Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Relational Longings

Leslie Basham: Sometimes we experience unmet expectations. Janet Aucoin says our disappointment can be compounded by wrong thinking.

Janet Aucoin: I think that we actually believe, “If I were where I was supposed to be spiritually, I wouldn’t feel this way. Jesus came to bring me complete contentment, so I should not have unfulfilled longings.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender, for July 25, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: “Quick” and “Easy.” Those are probably two of the most popular words used in advertising. You hear a lot of promises for quick and easy remedies for every unfulfilled longing.

So we’re encouraged to identify what it is we long for and then to do whatever’s necessary to get those so-called needs met. The culture says if you’re hungry, eat; if you want something you can’t afford, charge it; if you crave romance, dress or act in a way that will get men to notice you; if you’re lonely, share your heart with that married man at work.

Well, that way of thinking leaves many women still unfulfilled, still searching for something to fill the inner emptiness. Unfortunately, “quick” and “easy” aren’t just concepts that are used in advertising. They can be concepts that burrow their way into our own thoughts as well.

But real life isn’t always quick or easy, and when we expect it to be, that can lead to disappoint or even trying to fulfill legitimate longings in illegitimate ways.

Today you’re going to hear how to bring unfulfilled longings under the control of God’s Word, and Janet Aucoin is here to help us. She’s a biblical counselor and a pastor’s wife. She gave the message you’re about to hear at a THRIVE conference for women hosted at the Life Action Camp. (Life Action Ministries is the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts.)

Now, here’s Janet Aucoin talking about how to deal with unfulfilled longings.

Janet: I get to talk with a lot of other women, and this is an area that has become a pattern that I’ve seen. I get to talk to a variety of ages of women, which is really great! I have gotten to speak at the chapel at our Christian school—so the younger women. I love the college age—that’s where I became a Christian, and that’s where my husband and I ministered for probably ten years. Now I work more with women’s ministries—the group at our Westside campus that calls themself the CEOs, which are the Christians Encouraging Others. It’s the older women that come to church alone, and so I get to work with them as well.

What’s interesting as I hear a variety of issues—discontentment, a critical spirit, depression, anxiety, anger. There are a lot of things that you could probably say, “Yeah, that’s me!” There seems to be a commonality that at least part of the problem is there’s a real disconnect between what I expected to happen and my reality, and I don’t know how to deal with that.

I’m starting to realize that a lot of the (what we call in counseling terms) “presenting problems,” the reason that you call and say, “Help me!” . . . I’ve never had someone call and say, “Help me, because my expectations don’t match my reality. I’m not sure how to do that biblically.”

But they call and say, “I am angry all the time,” or “I’m depressed,” or whatever it is. A lot of that when we get to the root of it is, “How do I learn to thrive with unfulfilled longings? What do I do with circumstances not being what I expect?” It shows itself in statements that maybe you’ll recognize; nothing’s ever good enough.

So someone asks, “How was the retreat?”

And you say, “I mean, it was good.” Because it wasn’t everything. Whatever it was you thought it would be, it wasn’t EVERYthing. So . . .“Ehh, it was good.”

“How was your birthday party?”

“Uh, it was alright.” (I noticed the ones that weren’t there not the forty that were. I noticed the two that didn’t come.) But, “it was alright.”

“My friends don’t understand me.” If you’ve said that or you’ve heard that, understand what the root of that is: “I’m looking for somebody! They just don’t understand me.”

“My husband doesn’t get me. My boss doesn’t appreciate me. I’m trying to do what God says . . .” (This is an interesting comment. I hear it a lot and I understand it, but when you think it through, it’s not real rational.) “I’m trying to do what God says, but it’s not working.” What did you think it would do? So, what did I think would happen?

From women I hear a lot of: “I don’t fit in. I don’t belong.”

I also hear, “I deserve more!”

It goes on and on. I’m suggesting that you might consider that part of what’s driving that is when we have expectations for our lives that just don’t happen.

So I’m going to ask you: What are some typical expectations we have? I’m not talking about bad, sinful things, but what are things we just expect are going to happen in our lives?

Lady 1: My children are going to obey everything I tell them to.

Janet: Absolutely! Because, you know what? “I love Jesus and I’m teaching them right, so my children will obey me. They will rise up and call me blessed from the age of three. (laughter) Because, who wouldn’t? I’m doing the right things; therefore, they will, too.” Yeah, we just kind of expect that, and when it doesn’t happen, it’s like off the charts! What else do we just expect?

Lady 2: My husband will meet all my needs!

Janet: “My husband’s going to meet my needs . . . because he’s supposed to! He’s the one that God has designed for me, so if he’s doing his job, I will have no unfulfilled longings because he will be meeting those needs.” Yeah. What else do we expect?

Lady 3: My kids will always eat what I make.

Janet: My kids will eat what I make . . . and they’ll like it, if it’s good for them! So, yes . . . yes. What else?

Lady 4: People will always be nice.

Janet: Yeah. People are going to be nice to me, because like I’m always nice, right? So why wouldn’t they be nice to me? I deserve that! "I’m being nice to you, you’re supposed to be nice to me." So we just kind of expect that, and then when I say ‘thank you’ and they bite my head off it’s, "Are you talking to me?!" Not what I expected! 

I heard something over here. 

Lady 5: Constant health. 

Janet: Health, yes. Do you know that from the time we’re little . . . I can remember the first time I recognized that doctors can’t fix everything. Because, honestly, you just kind of expect, “I hurt. I go to the doctor. It’s fixed. It might take a day. It might take a week. If it’s really bad, it might take a month, but they’re going to fix it.” And then to realize it, “Whoa! I may just be in pain. I may not have my health.” But I don’t expect that. I expect, “I’m following God. I’m doing the right things. My body’s going to work because I could serve so much more.” Excellent.

Lady 6: “I’m going to be happy!”

Janet: I’m going to be happy. I just kind of expect that. Who plans their life and thinks, It will probably be pretty bad! (laughter) Who does that? And I would be more concerned it you did that! So I’m not saying you should, so don’t! That’s not what I’m saying. But we just think, Yeah, I’m going to be happy! . . . and then things happen. Yes! Anything else?

Lady 7: If I don’t eat certain things I’ll lose weight!

Janet: Ha, ha! That’s just cruel. Yes, “If I don’t eat that certain thing, I’ll lose weight. So I’m going to be able to control how I look and it will always be the way I’d like to look . . . because I can make that happen. It just will.” Yep.

Lady 8: We read the Bible and expect our spiritual life to be instantly better!

Janet: “I read the Bible. I’m going to have an incredibly thriving spiritual life that’s always good and causes me to be content.” Good! And we could go on. I hope you’re seeing . . . these are not bad things.

Another one I have down here is, “I’m going to have a job I love, am passionate about, and I am changing the world!” (laughter) And then you’re at the factory . . . And you know what? That still matters! But not when my mind says, “That’s not what I expected! I expected I would be (whatever that means to me), and I’m going to change the world." So I just expect that.

“I’m going to find a spouse. I’m gonna find that soulmate, whether that’s a friend or a spouse.” Anne of Green Gables, anybody? Your “bosom friend.” You have to have a “bosom friend.” What is that all about? I would say, trying to get unfulfilled longings met. “I've got to  find the one!” So we do that.

Ultimately, what we’re saying is, “I expect to be satisfied and fulfilled and content. I’m not asking too much! I didn’t ask to be a millionaire, but I think I just expect that.” I don’t even think it all the way through in my mind. It’s not like I’m saying to the Lord, “I’ve done this for You; You better do this for me.” But that’s kind of just what we think, If I do this, that’s what will happen.

I think it shows itself a little differently in men and women. I would imagine we all battle with that because, quite frankly, we all deal with unfulfilled longings. It seems to show itself differently. I think that might be, in part, because of our relational design. We were designed by God to be relational and to come alongside and to help, and because of that, it seems to be that we expect to find our fulfillment somehow—primarily—in relationships. Somehow. Whether that’s a husband, whether that’s a best friend. Whatever that is, we tend to do that.

I think that that might explain why little girls (I have a boy and a girl) are clamoring after that best friend. Did you know that three boys can be friends? This is shocking news. Did you know that three girls can’t? (laughter) Two are in, one is out, and we flip who’s going to be out.

Growing up, I was always one of the two that flipped and was out. It was like, “How did she get to be the one in? I don’t know.” But there was always one that was always in, and Kim and I flipped back and forth on who was the out one. Three girls don’t do that well.

Girls buy a necklace that they break in half and, “You wear half and I wear half, and together we are one.” Right? Why do we do that? I need to know! I have that one. I would say that that’s part of why girls . . . I know, guys have their issues, because we’re all trying to figure this out, but it comes out differently in girls.

Girls don’t do things alone because they don’t want anyone to think they’re alone. They’re very clique-y. Because, if I’ve cut my necklace in half and you have the other half but you’re talking to her . . . “Um, I don’t think so! You don’t have her necklace; I do!”

As we get older, we try to be more subtle, but we’re still doing it. We just try not to be quite so obvious. We can learn from children that’s really what your heart is. They’re just putting it out there. So I think that that’s part of what’s going on. I do.

Men just seem to look more for that in their accomplishments. I’m not saying that we don’t look to accomplishments and that men don’t look to relationships, but it seems to be primarily what they’re looking for.

I’m going to suggest that when we don’t have the thing that we think is going to bring us fulfillment, we just clamor after whatever that is.

But I would say it’s almost worse. If whatever it was that you thought was going to bring you fulfillment, what happens once you get it and then it doesn’t work? That’s more depressing! At least when you were clamoring, you had something to do, right? And now it’s like, “Alright, well . . . that . . . didn’t . . . do it.” So it’s still not enough.

We’re from Purdue country. We were at Purdue, and I was an advisor for a girls’ Christian cooperative house. I don’t know that cooperative houses are that common. I would say they are kind of like a fraternity. It’s not. They do their own business; they do all their own cleaning and cooking, and they do everything themselves so you’re living cooperatively . . . and it’s a Christian one.

Thirty-two to thirty-four girls live there. There’s probably rare times that you would ever be alone in this house. It’s a big old house. They all sleep in one room called the Cold Air Dorm in stacks of bunk beds. It’s called the CAD because there’s no heat in there and the windows were open—it keeps everybody from getting sick. I don’t know. That’s what they say.

So the windows are open. It’s really cold throughout the winter, but when you have that many girls living in an old house, it kills the germs. and everybody’s got a heated blanket. This is how they did it. And so, you have your own alarm. You try to get out without waking the other thirty-two up (or whatever).

They have rooms for their stuff, two to five people in a room. Rarely are you ever alone there! Before I was an advisor, this happened, and then when I was there one of the girls was telling me about it. She said that she was at a house meeting—a mandatory house meeting. Every two weeks—unless you physically can’t—every girl is at this house meeting, because they’re running their own house. Somebody’s cooking . . . they have to do it all, so they have a mandatory house meeting. And one of the girls expressed concern that she had been lonely and felt unloved in the house.

One of the things I think is funny about that is that my husband’s the advisor for the men’s Christian cooperative house. He’s like, “We have never had that conversation at a staff meeting!” (laughter) So again, the difference. No guy ever said, “Excuse me, but I’m not feeling loved here in the house.” So he and I were discussing our very different experiences between a guys’ Christian cooperative house and a girls’. They had their own issues; they’re just different. 

So this girl said that, and I wasn’t there, but their response I thought was really . . . I don’t what made this other girl respond this way, but I thought it was very wise. She looked around the room and said, “Well, I’m curious. Would anybody else who has felt that way raise your hand?” How many hands do you think went up? Everyone of them! Why might that be?

Here are thirty-two to thirty-four girls in the same season of life, who all claim to know and love Jesus, who are all looking for friends and looking for family . . . and they live together. What do you think their expectations were? “This is going to be amazing! For the first time in my life I got thirty-two sisters, and we’re all going to do everything together and everything will be . . .”

There were all kind of expectations there, and they were totally surprised that they were lonely and discouraged. And notice, the initial way that that was interpreted was, “You’re making me lonely!” Interesting. I would suggest that that’s part of our reality.

This also came home to me. I said we were over the college ministry for a long time. My kids know I have a couple of areas where I’m not probably very balanced but where I have very high expectations of my kids. One is that they be reaching out to other people. 

This was important to me because I was the kid that moved every two to four years growing up, so I was always new. We’ve already talked about how clique-y girls can be, so I know what it’s like. Seventh grade in December, moving mid-year—that’s always fun. Seventh grade . . . who should ever have to go to seventh grade anyway? I mean, it’s cruel! (laughter)

But I had to go, and then I had to move . . . seventh grade in December. I sat at a new desk in a new class. A girl walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, but that’s my seat.” And they were not assigned seats. That’s just where she sat. So I had to get up and move to the back of the room. (She later became my best friend, and I never let her forget it!)

But at that moment, that was my first day at school, “Please go to the back.” That was my experience, and I was not an outgoing person at all. Fear of man enslaved me. So if you didn’t come up and talk to me, I wasn’t talking. I had a very quiet time.

Knowing that, and knowing that my kids moved once for ten months, when they were kindergarten and first grade. They learned a little bit. That was the first time they had been to a Sunday school that wasn’t “their” Sunday school—because their dad’s a pastor, so they know everybody. It was good for them, but they really don’t remember that.

So my thing to them was, “You have no idea what it’s like to be new (and I’m not going to move just to show you that!). But I am going to tell you every week after Sunday school (from the time they could talk), I want a name of who you met, and it can’t be anybody you already knew or someone you talked to last week. I want something about them, and I want a way that you loved them.”

Every week my poor daughter would get in the car and say, “I can’t remember her name, Mom, but here’s where she went to school, and here’s how many siblings she has, and here’s . . .” I was like, “I’ll take that.” But they knew that was important to me.

Translate that to now we’re over the college ministry. I still hate seeing somebody not reaching out. I know what that’s like. So we’re all about, with our leaders, “You will reach out to people! You don’t come in and sit down. You are out. I should have to call you together because you’re out talking to people.” So Brent was all about that, I was all about that.

A girl that was new came to me and asked, “Could we get together?” We met at Starbucks, and she was telling me how lonely she felt. She was new, and she felt left out. The “in” girls were not bringing her in.

They’re polite. You know, the whole, “Ohh, I’m glad to meet you. Is this your first time? That’s great.” (Then turning back to friend and previous conversation:) “Anyway, what I was saying . . .” And then they go, “Oh, I reached out.” I have don’t have a lot of patience for that.

So I’m listening to her, telling her what I believe is true and right, as far as, “God’s over that. What is God teaching you? Now that you know what that’s like, you go be the one that helps others. You look around the room. You’re not the only one. Why do you think God would allow that? You’re not a victim. God knows what He’s doing.”

So I told her all things that I believe are right and true, but I left there thinking, I can’t believe those girls! So the next week I got a call from one of those girls—the “in” girl—saying, “Can we get together. I need to talk to you about something.”

I said, “Absolutely! I would love some time with you!” So, we met at the same Starbucks—probably the same table; I was there a lot.

And she starts talking to me and says, “I just feel so left out.”

And I said, “Really?”

“Yeah (sigh). I know I need to handle it better, but it’s like you walk in a room, and you don’t really fit. You’re not ‘in’”

And I looked at her and I said, “So who do you think is ‘in’?” She named this other girl I just met with!

And I said, “Are you serious?”

And of course, I don’t tell either of them I talked to the other one—that wouldn’t be right. So I gave her the same story: “You need to be looking for other people and . . .”

But I came home, and said to Brent, “Oh my word. You’ll never believe what I just found out!”

And he said, “What?”

And I said, “Nobody’s ‘in’! I thought there was an ‘in’ crowd and an ‘out’ crowd, and I was mad that I was always ‘out.’ Did you know that there’s nobody who is ‘in’?”

And he’s looking at me like, “Okay . . .” Because guys don’t do that so much. They’re just like, “Pass the chips.” So that didn’t mean as much to him, but that really was revolutionary for me to recognize, “Nobody’s ‘in.’”

I would imagine every person in this room would say, “I don’t feel like I’m ‘in.’” But realize, that’s okay. So what’s the problem? I would say that the main problem is believing the lie that we’re not supposed to have unfulfilled longings. To believe that the goal is to fix it, that I should feel ‘in,’ that I’m supposed to belong here.

I think that we actually believe, “If I were where I was supposed to be spiritually, I wouldn’t feel this way. Jesus came to bring me complete contentment, so I should not have unfulfilled longings!” So I’m surprised by it, I’m discouraged by it, and I either decide I’m doing something wrong or you must be doing something wrong, that I feel this way. Because I don’t know how else to deal with it.

So, what do we know? Well, Jesus did come into a sinful wicked world to give us the only hope we could ever have. But what was that hope? Was it, “If I know Him, I would be completely fulfilled and content.” I’m going to suggest to you, sometimes we act like that. We actually say that to other people.

I mean, I didn’t get married until I was twenty-eight years old. For some that’s young, for some that’s old, but it was long enough to see a lot of friends get married. I heard the whole, “If you’re not content single, you won’t be content married.” I wasn’t content in either. I’m growing in contentment, but I’m not totally content. I wasn’t then; I’m not now. I’m not sure that was the goal. 

So it was saying to me, “Hurry up and get completely content so you don’t want to get married, and then God will give you one!” (laughter) God is not like that! Husbands are not the reward for amazing spirituality! They’re just another tool for growth, right? But I remember hearing all that.

But what is the hope? The hope is, “I get to now have a relationship with the God of the universe and one day I’m going to be with Him!” That’s the hope! “And when I am, I will never experience loneliness!”

Nancy: What an encouraging reminder we’ve been listening to, for all of us—and I mean all of us!—who deal with unfulfilled longings. We’ve been listening to Janet Aucoin speaking to a group of women at the Life Action Camp. Life Action Ministries is the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts, and we’ll hear more of her message tomorrow.

You know, as you read through the Psalms, you realize that David was no stranger to unfulfilled longings. For example, in Psalm 38:9 he prays, “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” 

This was a time when David was sick, he felt alone, he was afraid. But then a few verses later he turns a corner, and he expresses his dependence on the only One who can really satisfy our deepest longings.

He says in verse 15 of Psalm 38, “But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Listen, I don’t know what your heart may be longing for today. Maybe it’s a longing to get married or to have a better marriage or to have a child or to have a better job.

Whatever it is, the ultimate answer to your deepest longings lies in waiting on the Lord, as David said, in placing your hope and trust in the Lord of the universe, as we’ve heard from Janet Aucoin.

So today, I hope you’ll take some time to reflect on what you’ve heard in this message and to take your unfulfilled longings to Jesus and to realize He may not fulfill them in exactly the way that you’ve hoped or the way that you would script it. But know that, if you have Him, you have all that you need for your present peace and happiness!

We’re able to share practical messages like this one thanks to a very special group of listeners who are so committed to this program and to this ministry that they’ve stepped up in a big way, and that’s our Monthly Partner team. These friends support Revive Our Hearts every month to make this program possible. They pray for us, and they share this ministry with others. These Monthly Partners really are a part of our family, and we keep them connected with updates about the ministry and with the Daily Reflections devotional.

When you become a Monthly Partner, we’d like to welcome you by sending you one of my books. To get more details on how to join this Monthly Partner team, and some of the ways that we partner with you, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 and just ask, “Can you give me more information on becoming a Monthly Partner?”

Have you ever felt such a deep longing in your heart that you feel like groaning? If so, you’re actually in good company, according to the Bible. Tomorrow, Janet Aucoin points out something positive about our unmet expectations.

Janet: Our longings are a reminder that we were not designed to get our fulfillment in a fallen world, separated from our Maker.

Nancy: Please join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to remind you how beautiful a contented heart can be. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.


 

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