'Unfulfilled Longings'

Thursday Reflection

10th September 2020

'how to live in prosperity'

12 I know how to get along with humble means,
   and I also know how to live in prosperity;
   in any and every circumstance
   I have learned the secret
   of being filled and going hungry,
   both of having abundance and suffering need.
13 I can do all things
   through Him who strengthens me.
   ... Philippians 4:12-13

Do you have unrealised longings?
They have a way of twisting up our insides,
don't they?
Confusion and despair over unrealised longings
feel most intense when they seem natural
and honouring God.

Didn't God give me these gifts?

Surely, he wants me to use them!
So why do the doors remain closed?

I've noticed this theme recently in the stories of
distinguished Christian heroes.
Most of them had personal longings
that were put on hold
or even went completely unfulfilled -
at least from an observer's standpoint.
Some of these longings seemed particularly holy.

St Martin of Tours, for example,
from an early age,
longed to become a monk.
But the laws of fourth century Rome
required him to become a soldier -
an occupation that was not suitable for him.
After he was finally released from the military
his plan to dedicate his life
to solitary prayer didn't work out
as he had hoped.
Martin's unique spiritual wisdom
drew crowds to him and ultimately,
the beloved monk was ordained
by the bishop against his wishes.

St Therese of Lisieux is another example.
This Nineteenth Century French beauty
longed to become a Carmelite nun
and missionary.
While her first desire came true at the early age of 15,
the second never did
as she developed tuberculosis at 22
which confined her to her French convent.
She wrote:
'For a long time I have not belonged to myself
since I delivered myself totally to Jesus,
and He is therefore free
to do with me as he pleases.
St Therese of Lisieux.

All Pope Gregory 1 wanted was to be a humble monk,
but he ended up head of the church in Rome.
He became a great leader of reform
both spiritual and civic
and one of the great Fathers of the church;
known as Gregory the Great.

Why does God allow some longings
to go unfulfilled?

I don't think there's a simple answer to that,
however God often has other plans for us
and does important work through us
that might not otherwise have been possible.
Paul articulates this dilemma
in his letter to the Philippians

23 'I am torn between the two
   I desire to depart and be with Christ,
   which is better by far;
24 but it is more necessary for you
   that I remain in the body.
25 Convinced of this,
   I know that I will remain,
   and I will continue with all of you
   for your progress and joy in the faith,'
   .... (1:23-25)

The same peace we see in Paul
can be found in the stories of
countless Christians
who set their personal preferences aside.

While it's hard to accept
we have to put our person longings on hold,
it's also incredibly freeing.
If we had the chance to talk to Paul
Therese, Gregory or Martin,
they'd all agree that life
is much more fulfilling when
God is in control of our lives
instead of ourselves.

What longings
can we hand over to him today?