Lord, take away my longing or give me what I long for. The Lord answered, “I must teach you to long for something better.”–Elisabeth Elliot
“The Bible says that our real problem is that every one of us is building our identity on something besides Jesus. Whether it’s to succeed in a chosen field or to have a certain relationship–we’re saying, “If I have that, if I get my deepest wish, then everything will be okay.” You’re looking to that thing to save you from oblivion, from disillusionment, from mediocrity. You’ve made that wish into your savior. You never use that term, of course–but that’s what’s happening.”-Tim Keller
“I am tired, Lord.” I prayed aloud as I walked around my neighborhood, “I don’t think I have anything left.”
A good friend of mine reminded me the other day that sometimes the Lord needs to rip us in order to make us more like Him. I confessed that I feel I have little left for Him to rip. But rip He continues. I fear the ripping is in response to my own prayer; my prayer for Him to ruin my desires for my own glory and selfish gain–for Him to destroy the idols in my life that have taken His place until it is Him alone whom I live for.
Jesus says, “You see, if you have me, I will actually fulfill you, and if you fail me, I will always forgive you. I’m the only savior who can do that.” But it is hard to figure that out…The problem is that we’re looking to something besides Jesus as savior. Almost always when we first go to Jesus saying, “This is my deepest wish,” his response is that we need to go a lot deeper than that.”
I am an idolater. My heart is plagued with idols. I am the problem. I battle with looking to anything else but Jesus to be my savior. I look to myself. I look to approval and affirmation from people. I look to the wish for a better job. I look to the longing to be beautiful and to be desired by a man. I look to the longing for a relationship. I look to the longing for marriage and a family. I look to my own (filthy rags) righteousness. I look to my future plans and ideals.
“If only I have____ I will be happy.”
Then I will be content. Then I will be fulfilled. Then I will be saved.
Thankfully, the Lord is not content to give me my idols, but, graciously, albeit painfully, works to rip them away. One by one. He works to teach me to long for something better–to long for someone better–to long for Him instead. To replace my idols with Him, the only One who can satisfy my deepest longings, the only One who can give me true and lasting joy.
This is an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Aslan helps Eustace to shed his dragon skin and become a boy again:
I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now…The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt–and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been…Then he caught hold of me..and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment…Then I saw… I’d turned into a boy again.”
I write this through tears. I have thought that with a little help, I could save myself. But I have learned that Jesus wanted to take me deeper.
We had to let him use his claws and go all the way to our heart and reconfigure the main thing that our heart wanted. you see, it wasn’t our deepest wish itself that was the problem,…The fact that we thought getting our deepest wish would heal us, would save us–that was the problem. We had to let Jesus be our Savior.” -Keller
Idols in and of themselves are not always bad things. The problem is when we [I] let good things become ultimate things.
I am being ripped. And I feel I am being torn to pieces. It is a painful process.
My friend mentioned above lovingly reminded me, upon a recent ripping incident, that the Lord was building my character. I somewhat jokingly responded with, “Screw character! I’d rather have what I want!” Thankfully, the Lord is more concerned with my character than I apparently am. : )
I praise God that He does not leave us as we are, but desires that we should be like Him–ripping away, layer by layer, piece by piece, my sinful pride, arrogance, worry, anxiety, lust, fear, anger, unkindness, idols…until it is Him alone I live for. Until we have become “boys again”.
We need someone who can go deeper…Someone who will use his claws, lovingly and carefully, to pierce our self-centeredness and remove the sin that enslaves us and distorts even our beautiful longings. In short, we need to be forgiven. That’s the only way for our discontent to be healed. It will take more than a miracle worker or a divine genie–it will take a Savior. Jesus knows that to be our Savior he is going to have to die. And we will discover that in the process of dealing with what we thought were our deepest wishes, Jesus has revealed an even deeper, truer one beneath–and it is for Jesus himself. He will not just have granted that true deepest wish, he will have fulfilled it. Jesus is not going to play the rotten practical joke of giving you your deepest wish–until he has shown you that it was for him all along.”-Keller
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21
Long for Someone better.