Is My Soul Panting?
As I am halfway through reading The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard—an excellent read, by the way, and very revealing of the heart—I am struck with the fury and strength with which my flesh wants to tear me away from God and my pursuit of knowing Him, even as a regenerate Christian. Our own hearts are so talented in deceiving us! And just when we think that we have mastered some small area of our lives, sin appeals to our greatest weaknesses, uses the most intelligent tactics to soften our guard against it, and repeatedly draws us away from Christ. I have been brought very low this week with the reality that there is no cranny or corner of my heart that is not somehow tainted with sin, filled with some ulterior motive for my own glory, or inclined to cringe at the thought of being subject to God. My flesh hates God, but I must walk by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh in order to live (Romans 8:13).
A common mistake among Christians is the belief that knowing God and longing for Him should come naturally now that we are a new creation, but the truth is that even cracking open our Bibles is met with the flesh fighting tooth and nail to keep us removed from His Word and disengaged with God. Lundgaard describes it this way:
Which is easier: to sit with a bucket of butter-soaked popcorn and watch Tom Cruise on the big screen for two hours, or kneel and pray for five minutes? Tom Cruise wins hands down because there is literally no competition. What the flesh hates is God, so it resists anything that smacks of God—especially communion with him. The flesh can curl up by your side and watch mindless movies all night long. But let even the barest thought of meditations flutter into your mind, and the flesh goes to Red Alert. Before you get past “Our Father,” your eyes, which were glued to the screen, now sag in sleepiness, and your attention, which was so fixed on the plot, now zips around the universe faster than the Starship Enterprise. (The Enemy Within, 46)
How true! How much we must overcome by God’s grace even just to enter into real heartfelt conversation with Him! And how often we reach the end of the day only to realize that our thoughts had been far from God and more concerned with building our own little kingdom than worshipping our Maker.
And yet, God’s Word commands us to long for Him with our whole heart, so much so that it can be compared to a deer panting in thirst after watery streams, proclaiming, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42). Can your heart say with David’s, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10)? Or can it exclaim with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)? Does your heart sigh with the Psalmist, “My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times” (Psalm 119:20)? I want to desire as David does, “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His tabernacle” (Psalm 27:4).
May we humbly come before the Lord asking His help to increase our desire for Him and respond to His invitation with our hearts firmly responding to God, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O LORD, I shall seek’” (Psalm 27:8). It is possible to be characteristically filled with such longing, but only by full engagement in the daily battle to put to death the flesh that is still at war within us.