As I write, we in Iowa are on the heels of a February ice storm that has left streets, sidewalks, trees, and yards coated with ice. Our snow removal contractor called to tell me that the crew was giving up on the ice removal for the day since the temperatures keep dropping and they couldn’t get ahead of the freezing water. Typical of late February, it can feel like the winter will never end. I find myself yearning to wear cutoffs and a t-shirt in 75-degree sunny weather, to hear the birds back from their fall migration, to see jonquils and smell hyacinths around the neighborhood. The sensory inputs of Spring are engraved in our memories. These stored sights and smells and sounds and sensations make our longings almost tangible when we languish in a season grown tiresome.
We couldn’t long for something we have never experienced. Longings are important because they can help us notice the deeper currents in our hearts. We wouldn’t long for Spring unless we had first experienced it. Our yearnings can point out to us what we might be missing, something we might need to pay attention to or reconnect with. When we experience personal winters—and no one is exempt—our thoughts often turn to God and we pray for God’s intervention. Sometimes we feel lonely for God, so we might read a scripture, or a devotional, or breathe a prayer. When we miss our congregation or wonder if God is still present with us, we are experiencing a longing for God. We couldn’t feel this way without a relationship with God in the first place. Our yearnings are often God’s voice, drawing us back to God, or leading us to notice something we need to attend to. We can be confident that God is always at work; sometimes we just don’t pay close enough attention.
Longings can also be signs of hope. God wouldn’t give us a deep desire that God did not want to fulfill. It is hopeful to see signs of God’s presence in our daily lives. Even nature gives us signs that Spring will always come, whether the sign is the lengthening daylight, the sight of the first Robins, or the encouragement that comes with the start of Daylight Savings Time. We can be sure that with God, our yearnings are never without hope.