The Gift Of Longing

Dana Candler

After spending many hours before Jesus one night, I left the Friday night "Watch of the Lord" sulking in discouragement. Once again, He had not come as I desired Him to. As I got into my car, anxious tears freely streaming down my face, a dear friend came up to my window. I voiced my pain that I desired the Lord so much, and yet He still was not revealing Himself to me. To my surprise, she smiled. She leaned in and whispered, "It's happening. You love Him! You love Him so much you weep for Him. Your heart is moving in love just like you've been praying for." Her unexpected angle of discernment struck me. I thought of the prayer I liked to pray over and over again throughout the day, "Cause this heart to love You. Cause this heart to love You." Suddenly, I realized that my longing was His answering of my requests. My tears were love for Him, the very thing I had been asking for. I loved Him by longing for Him. My heart was beginning to actually move in love, to be tenderized in love and to feel love for my Beloved rising within.

Our journey begins with longing. And before longing is the longing to long. It is the yearning to desire Him. We find in our hearts an awakening that beckons longing and paves the way for desire. It begins with the Lord Himself placing His divine drawing upon the heart of the one who loves Him. We find ourselves desiring to desire Him and pained by the present shallowness of our hearts. He awakens us to the great obsession of Himself, and we find this new ache within our hearts: our lack of love and absence of tenderness. We begin to hunger for the capacity to hunger. We begin to thirst for the ability to thirst. The longing to long is the escort into longing itself. It is the God-ordained gateway into the true gift of God to crave Him with all of our beings.

To long for God is to give witness to the Transcendent One. Longing is the echo of eternity within our souls. It is that which sets us apart and makes us pilgrims on the journey. This world is not our home, and our inner ache gives testimony to the brevity of life and the weight of eternity. "I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me. My soul breaks with longing for your judgments..." (Ps. 119:19-20). Something within us reaches for One who is other than and for a realm that is beyond. We long for One whom we have not yet seen but we love (1 Pet. 1:8). With hearts empowered by a divine ache, we cry out for more of God. We search for any sign of Him. This is the precise position that He wants us to be in. It is the hungry that He fills. It is the desirous that He satisfies.

All divine longing is a gift. It takes God to love God, and He Himself must place within us the love with which we love Him. "...For it is God who works in you both to will [desire] and to do for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Longing is the beginning of that gift of love. We imagine this gift to be only the actual experience of intimacy with Him. Part of the actual knowledge or experience of Him in intimacy is the longing for that experience. The longing prior to the felt-experience is just as much a part of loving Him as the experience itself. They go hand in hand and cannot be separated. The initial longing is an irreplaceable part of the eternal intimacy. Both the craving and the satisfaction are equal parts of the gift of intimacy. It all plays a role in the impartation of Divine Love to our hearts. Oh, the gift of longing for God! Oh, treasured companion on the journey! For surely we need this Helper for the entirety of our way forward in love. Longing and our ache for His greater revealing are here to stay.

Love's Delay

"Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed Your flock, where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of your companions?" (Song Sol. 1:7).

In Song of Solomon 1:7, the young maiden inquires of the Lord where He feeds His flock. She has just told the Lord in verse two that His love is better than wine. She knows His love far exceeds all other pleasures. Her whole life vision has changed because of this foundational revelation. Yet the mere acknowledgement of His love's superiority is not what will ultimately satisfy her hungry heart. Though she has been overcome with the vision of His great love, her heart is still hungry to actually experience it. Only He Himself can answer the craving in her soul. She must personally partake of His love in order to find satisfaction. She must drink in order for her thirst to be quenched. She asks with desperation, "Tell me where can I go to drink of You; where do I feast upon this love?"

She is saying, "Where do You cause my heart to be satisfied with You and You alone? How is it that a soul drinks deeply of You? For now I am ruined for lesser pleasures. You are my Reward. Now I know that You are exceedingly broad. Who can know the vastness of Your personality? I know that there is more to You than I can fathom or imagine. You are an Ocean, and I stand gazing from the shore. I have been ruined by an awakening, but now my pain is greater than before. The high vision is before me, but I know only hunger and desperation as my reality."

She had not anticipated a delay in experiencing the pleasures of His love. She gave her wholehearted "yes" to the life vision of holy passion yet now finds herself in an unexpected quiet. Here she waits, ruined for lesser pleasures and kept from Divine consolations, in the boundless space between her passion and the beautiful experience of His. He is cultivating longing in her heart. He desires more than a recognition of His greatness; He wants a desperation and lovesick yearning to come to maturity within her. And so for a time she remains in this breach between the reach for and the fulfillment of superior pleasures. She is ruined by the vision of His beauty. She now knows He is altogether lovely and that no other pursuit will ever satisfy the deep cravings of her heart. Yet He keeps her here in this Divine delay for a season and she only knows the ache of longing and not the pleasure of its answer. She only knows the wound of love and not the actual experience of His healing cure.

This is the pattern of His way with our hearts; knowing this should bring great consolation to our hearts. He is actually drawing us in the delay. He is enlarging the capacity of our hearts to experience the pleasure of His presence by withholding it. This is the perfect, Divine wisdom of the Lover of our souls, to bring us forth, to His side, leaning and loving, a pure and spotless bride!

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