by Tim Branch
Have you ever felt like God has a secret club, and you’re not in it?
Hey, it’s okay if you raise your hand. I’m raising mine.
I have a distinct memory of Wednesday night youth group worship in high school. I remember looking around at everyone else lifting their hands up and singing at the top of their lungs (you know…the ole raise-and-praise), and wondering, “Why don’t I feel that way?”
Everyone else seemed to be connecting to God in some deep and meaningful way while we all sang “Heart of Worship” in a dimly-lit youth room, while I just stood there. Meanwhile, I felt like I had to manufacture intimacy with God.
I would raise my hands at a key-change or a chorus-repeat, like I was having some big spiritual moment. I wasn’t. I didn’t feel God’s nearness, I just didn’t want to feel left out. But I ended up feeling like a fraud.
I thought, “Maybe I don’t feel that way because God doesn’t want to connect with me. Maybe I’m not really part of the plan.”
Have you ever thought that? I’ve talked to so many friends who definitely have. It seems like, at some point or another, we’ve all doubted whether God really wants to be intimate with us. It feels like everyone else is better friends with God than we are.
Because I was faking my worship enthusiasm, I got it in my head that I was some kind of second-string Christian. I started to believe God saw me as a back-up plan: available to step in if needed, but certainly not a first choice.
I walked all the way through my teenage years believing that. Maybe you’ve had a season like that, too. A season where you hear a constant symphony of things like:
“I’m on the fringe.”
“I’m sure God cares about me, but He cares about other people a lot more.”
“Do I matter to God?”
My worst fears were validated the night I didn’t get asked to join a ministry staff I was dying to be on. The really terrible part? My dad was already on staff and I still didn’t get picked. I felt embarrassed in front of my friends, insufficient, worthless. It punched me in the gut.
In tears, I asked God, “Why is it that all I want to do is be useful to you, to serve you, to have a deep relationship with you, but you don’t want me? Am I not good enough?”
I longed to be in ministry. I longed to feel close to God, and to feel that I was fulfilling my Big Purpose. And I felt like God didn’t care.
Sitting with your longing and hurt is painful and no fun at all. It stinks. But I learned something as I sat in my brokenness. That my longing is a valuable part of the human experience and, more importantly, a valuable part of my relationship with God.
Friend, God made you to long for things. He designed you to be dissatisfied. It sounds weird, I know. But hear me out.
Have you noticed that you only move when you’re dissatisfied? Content people tend to be pretty complacent. Discontent people are the ones who get up early in the morning, who push themselves, who go after something more.
When we’re uncomfortable, or bored, or frustrated, or unsatisfied, we start hunting for things that will quench our longing.
That’s why God has placed an eternal longing deep inside each of us. It’s a longing that is meant to lead us toward him, to pull us into a richer relationship with him.
God deeply wants you to seek him. He loves you so dearly, and so desires to have an intimate, unique relationship with you, that he fills you with a longing that only he can satisfy so that you will have to run to him.
I know because my deepest longing caused me to do exactly that.
C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, says something that I love: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
My painful longing for purpose through ministry was actually a slightly misappropriated desire for more of God. And when I learned how to let God fill up my soul, everything else began to fall into place.
Over the next couple of years after I didn’t get that job, God began to show me who I was in Him, and how all those longings He put in my heart were guideposts to draw me back to Him. Which, curiously, also led me to the exact job (and ministry) I feel I was made to do.
Every longing, frustration, and deep desire you have is a little breadcrumb that God uses to lead you to Him.
All of our breadcrumbs look different. My breadcrumbs looked like a desire to be in ministry, an introverted personality I resented, and a deep love of fantasy stories (go figure). I followed these longings toward God, and realized He was the perfect version of all of them.
What are your breadcrumbs? What desires are nestled deep in your heart? What feels not-quite-settled in your soul?
When you follow the trail of your dissatisfaction and longing, you’ll end up at the feet of the very Creator of that longing. And he’ll lean in and say, “Welcome, dear Friend. I’m going to fill you to the brim with my fullness, because I love you.”
The prophet Jeremiah recorded these words of God, when the Israelite were stuck in Babylon: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”
Listen to the shouting of your longings. In the middle of the noise, there is also a whisper: “I put this here to draw you to myself. Come find fullness in intimacy with me.”
You’re invited to the club.
God wants you in his inner circle.
Run to your Savior, friend. When you do, you’ll find that he is very near, calling you gently to him.
In my experience, God likes to whisper more than he likes to shout. And there’s something beautiful that happens when we commit to listening for His voice, even when all we hear is silence: Eventually, we hear him. Even if it’s a faint whisper.
Don’t let silence discourage you. Keep coming back. Because one thing I know for sure is that the God of the universe desperately wants to be in deep, rich, intimate communion with you.
He always has.
Author Bio: Tim Branch is a Christian blogger, former youth pastor, and Chick-fil-A aficionado. He writes at timbranch.com, a blog about how to understand yourself, find your purpose, and grow into who you were uniquely created to be.