a body size, a different house, or even a cleaner house.
It’s not always that these are bad goals—sometimes they can be good things to hope for and work towards. Yet their frames aren’t strong enough to sustain us alone. They’ll always buckle under our weight, and another hope will take its place. How will we rest our discontent hearts?
One of my favorite verses that I repeat to my children, is one I must say again to myself:
Hebrews 13:5 “And be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you, or forsake you.’”
When faced with the prospect of so many hopes dangling out before us, the writer tells us to be content with what we have. But why? Is it because what we have is pretty good already? Does he tell us to work on being thankful and present in the moment? Should we remember that there’s a lot that we can do with the physical things we have? Those might be true statements, but the author doesn’t mess around with bandaids for our problem. He goes straight to the heart.
We can be content because Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. The Hebrews writer is not interested in showing us how great our material things are; he’s interested in showing us that our heart cries out for Christ. And we can be content with what we have because, if we are Christians, we have him. He’s the object spoken about here.
And that carrot won’t disappear only to be replaced by another, because, of course, he’s no cheap carrot. He’s a feast. He truly satisfies. He isn’t just any water, he’s living water (John 7:37-39). He isn’t just any bread, he’s the bread of life (John 6:35). Christ Jesus ultimately fulfills every longing feeling that plagues us.
Augustine said it beautifully when he wrote, “In you may my scattered longings be gathered together.” 1
We long for Christ. And moreover, he will never leave us. This good gift won’t end.
Whether we’re aching for another vacation, taking another bite of cake, or streaming a fourth episode of that TV show—we’re longing for the good to last. We want to hold it a little longer.
The goodness of knowing Christ not only surpasses any good on this earth, but it lasts. Christ will never leave us or forsake us. This is the root of our contentment, and the end of all of our scattered longings. We don’t need to depend upon that hanging carrot in front of us. We don’t need to stake our hopes on bread that isn’t bread (Isaiah 55:2). We can be content in what we have, for friends, we have Christ.
The next time you find your heart whispering, “If only….” Remember that those longings truly long for something else- something permanent—someone far better than whatever it is you’re dreaming about.
Remember your contentment comes because of who you have, not what you have. Remember Christ—your Lord and Savior forever.
- Augustine, Confessions.
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