I often write about devotion to God, not because I’m devoted to God, but because I desire to be more so! I long to long for God more than I do. And I want this for you too.
Yearning for God is how we grow spiritually. Of course, our desire for God doesn’t start with us — it starts with God’s desire for us! “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “While we were yet still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8) But in our experience of our life the key for us is to cultivate our longing for God — desiring His beauty, His goodness, and His wisdom, but most of all Him!
When being with the Father, Son, and Spirit is our joy then we will naturally be carried into a good life with the power to love our neighbor, even to bless those who curse us. Delighting in God is the ultimate cure for depression, anxiety, compulsive behavior, or whatever ails us.
So I recommend that you enthrall your mind with Jesus, and through him God and God’s kingdom. Meditation on Scripture, especially in solitude or when fasting, helps us to feel our longing for God and to habituate our bodies to living, working, and relating with a Godward focus.
My last devotional on “Confessions of Sin” featured an excerpt from Augustine, one of the Church Fathers. His confessions of sin are intermingled with longing for God, which is what makes them so healthy and helpful to us. Here I share with you some excerpts/quotes from Confessions where he confesses that he has been lacking in his desire for God (this is the root of sin) and at the same time he reaches inside and cries out to be closer to the Lord.
May these words enrich your soul and draw you up into the heavens where your real life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3):
Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all.
You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours…
I do not hide my wounds. You are the physician, I am the patient… My entire hope is exclusively in your very great mercy.
My God, give me yourself, restore yourself to me. See, I love you, and if it is too little, let me love you more strongly… Make my life run to your embraces, and not to turn away until it lies hidden “in the secret place of your presence” (Psalm 31:20)…
[Let’s] climb “the ascents in our heart” (Psalm 84:7), and sing “the song of the steps” (Psalm 121:1). “For I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1)… We want nothing but to stay there forever. (Confessions, pp. 201-202; 278-279)
More Help to Cultivate Longing for God
“Hungry Heart Scriptures” is one of our most used Soul Shepherding resources. It features Bible prayers that help to increase our longing for God. In this short article I teach an uncommon but delightful approach to fasting that is powerful for furthering our love for God and the people around us.
Unforsaken: With Jesus on the Stations of the Cross is my own guide to cultivate a burning heart for Jesus on a prayer walk with Jesus and the ancient stations of his cross. You’ll be encouraged by
- Fresh re-tellings of Gospel stories
- Surprising insights from the Bible
- Personal reflection questions
- A hope-filled journey with Jesus
This guide is for your personal devotions or to share with friends in a small group or on a retreat. It’s great for Lent or anytime of year. Appendix One features an outline for eight messages or studies.