When I was in college, my absolute favorite book was Passion and Purity, by Elizabeth Elliot. The reason I loved it so much was that I wanted to meet somebody amazing, date very romantically, get married and live happily ever after – but MORE than that, I wanted what God wanted for my life, and that’s what that book is about.
I really, really wanted Him to want me to get married and have a family, so I felt this struggle inside to surrender to Him, and accept whatever He had in mind for my future.
So Elizabeth Elliot’s words spoke to me every time. My copy of that book has page corners folded down, and sections underlined and highlighted, because I would go back to it again and again. (Surrendering is definitely not a one-time thing!)
There’s one thing I learned from Elizabeth Elliot that sticks with me still. And it applies to all areas of life, not just being single.
She writes that there are things that people long for that are perfectly “normal”. We long for connection and deep relationships, and that leads many single people to long for marriage. It’s a relationship that God thought of, and it’s a good thing! It can be a natural longing for a lot of people. There are lots of other things that we long for that are good and natural – health, financial stability, happiness, all kinds of things.
But the thing is that God doesn’t leave us to only long for what is natural – He desires that we long for what is supernatural, and that is something only found in Him.
Choosing to desire what is supernatural, instead of only what’s natural, is harder, because it doesn’t come as…naturally. Striving for the supernatural and doing the “right” thing can be tiring – especially when we try to do it in our own strength. There are times when we’re tempted to just shove it, and do what will make us feel best. And when we want something that is perfectly natural and normal, it can seem okay to want it, and to pursue it.
But whenever I feel that way, there is always that little knowing in the back of my head that reminds me of God’s desire for supernatural. I don’t always choose to listen to it – often, I just give in to the temptation for my natural longings. I allow my mind to be filled with the desire for things that are right and good, but not necessarily right and good for me.
For example, when we were dealing with infertility, my desire for a baby was so great that it became kind of all-consuming. Surrendering that desire to God seemed nearly impossible at times. And part of me wanted that to be okay. After all, God commanded that we be fruitful and multiply! Most “normal” couples just decide that they want a baby, and within a few months, a baby is on the way. But for us, things did not work that way. And that made me angry sometimes, because it didn’t seem fair, and it was so easy for everybody else, and having a baby was a good, natural, wonderful thing for me to want.
Except that God wanted me to start longing for the supernatural. Once I was finally able to give everything over to Him, I was able to experience a deep joy and contentment – not easy to get there, but possible with or without a baby. We just also happened to have Kaylia after all that. She increases our joy immensely, but we were actually able to feel the supernatural joy of Jesus even while we were still waiting for a miracle.
There are so many situations in life where I think the same thing applies. Basically, we live in an imperfect world, and we will always want something in our lives to be different. We don’t long to be lonely or poor or sick or depressed or broken. It is natural that we would long for good things.
I completely believe that God wants good things for us, and that He gives good things to us.
But I don’t believe that He’s like a Sears catalogue, waiting for you to choose something and place your order.
Sometimes the best and most wonderful thing for us is not what we long for.
And sometimes His plan is so much better than anything I could think up myself, like in Ephesians – “…more than we could ask or imagine.”
I keep realizing how easy it is to chase after the wrong things, and I know that there’s a very different life waiting for each of us if we can hand over all of the natural junk in our lives, and start experiencing freedom and intimacy with Jesus.
I keep thinking that if I would long for supernatural things, all of my longings would be filled. How amazing is that?!