Explore My News,
Thoughts & Inspiration

There’s a recurring tension I encounter.  It’s the tension of living in contentment and living with unfulfilled yearning. 

This isn’t unique to me.  I know scripture praises learning to be content in all circumstances and sees godliness with contentment as great gain.  But scripture also tells us to yearn for (hunger and thirst for) things like righteousness. We’re encouraged to be persistent in prayer.  We’re not supposed to be content in the face of things like injustice or evil.

But what do we do when it feels less “invisible spiritual realm” and more “flesh and blood” realm?  When it is not a spiritual desire or a crisis, but is rather a persistent desire that just doesn’t go away, with no clear word from the Lord one way or another.  The things that don’t dominate your life, aren’t necessarily painful, don’t intrude daily, but are never too far beneath the surface.

How do we live in the tension between contentment and yearning?

I love my life.  I love what I get to do.  I love the ministry. I love making a difference.  I love owning a home that lends itself to hospitality.  I love getting to travel. I love that I have friends to connect with.  I love that I’m cancer-free. I’m very grateful for all that.

I’m deeply content. This empty nest season of my life has been healed and redeemed in ways far beyond what I could have imagined 15 years ago.  I also recognize that the depth of my contentment does not come from any of those things I mentioned above.  No job, no person, no possession can fill the spaces in me that require the Lord in order to be deeply and peacefully content in a way that is not shaken by circumstances.  

My ability to live in the tension between contentment and yearning stems from a rootedness that knows my needs are ultimately met by the Lord.  For me, He has been a trustworthy place to take pain and abandonment and abuse and disappointment and cancer and so much more. I trust at a deep level that He is “for me” and not against me.


I also experience yearnings that don’t go away.  I don’t live in pain because of them.  They don’t intrude daily.  But they are there.

Some are easy to talk about.  I yearn for the kind of community I experienced in Connecticut before moving to Georgia eight years ago.  For a church that “did church” better than anywhere else I’ve been. For the close friends that come from walking with each other in daily life, through ups and downs, for years.  

Some are harder to talk about.   I yearn for someone special in my life.  Not just for someone to love me, but for someone who would delight in being loved by me.  A companion to share life with. Someone “there” to listen and talk to – rather than having to find someone to share with when I’m lonely or happy or just have something to share.  Someone there in the going out and coming in each day.  

My life is busy and full.  So it is rare that I have enough time to get deeply reflective on this.  But when I do, I’ll be honest – I have more questions than answers as I reflect on what I should do with this yearning.

But I’ve learned a few things:

Don’t let lies gain a foothold.  For me, this took years of work with counselors and with the Lord before it became instinctive rather than requiring intense effort.  I don’t allow myself to go down the path where the “old tapes” play. Where I hear the voices saying I’m not good enough, pretty enough, special enough.  

Don’t get stuck in unproductive places that feed the lies.  I don’t allow myself to fixate on “Why has no one been interested in me in the 15 years since my divorce?” (And the corollary leap that says the reason must be me.)  Comparison fits in here as well: “Why do other people get a second chance and I don’t?”

Ground yourself in truth even if you have to repeat it 50 times a day during the hard times. I cling to what I know is true.  Five years ago the Lord asked me:  “What if this is about My timing and not your worth?”  I cling to that.  I press into the assurance that I have been healed from earlier wounds, I am strong, and I have something to offer.  I hang onto the truth that I am well-equipped to be a partner, whether or not that ever happens.  

Be honest about what you want and courageous enough to ask for it.  This is still a tough one for me. I’m not a demanding person. My identity for much of my life has been as “the compliant one”. I’m sometimes a tentative “if it’s okay and if it’s your will” kind of pray-er.  I don’t want to ask Him for something until I’m sure He wants to give it to me. There’s some messed up “need to get it right” stuff in there.  There’s also some healthy willingness to accept that He knows best.  

What’s missing is the fullness of my identity as a beloved daughter and the trust that He knows my heart ultimately wants His best for me.  I don’t have to be afraid that I might not “get it right’. So I can ask in freedom, knowing that He delights to hear my requests. That not only is it “safe” to dream with Him, but that doing so knits our hearts together in unique ways.  My heart is still catching up to my head knowledge on this one.

Be aware of where your past experiences impact your current fears, actions and desires – and figure out what that means.  I am honest about the places where my past experience impacts my yearning.  Some of my past treatment has created a desire in me to be pursued, rather than to be the one trying to hold things together, to keep someone close who wants to leave.  Basically, when I’m really honest, my wish goes like this: “Any time Lord – but I want him to just drop out of the sky into my lap and pursue me”. I’ve worked with a counselor to unpack the healthy and the unhealthy parts of that desire to be pursued.  As part of that, I’ve looked at things like whether I’ve too narrowly defined what pursuit looks like (i.e., in a way that spares me from any action or risk) and what it would mean to put myself “out there”.  

Take your questions to the Lord.  Spend time listening. My selfish wish is “just drop out of the sky, into my lap”.  But it’s rarely how the Lord works in my life. So, in those moments, when I have time, I find myself with questions like these:

When do I wait for it to happen and when do I be persistent?  What would persistence look like?  How do I admit the depth of my yearning without messing with my contentment?  Is it a good risk or a bad risk to mess with my contentment? Is discontentment a bad thing when it pushes us toward something important?  Does “settling” for contentment mean I miss out on greater joy?

I know my thinking can get convoluted and bogged down.  Time with the Lord brings clarity – and often much more quickly than I thought possible.  It’s where I get the things I cling to as true.

Figure out what hope looks like for you.  I have my days where I give up hope that it will happen – and where I genuinely and peacefully trust the Lord with that.  But I haven’t heard Him tell me to lay down this yearning, to move past it.  

So most days, if I think about it, I live with a tentative hope.  Not one that requires this for a rich and full life, but one that believes my heavenly Father could still surprise me with a gift that would delight my heart and take my breath away.

Be willing to give it up if you know He is asking that.  I’ve had a few unfulfilled dreams, even ones that persisted for years, where I eventually heard a “no”.  Some were instantaneously easy to give up.  Others weren’t.  But obedience is worth it and brings freedom.

Make sure the “important thing” remains the important thing.   Without that, the balance between contentment and yearning is tenuous. 

So I come back to this: I have a trustworthy Father who loves me, and grounding both my contentment and my yearnings in His goodness is what makes living in the tension possible.