Matters of the heart can be so hard, especially when it comes to unrequited love. Or love that’s somewhat requited but not enough to leave you feeling safe and secure in a committed relationship. I’m far removed from this feeling after many years of marriage, but I can still remember it. And I can remember hating how much a love interest would occupy my thoughts, while also indulging those thoughts and therefore doing nothing to get the person out of my mind.
I’ve heard more than a few tales of love and heartache in this ministry. The saddest was from a young Indian man. He’d been engaged, but then his parents and his fiancée’s parents had a major clash. His fiancée’s father told her the engagement was off, and now she wasn’t returning his calls. He was despondent but still hopeful, and we prayed that true love would overcome.
More often, people speak to me about trying to get over someone they still love but can’t be with. Or they describe longing and praying for God to send them a spouse.
Earlier this year my spiritual director told me that unfulfilled longing can be a gift from God. I get what she’s saying; longing for something can drive us closer to God (provided we don’t let it create bitterness in our hearts or idolatry over what we long for). But I’ve always seen that as a silver lining, a consolation prize in the face of not getting what I really wanted in the first place. Now I’m not so sure. I’ve found that it’s possible to desire something intensely while also being detached - at least to some extent - from whether you ever get it. This is a detachment only God can provide. God meets our desire with spiritual, if not earthly, fulfillment, allowing us to hold that earthly desire lightly.
Here’s something else I know. If I don’t spend sufficient time with God, my desire for love, attention and affirmation from others increases. And that's one longing I'd prefer to keep in check. As the psalmist writes, "my soul thirsts for you" and is "satisfied as with a rich feast." (Psalm 63:1, 5). Go to God first and always, for our deepest longing is fulfilled in Christ's love for us.