We live such busy, lonely, and anxious lives. But we long to know God more deeply. The psalmist writes, “As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). St. Augustine famously writes in his Confessions – “You stir us to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Amidst the everyday ordinariness of your lives, is your heart restless? Do Augustine’s words reflect your experience
today? Do you long and thirst for God? Or are your desires a little more muted, your attention a bit more divided? At times, we live such distracted lives that this deep longing for God is not so readily apparent. Peter Kreeft tells us of Augustine’s test for this God-longing.
The great Augustine…proposed the following little thought experiment to show you, his reader, that your deepest desire is indeed the desire for God [Augustine, Ennarationes in Psalmos 127:9]. Imagine God appeared to you and said, “I’ll make a deal with you if you wish. I’ll give you anything and everything you ask: pleasure, power, honor, wealth, freedom, even peace of mind and a good conscience. Nothing will be a sin; nothing will be forbidden; and nothing will be impossible for you. You will never be bored and you will never die. Only…you shall never see my face.” Did you notice that unspeakable chill in your deepest heart at those last words? Did your surface desires leap after the first part of God’s deal and your deepest desire freeze in standstill shock at “you shall never see my face”? Your surface mind, which is in touch with your surface desires, may not admit it, but your deepest mind, which knows your deepest desires, knows it: you want God more than everything else in the world.[i]
Admittedly, our awareness of this longing for God fluctuates due to our life circumstances and our attentiveness to God. Sometimes we find ourselves resting securely in the awareness of God’s loving presence with us. Other times we are keenly in touch with the frustration and discontent of our lives, and we find ourselves prayerfully reaching out to God, imploring him to take notice of us. And yet at other times still we are not conscious of any longing for God, but we are aware of wanting to want God more deeply; and this too is evidence of God’s Spirit at work in our heart. There are so many Christians starving for something more. And this something more can be interpreted in so many different ways. Perhaps we can begin to prayerfully interpret this hunger for something more as a reflection of God’s Spirit at work in the depths of our hearts. Might the Spirit actually be inviting us through our longings to a more gracious and truthful way of life with Jesus? Questions for reflection:
- Reread Augustine’s thought experiment: What did you notice stirring in your heart when you read “Only… you shall never see my face”?
- Pay attention to your heart: What are you longing for in your relationship with God?