Yearnings of the Heart

It disguises itself as that stabbing feeling you get when something goes terribly wrong. It shows up when the new shiny thing you just bought doesn’t really bring the happiness you thought it would.

It stomps across your heart when you feel adrift and wonder why you’re even here and if your life matters. It’s that abiding sense of, “this isn’t the way it is supposed to be” and the despairing whisper of, “is this all there is?”

Let’s admit it. At our core we feel unsatisfied. We know life should be better, justice should prevail, things should go right. Our hearts are built to hold much more than they receive. The gap between what is and what we know should be seems to only widen and we find ourselves hungering for perfect, searching for right and longing for much, much more.

And, yes, I am talking to Christians. This describes those of us who sing songs like “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,” and those who exchange the greeting, “How are you? I’m blessed.” Because this deep, nagging longing is exactly what the Bible says happens to those who hold “eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

When we come to Christ, we begin our journey into everlasting life, and along the way we get little tastes of what it will be like to live forever with the lover of our souls. God gives us glimpses of His glory and lets us occasionally peek behind the veil to see what living perpetually in His perfect presence will be like. These experiences serve as hors d’oeuvres to make us hungry for the main course.

Such is the backdrop for Amy Simpson’s new book, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World.* Throughout the chapters she unpacks nine blessings that come from living unsatisfied, and brings the reader into the doorway of the promise of heaven. She explains, “This book is about living unsatisfied not because God will disappoint us but because he will not. Living unsatisfied means living in hope of satisfaction far beyond what we are capable of wanting now” (page 164).

Jesus makes an audacious claim to the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4). Simpson reminds the reader: “Wow, never thirst? Does this mean anyone who turns to Jesus for satisfaction will never again experience longing, sorrow, desire, or restlessness again? Well, no. Jesus offered the woman a source of true sustenance, with a promise of full satisfaction in the eternal realm” (page 17).

Simpson skillfully describes the difference between dissatisfied and unsatisfied, and helps readers embrace their longings as prods to focus their energies on bringing about His Kingdom and will, “on earth as it is in heaven.” She reminds us, “After we have stopped trying to make life something it isn’t, intentional living can infuse every day with meaning” (page 101).

Blessed are the Unsatisfied signals to readers that their yearnings are not only normal for believers in Christ, but are actually desirable. Simpson spells out reasons why being satisfied with this world can actually indicate a shallow understanding of what lies ahead. She repeatedly sets out the promise that it is those who thirst who will experience the greatest satisfaction. That’s why we are admonished to stay thirsty.

Throughout my reading I found myself nodding while sighing, keenly aware that Simpson was on target in calling out so many of my own ponderings. At the same time she opened new ways to frame old questions and then introduced fresh answers free of platitudes or trite theology. In the end, the book felt familiar and comfortable while inviting me to press on with renewed energy to keep seeking, knocking and asking.

Simpson relays the mandate for us to look past the brokenness of our present world and reset our focus in the one to come. She affirms our drive toward more and better. And she invites us to stay thirsty, stay hungry and stay hopeful. May we, indeed.

*Simpson, Amy. Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2018.

Carol Dowsett is a career missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators and a professional communications consultant, having worked for nearly 25 years in global communication leadership roles. She has served with agencies such as Wycliffe International, SIL International, Forum of Bible Agencies International, Bible League International, Christar, and the Well Community. She is a frequent teacher of Reflective Bible Studies and has been a lay leader of women's discipleship and prayer ministries in various churches. An advocate to the Church for mental health awareness, she has served as a support group leader with Mental Health Grace Alliance. With her family, she lived in Nairobi, Kenya for three years and now makes her home near Dallas, Texas. Married for 45 years, she and Jim have four adult children and six grandchildren.