This is a guest post I wrote for (in)courage that first appeared there on November 10, 2018.
We were all struggling in our own ways since my husband left on his latest deployment. For my oldest son, and let’s be honest, myself at times, this looked like extra tears, sass, and sleeplessness. With each passing day, I noticed the weight of his dad’s absence cracking his little spirit more and more like a heavy boot stepping down on a thin piece of glass.
Awake much too late one night, my son appeared next to my bed. In the shadows, I could see an angst contorting his face and heard it thicken his small voice. He spilled out his hurt to me like a hurried confession, “I miss Daddy.” And tears gushed.
I understood his breaking and longing. I knew what it was like to ride an emotional roller coaster and suffer sleepless nights. This wasn’t my first rodeo with deployment or longing for something.
As an Army wife of eleven years, I’m what they call a “seasoned military spouse,” which means I’ve endured numerous deployments and separations from my husband. Throughout my life, I’ve held passionate desires and faced various losses, and for half that time, I’ve walked with Jesus. I’ve come to learn a thing or two about finding comfort in the longing.
[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:4 (NIV)
I spoke softly into my child’s ear, “Sometimes when I miss Daddy, I go into his closet and smell his clothes. Sometimes I even sleep with his shirt next to me. It makes me feel like he’s here.” My boy’s wet eyes flashed to mine with a spark of hope at this idea.
Standing side by side, my son and I peered into my husband’s closet. Our eyes squinted as they adjusted to the light in the otherwise dark house. I watched as he reverently approached his dad’s clothing. He ran his small fingers along the row of neatly hung cotton shirts just as I imagined he longed to run them across the rough skin of his daddy’s face.
After some thoughtful deliberation, he declared he’d found the two shirts he wanted to sleep with. Proudly, he tucked his daddy’s faded Green Bay Packers t-shirt and a soft, maroon Old Navy classic tee under his arm. Back in his bed, he surprised me by putting both of his daddy’s shirts on over his pajamas. He was taking refuge and covering himself in his daddy’s love as best he knew how.
I laid my head next to his on the pillow. I told him how I felt sad to have his dad so far away for so long too but how our Father God is always near. God wraps us in His love and listens to our prayers when our hearts hurt, and we can’t sleep at night. We can call upon God to comfort us because He cares for us and promises this to us.
My words turned to prayers, and without missing a beat, he tagged on a prayer of his own, a lament of sorts. “I want Daddy to come home now, I want Daddy to come home now . . . ” Over and over again, he cried out his heart’s longing, so earnestly and quickly that at times his prayer sounded like a tongue twister. I could have stopped him as he went on and on, but I knew better than to silence the cry of a heart approaching the Father’s throne.
After all, in 1 Samuel 1, we see Hannah bring her heartbreak to the Lord and cry out her longing before Him in such a way that the priest thought she was drunk. And how many times have I cried out to God in similar ways in the midst of my own longings?
Like my longing to sit with my husband on our front porch and watch our boys play or to feel the warmth of his hug when he walks in the door from work. Like my longing to feel settled while living a lifestyle that uproots us every one to three years. Or like my longing to hold my little girl who passed away eight years ago.
We all have longings. They don’t discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity, or anything else. The ache of unmet desires is a universal one that can take us by the hand and lead our aching hearts into dark and painful spaces if we’re not careful.
Maybe you long for your spouse to return home safely from a deployment too, or maybe it’s to hug a loved one who has passed, or maybe it’s for a child, a job opportunity, a healing, or a breakthrough of some sort. I don’t know, but God does.
You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.
Psalm 38:9 (NLT)
Much like a child seeking comfort by wrapping himself in his daddy’s shirts, we can receive our Father’s comfort when we wrap ourselves in His love. God longs to comfort us in our longings. Let’s bring our longings to Him and wear His love over them today.
What are the longings of your heart that keep you up at night? How have you experienced God’s comfort, and who can you pass along that comfort to?
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