“As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?”
“How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.”
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.”
“The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us.
Yet still, we groan for redemption in the depths of our bodies.
Indeed, the Spirit groans with us beyond words.”
(paraphrase Romans 8:11, 23, 26)
“I desire to depart and be with Christ!”
The poems and letters of Scripture are filled with expressions of desire for connection. Most of our life is lived in response to this deep desire. We rejoice in its presence, mourn its absence, or numb ourselves to it altogether.
When Paul wrote about the posture of Christian life, he spoke with such insistence that he reiterated himself, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice…The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5) Long before that, David penned, “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy.” (Psalm 5:11) The life of faith is meant to be one filled with the nearness of God, where our desire for connection is intimately met, and we are filled with joy.
But we all know that this is not always the case. Sometimes we couldn’t feel farther from God. The same David who wrote the above line of pure joy also wrote, “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:11-12) Sometimes we feel the distance of God, we feel disconnected and are moved to mourning.
In his reflection on Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who mourn,” John Wesley wrote:
Not that we can imagine this promise belongs to those who mourn only on some worldly account… The mourners of whom our Lord here speaks, are those that mourn on quite another account: They that mourn after God; after Him in whom they did “rejoice with joy unspeakable,“… But he now “hides his face, and they are troubled:” They cannot see him through the dark cloud…. It is not strange if their soul is now disquieted within them, and trouble and heaviness take hold upon them.
And so Jesus’ words remind us that it is a blessed thing to desire deep connection with God and to mourn when we do not sense it. For in mourning, we join with the Spirit who groans for redemption.
However, I must admit that many days I live in that wretched third state of numbness to my desire for connection. I am far too content merely making it through a day unscathed, remaining attuned only to the primal desire for survival rather than the blessed desire for flourishing. I can numb that greater desire with easy things like Netflix and video games, or noble things like news and novels. I can even numb it with a nice devotion or worship music. Most days I’m satisfied merely getting by.
Thank God this is not one of those days. Thank God that today I feel the depths of my desire to see God’s glory, to be filled with his Spirit, to sense his nearness, and to love his people. Though those things may not all feel true today, I am at least moved to that blessed mourning whereby I know the Spirit’s presence in these groans.