“As the deer longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you, O Lord.”Psalm 42:1
Whether they acknowledge it or not, everyone can relate, in some capacity, to the longing described in Psalm 42. We experience normal daily desires for things like more freedom, better weather, more friends, or a different job. But there is a deeper, more profound longing that can never be properly satisfied.
Even if we get the job we want or make new friends, there will always be dissatisfaction within us. Nothing on earth can fill this longing, and we continue to experience it no matter our situation in life.
So, how do we live with this fundamental desire that can never be satisfied? How can we ever be happy?
The answer to both of those questions is that…we cannot. We cannot ever truly be happy, in the deepest sense of the word, while we exist in this world. And, in a manner of speaking, we cannot ever truly live while we are on earth (provided that we think of “living” as the abundant living which Jesus talks about in the Gospel of John).
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”John 10:10
We are called to and created for that abundant life, and we can pursue it through Jesus Christ, but we will never grasp it until we enter Heaven. This earthly life is forever limited by the flesh, original sin, and temptations.
So, do we just live in misery? Bide our time until we die? Certainly not. We are here for a purpose. It is important to remember that our now-insatiable longing will one day be fulfilled, and there is a reason that God has written this desire into our hearts.
“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.”Catechism of the Catholic Church 27
Although our thirst won’t be satisfied in this life, this doesn’t mean we can’t find peace. Everlasting peace awaits us in Heaven, but God has temporary peace for us here, too. There is a peace that comes from accepting our state here on earth. When man tries to fill his desires with pleasures, people, or other temporary things, he becomes restless, agitated, and unhappy. The alternative is that we can accept our state of longing. We can lean on God in our suffering as we thirst for the running streams.
There is also peace in knowing that our thirst is a gift from God. Our longing is a reminder that He has greater things in store. Our dissatisfaction tells us that it is not up to us to find our own happiness. Our thirst was made for water, and one day we will drink from the springs of salvation (see Isaiah 12:3).
Although we wait for the day when we reach beatitude, we also have to remember that the journey here on earth also has meaning. We ought to take our short time here in this world seriously. We can gather the souls around us and bring them to Heaven. God has given us gifts, vocations, talents, and grace. While keeping our eyes fixed on Heaven, let’s multiply the goodness He has given us and return to Him with arms and hearts full.
“You think that, because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched. . . Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again; even now. . . Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.”C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce