Written by Andrea Stephens
I’d been on mission trips before, but this one was different.
Having recently been given the opportunity to write a column in Focus On The Family’s BRIO Magazine for teen girls, I was invited to be part of their annual mission trip. That year they were headed to Costa Rica. Hmmmm. Sharing the gospel, leading a team of eager young women who loved Jesus, and getting to experience a different culture—I was in!
The plan was to have the girls, coming from all over the U.S., meet in Miami for several days of training. Then on chartered planes, all 250 of us would fly to San Jose,
(I thought organizing 250 excited teenager girls sounded like the challenge of a lifetime until several years later when the group had grown to 850!). Right after the early morning breakfast buffet, the girls were divided into twelve teams and taught choreography to a powerful 25-minute drama presentation of the gospel called Spellbound. They also had daily sessions of language learning and the opportunity to fine-tune their personal testimony of God’s work in their lives which they would be sharing at their various ministry sites around San Jose.
My main assignment while in Miami was to encourage my team during rehearsals, make sure everyone had called home at least once, help finalize costumes, and practice Spanish phrases. The days were long and rushed but worth every second once we touched down on Costa Rician soil, ready to tell others of the love of God and saving grace of Jesus. I was excited that these precious girls were about to be obedient to Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). Each morning I led team devotions, then getting on our knees, we asked the Lord to lead us, guide us, and grant us favor as we presented the drama at parks, schools, and open market squares. We asked the Holy Spirit to be at work in the hearts of those watching the drama and, in our hearts, as well.
Each night, at the close of an adventure filled day, all the teams gathered together to share stories and to thank the Lord for all He was doing. The worship offered during these times was very genuine. Coupled with my private morning devo time, I began to experience a stirring deep inside of me—an unsettled feeling that I had felt before. Call it a yearning, a feeling of discontent, a touch of heart ache. Being on a mission trip where I was able to spend extra time in the Word and prayer drew my attention to the stirring. At home, with the busyness of life, it is both easier and necessary to push down the thoughts and feelings that are trying to rise to the surface; the very things that the Holy Spirit is wanting to use to get our attention about something. Well, this was one of my somethings. So, I asked the Lord to explain this to me. And he did.
His answer came the next afternoon. We returned from ministry a little early so the teams had free-time until dinner. Ah! I welcomed the extra time to recharge alone in my room. I had been reading in the Psalms, so I picked up my Bible to continue looking into these/this collection of thoughts and prayers as expressed through their author, King David.
I was reading Psalm 63 when I got it. This Psalm talks about seeking God, thirsting for Him, and yearning for Him. Seeking, thirsting, yearning. Another word to express how David was feeling is the word longing. David was longing for God. This is when the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to what was really stirring around deep inside of me. I was feeling what I was feeling because I was actually…homesick. Homesick?
The idea took me by surprise.
Yet it explained the days when I felt out of sorts, not quite comfortable whether I’m at work, in line at Starbucks, rushing through Walmart or reheating leftovers for dinner. I knew this was more than just needing a long soak in a hot tub with lavender scented bath salts. It would easily be mislabeled as loneliness or interpreted as depression. But those words did not accurately describe what I felt. These were times when it feels like something is missing and I just long for more. Now I understood. I was longing for my heavenly home. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not talking about an eerie death wish. I’m talking about a deep longing to be in that place where we, as believers and children of God, will experience belonging, satisfaction, wholeness, total acceptance, and of course, a love like no other.
When we have developed an intimate personal relationship with Jesus—the kind that goes beyond Sunday morning casual Christianity—our longing for
So this longing in me was not a bad thing, it was a good thing; not a negative feeling, but a positive one. Have you felt the longing? Perhaps you chalked it up to PMS or your biorhythms being off or a general dissatisfaction with life. If so, knowing it is a desire to be more deeply connected with your Heavenly Father is very freeing. And very good.
So what do we do to help satisfy the longing until the day our Heavenly Father calls us home? We spend more time in the Word, pray without ceasing, surround ourselves with worship music, serve Him by serving others, fellowship with other believers—all things that help us keep our hearts and minds set on Jesus so that we will have peace for our longing. And we choose to rejoice in the Lord always and give thanks in everything (Philippians 4:6-9). Yes, I have learned to be content and grateful for the stirring inside of me. It is confirmation that I am connected to my Heavenly Father and that my longing will one day be fulfilled when I live in my heavenly home where I will spend eternity.
None of this would be possible without the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf by going to the cross. He willingly chose to die a painful criminal’s death in order to break the power of sin and death, to pay the penalty I could never pay for myself, to provide the beautiful gifts of salvation, forgiveness
This month as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection let’s also rejoice that we experience a sense of longing every now and then.
Let it be a reminder that because we have accepted Jesus into our lives as Savior and Lord, we are now the children of God. Our culture teaches that we are all God’s children yet the scripture is clear that Jesus gives us the right to become children of God. We are all God’s creations, yet we become His children through Jesus. (John 1:12). In God’s selected timing, we are children who will one day be home where that longing will be turned into fullness of joy. (Psalm 16: 11).