Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Gospel and Our Longings

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Leslie Basham: We all have doubts and unfulfilled longings, but Janet Aucoin points us back to the gospel.

Janet Aucoin: The cross is a wonderful reminder that He can be trusted. When you’re in pain, and you’re thinking, I don’t know if He’s good, I literally will get on my knees and say to the Lord, “I have to hang out at the cross for a while right now because nothing in my life is communicating that You care. But when I look at the cross, I can come to no other conclusion: There’s no reason for the cross if You don’t love me. You didn’t have to do that.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender, for July 26, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Now, all of us can relate to the tension that we feel between the longings of our souls and reality. So, we experience desires, and sometimes good desires. And yet, in God’s providence, for whatever reason, the Lord chooses to withhold those things from us.

And then, if instead of trusting His wisdom, we become demanding that God fulfills our expectations, well, it can get really messy. Yesterday, we heard as Janet Aucoin addressed this topic of unfulfilled longings, especially in the area of our relationships.

Janet is married to Pastor Brent Aucoin, and she serves as the Director of Women’s Ministries in their church. They have two children, and they live in Lafayette, Indiana. Janet gave this message to a group of women at the Life Action Camp, which is a sister ministry to Revive Our Hearts.

Janet says that unfulfilled longings can be used by God in some amazing ways. So we’re going to continue where we left off yesterday, and here’s Janet Aucoin, speaking to a group of women, and reminding us that unfulfilled longings can be used by God in some amazing ways.

Janet: Adam and Eve, it says, before sin, walked with God in the cool of the garden. I mean, they walked with God. I would guess if you were to have said to Adam or Eve, “Do you ever feel lonely, though? Like, is it ever just kind of not enough? Do you feel lonely?” I don’t know what they would say. I’m guessing they would say, “What does that mean? What does that word mean? I don’t understand.”

I don’t think they understood that, so they weren’t lonely. They were living the way they were designed to live in the presence of their Maker. You’re not in the presence of your Maker. So, knowing that, why would I be surprised that I have unfulfilled longings? I’m not home.

Nancy Wolgemuth says this in her book Lies Women Believe. One of the chapters is, “I Should Not Have to Live with Unfulfilled Longings.” That’s a lie. That’s a lie.

A couple of things she says about that:

We have to recognize we will always have unfulfilled longings this side of heaven. We just will. The deepest longings of our heart can’t be filled by any created person or thing. 

That’s a true statement.

Sometimes then we think, So I need to look to God, and if I just look to Him, it will be gone now. It won’t be gone now, but it will be gone. It will be gone. You’re not home yet.

It’s kind of like if you’re a newlywed, and your husband is away and writes you a letter. It’s awesome. You read it every day, and it encourages your heart, but there’s still that ache of wishing he was there. Right? And you don’t just say, “Well, I must not be reading the letter enough. If I read the letter and believed what he said in the letter, I wouldn’t feel this way.”

I can read that letter and believe every word of it and still want him there. That’s where we are in our lives. I can believe everything God says, and I still want to be with Him. And I’m not yet. And that’s okay.

I have believed all of those lies. I still battle them, at least now I feel like I’m fighting the right battles. I know that they’re lies, but for many years I just believed them.

I can remember before I was married, seeing someone with a spouse and thinking, They don’t know what a blessing it is that they have someone committed to them for life. If I had someone that committed to me, I would not be that petty. (laughter)

Now, why are you all laughing? Maybe I got married, and then I wasn’t petty. But that’s not the case. But I remember thinking that. Thankfully, I didn’t say most of those things out loud—less people to repent to later. But I did think that.

I am married to a wonderful, godly man, and I’m petty. I’m not totally fulfilled, and it’s not his fault. That’s just the way . . . But it surprised me because I got married at twenty-eight, I thought when I was single and lonely, If God gives me a soulmate, that will help. I didn’t know that was my hope. I would have told you I was hoping in Jesus, but that’s really what I was hoping.

Then I got married and went through one of the loneliest times that I have been through in my life, that the Lord orchestrated. And what made it worse was realizing, “I’m in the closest relationship I will ever have this side of heaven, and it’s not enough.”

So was it Brent’s fault? Was it my fault? Or was that okay? It took me a while to get there.

I also lost three babies before I had my first son. I knew that having babies was not a right. I can remember having those conversations with the Lord to recognize you don’t just say, I think I’ll have babies now. That’s up to the Lord, and it was a grace gift. I am very thankful for the two that the Lord has allowed me to raise. So I’ll be content and satisfied with that? Not so much. 

I told my son once, “Somebody said to me, ‘Boy, it must be awesome to live in your home.’”

And he said, “Do they want the list alphabetically or in order of importance?” (laughter) I know, but let them believe it. It makes them happy. (laughter)

So God used those times to help me learn my theology was wrong. I was putting my hope in the wrong things. Brent was not supposed to meet those longings, and I wasn’t free to focus on loving him as long as I was clamoring after him and needing him. 

I used to think that I needed him so much because I loved him. That’s not true. I needed him because I needed him to be my god, and I loved me. I was not free to love him as an imperfect vessel who needs a Savior but that I could come alongside and be an encouragement to, as long as I needed him to be my savior. And what a cruel thing to do to him, but I’ve done it. I was using him to meet my needs.

So, what do we do instead? Well, Romans 8:23 even describes this. He says, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, [he’s talking to believers] we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (NASB).

Have you ever felt that? Ugh—well, does that mean you’re not spiritual? No. That’s what’s supposed to happen. Our longings are a reminder that we were not designed to find our fulfillment in a fallen world separated from our Maker. But that’s where you find yourself.

I love C.S. Lewis’ quote, “If I discover within a desire which nothing in this world can satisfy, the probable explanation is I was made for another world.” Oh, yeah, so it’s okay.

What that means is those longings are not supposed to discourage me. They don’t have to cause me to doubt my faith. Instead, they are proof that the Bible is true, so that’s okay.

Having these unfulfilled longings doesn’t make me less spiritual, and it doesn’t mean I don’t trust God, necessarily. Certainly, that could be true, but the fact that you have unfulfilled longings doesn’t mean that.

All of creation is groaning under the effect of sin. One of the effects of sin is separation, and this is why Jesus did come.

So, the fact that I have these longings doesn’t mean I’m sinning, though my response to my unfulfilled longings is frequently sinful because I’ve made it my goal to not have them. And it doesn’t mean that they are sinning, that I feel this way. And it doesn’t mean: Just try harder. It doesn’t.

So if I understand that, instead of being surprised, I’m just going to rejoice in the hope that this isn’t all there is. It forces me to think eternally. It pushes me in that direction. Well, that’s probably a good thing. Maybe that’s part of what God is using them for—to push me in that direction.

Romans 8:18, a little before the last verse, Paul compares this life to pregnancy. Okay, some of you have been pregnant, some of you have not. Who gets pregnant because they will enjoy being pregnant? (laughter) Now, I have had friends say they liked that, but would you like it if you just remained forever pregnant? Even if you had great pregnancies, who gets pregnant thinking, I don’t really care about the kid in the end. I just love the pregnancy. (laughter) We would have another session for those people, because that’s a problem. Right?

No. What do we enjoy about pregnancy? Because of what’s coming. And I understand—I lost three—pregnant does not equal the baby to come, but it’s supposed to.

So comparing it to pregnancy, the hope and the joy of pregnancy is the baby to come. It’s very painful when that’s not how it ends. I know that for many that’s the reality, but we all know that’s not how it’s supposed to be. The joy of pregnancy is the baby to come.

Paul says this life is like labor pains. What brings you hope in this life? The one to come. We’re not surprised that there’s labor pains here. And we’re not like, “Oh my word, if I was doing the right things, there should not be labor pains.” When you’re in labor, you don’t think, This isn’t supposed to hurt. Who says that? I say, “Epidural in the eighth month, just in case.” (laughter) But, if only we could do that in our lives. You’re not allowed to do that with your whole life.

I asked my doctor that. I said, “Could I get it on a drip and walk around with it?” 

And he’s, like, “No, Janet. I promise I’ll give it to you when you need it.” So that was how much I enjoyed that. (laughter)

But we act like life is supposed to not have labor pains. It’s supposed to. That’s what we’re told. But what we do have different from earthly labor pains? We have a guaranteed hope of what’s coming. I will be with the Lord forever. I will not have a miscarriage with the Lord. I understand, I had them here. I will not have one with the Lord. That’s a guarantee.

And to make that I understand that it’s guaranteed, He’s told me that I have the downpayment of the Holy Spirit. There’s nothing more sure than that. I have the downpayment of the Holy Spirit while I wait.

So I’m suggesting, at least initially, we just need to change our expectations. Oh, I know, it’s easier said than done, but at least let’s start fighting the right battles. Let’s stop trying to get our longings fulfilled. Let’s stop seeing that that’s the goal. Let’s change our expectations and put them in a better place—which would be God.

Psalm 62:5, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence for my hope is from him” (ESV).

King James Version says, “For my expectation is from him.”

That’s where my expectations go, and the cross is a wonderful reminder that He can be trusted. When you’re in pain, and you’re thinking, I don’t know if He’s good, I literally will get on my knees and say to the Lord, “I have to hang out at the cross for a while right now because nothing in my life is communicating that You care. But when I look at the cross, I can come to no other conclusion: There’s no reason for the cross if You don’t love me. You didn’t have to do that.”

He would have been righteous and just if He had never come. And I don’t know that I understood that until I studied systematic theology with my kids. We studied about the angels. When they fell, God did not give any of them a chance of redemption. And He’s still holy and just and good and right.

He didn’t have to give me the opportunity for redemption. Why? I don’t know. I know He loves me. So I will hang out at the cross when my earthly expectations do not communication that He loves me. I will tell Him, “I just need to hang out at the cross a while. I need to remember.”

I need to picture Christ on the cross. I think in pictures, and I will picture Him looking at me and think, Okay, if He was willing to do that, I will trust Him even though this is horribly painful. That’s where my expectations need to go.

Psalm 42:1, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you.”

I used to really not like that verse because it just made me feel so guilty because that’s not what I pant for. We’d sing it, and I would think, I pant for a lot of things. I just don’t know that I can say, "My soul pants for You,” until I recognized, after studying some of this, “Oh, that is what my soul’s panting for. I just don’t realize it until I try to get You to fill it, and I try to do something else to fill it.” So that all of those other things I’m panting for are because I’m mistaken about where my soul’s really going to find that.

So, this is true. That is what my soul is panting for. I just don’t get it sometimes, and I look in the wrong places for that.

Psalm 34:8, we’re going to talk a lot more about this in a little bit, but, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (ESV).

What does that look like? And notice he didn’t say, “feast.” You’re going to get a taste of God’s goodness here. The wedding feast is coming. Right now you’re going to get some tastes, and we’re going to talk about that in a little bit. But that’s where I want my heart to be. And my unfulfilled longings then become an opportunity to increase my longing for God. I will recognize I want to be with the Lord.

I think it was my son, and he wouldn’t care if I share this, he was little . . . I don’t even know what we were talking about, but somehow heaven came up, and he was talking about hoping he didn’t have to go very soon. And I thought, Should that bother me that he’s not?

You know, in his little life, his world was pretty good. I’m thankful that his world was pretty good. So it was hard for him to be thinking, It would be better to be somewhere that I can’t picture because I like what I have.

Well, I’m grateful for that, but as he grows up and is now in college, and as we grow older, there are just a lot of things that aren’t so great here. And what that can do is remind me, “Oh, I’m waiting for the next one.” So it increases my longing for eternity.

But what I think gets in the way of that is sometimes we’re just too used to the gospel, to our shame. We talk about Christ on the cross, and we go, (disinterested voice) “Yeah, I know, I know. Yeah, that should do it for me, but it just kinda doesn’t anymore.”

We get so used to it, I think, in part because we have a pretty inflated view of ourselves. We know we’re not perfect. We know we need a Savior. But I can remember, and I would never have said this out loud, that I had a mentality early on in my Christian life that me and God were going to do this.

Here was my thinking: I want Him to be glad He picked me on His team because I’m going to do things. This makes it sound like, “Why wouldn’t He want to save me?” Well, if you really knew me, why would He want to save me? But I didn’t understand all of that then. I had a pretty inflated view of myself.

I don’t know that we understand how momentous it was for Jesus to come. I think it was in the book Knowing God where he said, “It’s amazing that the resurrection happened, the power of God on display at the resurrection, but it’s more surprising that He even came at all.”

That’s not really surprising that He has power over death. It’s amazing, but it’s not surprising. What should shock us: He came as a baby. He didn’t have to do that. But we think, Well, it was nice of Him.

So having little kids and always trying to find ways to help them understand stories, maybe it will help if we think about it a little differently. I’m going to stretch your imaginations a little bit.

I’m from Florida. We have a lot of beaches. I love walking along the beach. If you’re familiar at all with tides, if you’re out on low tide, there's a lot more beach, but it’s darker sand because there’s water underneath. And you know when high tide comes, that’s not going to be beach anymore. That’s going to be under water.

So when you’re walking along the beach at low tide, the harder sand is easier to walk on because it’s wet underneath. And you see a colony of ants building their little ant hill. They’re working really hard because they work very hard. Actually, they can put us to shame. So they’re working, and they’re making it. And here’s what you know: When the tide comes in, it’s gone. Demolished. And they’re all going to die. You know that. Now, what would you do? Okay, probably nothing. Right? Because who cares? It’s just ants. (laughter)

Let’s suppose, for whatever reason, you actually cared about those little ants, and you could tell them apart, and you decided to warn them. So you yell at them. They don’t care. You try to draw a line, telling them to, “Come this way.” They don’t care.

What’s it going to take for them to listen to you? What kind of love would it take for you to choose to become an ant? Because really, anybody could step on you. You’re risking everything to become an ant because you love them so much.

Let’s just say somehow you have that kind of love, and you do it, and you warn them. What would you expect? “Thank you? You didn’t have to do this. I can’t believe that you’d be willing to do this. I didn’t even know what that loud roar was. That was you talking? Oh, my word, I had no idea.” Some gratitude? And what if, instead, now that you have chosen to become an ant, they pick you up, torture your little ant body, and kill you?

That pales in comparison. I am cousins with an ant compared to the difference between me and God. But my brain can’t go much farther than an ant. I don’t know how to think a whole lot differently. So, for me, one of the biggest differences I can see is between me and a little ant. And I have to tell you, I would not choose to become one even if I knew they were all going to die. I don’t care.

And you know what we might even do? Kick the ant hill as you go by and watch them all scurry. Now, how unkind is that? But that’s what we’d probably do. Right? Because who cares?

We’re lower than ants. He is far higher than a human being, and He came as a baby. He didn’t even come as a thirty-year old man. He came as a baby, purposely. He lived the life we were supposed to live so He could do that in our place and fulfill the law because we couldn’t.

Wow! That’s amazing! Well, it should boggle your mind. When you see an ant when you leave here, you probably won’t even notice them. Right? You’re stepping on them all the time, you don’t even see them.

Shame on me that I am not blown away by that but say, “Do I know He cares?”

Imagine if you had done that, and then they go, “Yeah, but do you really care about me?”

“Are you serious?! I gave up all that I could do as a human to be an ant, and you’re going to ask if I care?”

Then He’s worth trusting for the eighty, ninety, one hundred years that I’m here—even if this entire life is boot camp. This is the other thing I always tell people when I counsel them. “Understand your human life is boot camp.” Nobody goes to boot camp and says, “Can’t I sleep in?” (laughter) “Why isn’t this easier?” and “Why isn’t there room service?” No! You go to boot camp, why? For what’s next.

So something next is awesome. We’re in boot camp right now, and it’s worth boot camp for 100 years for the God that was willing to do this for me.

As I grow in my longing for God, I start experiencing a foretaste of that total fulfillment. You’ll have those moments where you’re blown away. Understand that when you have those moments, that’s a foretaste of the way it will be all the time. But it’s just a taste because you’re not there yet, but you’ll get a taste of it.

Music:

When friends betray us,
When darkness seems to win,
The pain reminds our heart that this is not . . .
This is not our home.1

Nancy: Wow! What an encouraging reminder from singer/songwriter Laura Story. Before that we heard from Janet Aucoin, helping us look forward to that day yet to come when our deepest longings will be completely fulfilled in Christ.

You know, having the right perspective on our unfulfilled longings doesn’t fix everything; it doesn’t make our problems go away. But it sure can help us in the wait.

It reminds me of an old-time gospel chorus that we used to sing when I was growing up:

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So bravely run the race 'til we see Christ.

And that hope, that vision of Christ helps us view our unfulfilled longings in the here and now in the right perspective.

One thing that has helped me a lot to cultivate greater contentment and gratitude in the here and now is the discipline of giving. When I give, it reminds me that I’m not just spending money on temporary things that can’t possibly fulfill those unfulfilled longings. Instead, I’m sending my money ahead. I’m investing in eternity, investing in God’s kingdom, and that is really satisfying.

I’m so grateful for a special group of Revive Our Hearts’ listeners who have said, “I want to invest in something that will last.” They see God at work, drawing women to Himself, using the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, so they support this monthly. That’s why they’re called our Revive Our Hearts’ Monthly Partner team.

Now, this isn’t a closed group. You can join at any time. As a partner, you’ll give $30 a month or more to support this ministry, and you’ll also pray for Revive Our Hearts. And when you meet someone who can benefit from this program, you’ll tell them about it.

This really is a partnership. Not only are you investing in this ministry, but we invest in you. As a partner, you’ll receive a devotional booklet called Daily Reflections each month. And you’ll stay connected through a monthly letter that I send to our partners. And you can attend one Revive Our Hearts conference each year at no charge. Now, unfortunately, True Woman ’18 is sold out for this September, but you can get a complimentary registration for future conferences.

To get more details or to sign up to become a Monthly Partner, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Do you long to be totally accepted, to really belong, to be fully satisfied? I think all of us can identify with those kinds of desires. Well, tomorrow Janet Aucoin says that those longings aren’t as unfulfilled as you might think. She’ll take us to Ephesians chapter 1 to explain. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to show you the joy of contentment. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 Laura Story. "Blessings." Blessings. ©2011 Laura Story.
 

 

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