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As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God. (Ps. 42:1)
Can you relate? For those of you who are feeling tormented by a desperate craving for more of God, there are some important principles about spiritual growth that you need to understand. The wrong interpretation of your desire can lead to some pretty devastating conclusions. The correct interpretation brings great hope and joy. So let’s get into it.
WHAT YOU’RE LONGING FOR
As much as we’d like to think that every Christian who acts hungry for God is really hungry for Him, the reality is that most of these souls are just longing for their next adrenaline fix. You can pick these rush addicts out of the crowd because they always feel so satisfied and “filled” after a rousing worship session down at the church house. If a thundering drum beat and some stirring melodies are all you need to get your spiritual fix, then what you’re calling a spiritual hunger is just a carnal craving and you need to ask God to help you set your sights on higher things. The kind of craving we’re talking about in this post is not a greedy clawing at the blessings God is holding in His hands. We’re talking about a yearning for God Himself—the actual Being, not just His power to make us feel all warm and tingly.
THE SOURCE OF YOUR DESIRE
The desire for an adrenaline rush comes from your flesh. The desire for deeper soul communion with God comes from God. For those of you who are actually craving God, the first thing you need to realize is that He is the One causing you to feel this way.
Human beings are responsive creatures. We do not lead, we follow. Suppose you get an invitation in the mail from a friend who is throwing a surprise party. Before you got this invitation, you never knew anything about this party. Your friend could have chosen not to tell you about it at all and just done the whole event without you. You could have been left out of the loop entirely and you would have been none the wiser. In the same way, if the Holy Spirit had never given you illumination about who God is, you would have lived your whole life oblivious to His reality. It is only because God reached out to you first that you know anything about Him. It is only because He continued to reach out to you and continued to give you more and more illumination that you have grown in your knowledge of truth. God always initiates.
It is very important that you understand where this yearning in your soul is coming from. This fire was ignited by God. At some point, He extended you an invitation to know deeper communion with Him. At some point, your soul leapt upon that invitation with great enthusiasm. What you’re now experiencing is eager anticipation of God following through on His offer to draw you closer to Himself.
Now when we don’t have a correct understanding of spiritual mechanics, we think that our desire for God is our own idea. When we don’t see that we are simply reaching out and taking His hand that is already extended to us, we think that we are the ones reaching for Him. We think this “draw near to God” thing is our own idea, and as time passes and the craving remains unsatisfied, we start to worry that maybe we’re the only ones who are interested in furthering this relationship. What should be interpreted as eager anticipation gets mislabeled as evidence that God is rejecting us. Suddenly we feel we’re caught in unrequited love: that we desperately want God but He’s lukewarm or totally disinterested in us. This is a lie, of course, yet it is very effective at first, and we rapidly spiral down into heartbroken despair that God will never want us to the degree that we want Him.
THE CORRECT INTERPRETATION
Now let’s get back to that party invitation you received in the mail. Let’s assume that this is your favorite friend and that you absolutely love going to parties. When you get this invitation, you’re thrilled. You make a note on your calendar and then you spend months eagerly looking forward to what a grand time you’re going to have when the party day comes. You aren’t bummed, you’re stoked. You’re not depressed, you’re energized. You feel so complimented that your friend has chosen to invite you to come to her special party. You feel wanted and important.
Once we realize that our intense desire for God is a response to God declaring His desire for us, we can start to understand what a wonderful place we are in. We have received an invitation from God. He wants us. He is reaching out to us. And now that we’ve eagerly accepted His invitation, everyone is on the same page of mutual desire and eager anticipation. God immensely enjoys the process of maturing us in the faith and deepening our bond with Him. He is thrilled when we respond to His invitations with eager enthusiasm. At the same time, we are thrilled that God is expressing such personal interest in us. Your intense yearning for God is your hardcore evidence that He wants you, that He is planning to draw you closer to Him, and that you and He are on the same page. Your intense yearning for God is a very reassuring and comforting thing once you learn to interpret it correctly.
ASKING vs. RESTING
Now when we’re putting our trust in deceptions, we start praying for all the wrong things. We keep begging and pleading for God to draw us closer to Him instead of recognizing the hard evidence that He has already said that that’s exactly what He’s going to do. Your desire for more of God comes from Him. God doesn’t pass out invitations that He doesn’t plan to make good on. When God offers you deeper communion with Him and you accept that offer, it’s only a matter of time until He brings that communion to you. You don’t need to keep begging Him. Begging only erodes your confidence about what a great place you’re actually in.
Once you receive your friend’s invitation, do you call her up every day and ask if she would please invite you to her party? No, because you have hard evidence that she already has. You post her invitation near your calendar and you smile whenever you see it. In the same way, when feel your soul is panting for more of God, you need to see it for the encouraging guarantee that it is. There is no question that you’re on your way to more of God. He’s given you an invitation, and God never makes a mistake with His invitations. If He’s invited you, He wants you. If you’ve accepted the invitation, then you will have what God has offered you. All that’s left is to wait, but that waiting time is supposed to be a positive time of joyful anticipation, not some depressing period of angst.
God leads, we follow. He initiates, we respond. Once we really get a grip on this principle, it radically changes the way we view our walks. When you suddenly find yourself filled with curiosity about some aspect of God, you realize that you are responding to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to teach you more about that topic. When you find yourself hungering for deeper communion with God, you realize that you’re simply responding to Him saying that He wants to bring you closer to Himself.
You will never see the day that you want God more than He wants you. You will never see the day that you are more excited than He is about developing your relationship with Him. Yes, from the human perspective, God seems to drag His feet and take forever about moving us down the road of maturity. But our perspective isn’t the only perspective there is, nor is it the most accurate one. God wants us. He loves us intensely. Instead of fretting over your rate of progression, you need to practice resting in the knowledge that you and God are on the same page about where you want your relationship to go. You need to enjoy the relief of knowing that He is more than capable of getting you over all the theological hurdles that will rise up along the way. God is the One who matures us, we do not mature ourselves. God is the One who draws us closer to Himself. He does the hard part. He leads the dance and He sets the pace. We just have to follow His lead. God never leads us into anxious fretting and worrying. He doesn’t lead us to believe that we want Him more than He wants us. God whispers assurance to our souls and encourages us that everything is right on track. He wants us, and we want Him. We could not be in a better place.
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