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Living with Unfulfilled Desires

We Must All Face Unfulfilled Desires in Life.

How Does God Want Us to See Them?

A chronically ill person longs to regain his health. A woman who cannot conceive desires a dear child of her own. A man burdened under a job he hates longs to have a more rewarding position. A young person with few abilities desires to achieve some success in life. A single man or woman longs to be married and know the companionship of a spouse. A woman divorced by a cruel man desires remarriage and the security of a good husband. A family that experiences dreadful poverty longs to escape their plight and find more suitable housing.

We all have desires in life. Some of these may be within God’s will while others may be opposed to His will. How should we look upon desires that seem to be good and right, yet God does not fulfill them regardless of how often we pray and how thoroughly we try to change our circumstances? How does God look on our unfulfilled desires and what does His Word say to us about them? Hopefully this booklet will give you some insight into this troubling, perplexing, yet universal problem.

Living with Unfulfilled Desires

There are great extremes in the wide spectrum of living. Some are like the rich man in Jesus’ story. He was a person who dressed in fine clothes and was "joyously living in splendor every day" (Luke 16:19). He may well have enjoyed good health and had a happy, respectable family. It seemed like everything went well for him. On the other hand, Lazarus was a "poor man" who was sick, malnourished, and probably lived in great pain (vv. 20-21). The record says that Lazarus "longed" to have even discards from the rich man’s table. He probably desired healing, full health, and a normal home life. However, the poor man’s desires were never satisfied in this life—and probably many of our own legitimate desires will go unfulfilled in our earthly life.

Perhaps you are a blind person, confined to perpetual darkness. You never gaze at the radiant sunrise, the azure sky, the serenity of sunset, and the star-filled night. Never do you see the yellow daffodils, the red rose, or the pink carnation. Never can you take a regular book in hand and read its pages of inspiration and wisdom. Never can you look into the face of your parents, your spouse, your child, or your friend. Surely, if given the choice, you would want your sight and would consider it to be a priceless treasure.

Imagine yourself as a quadriplegic (or even a paraplegic), having no use of your legs or arms and no feeling below your neck. You are entirely at the mercy of your family or an institution to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. If you are a child, you would like to run and play and explore with the other children. If you are somewhat older, you have desires for a marriage partner, a family, and a "normal," active life. You cannot so much as feed yourself, wash yourself, clothe yourself, or tend to your bodily needs. Would you be content? Would you not have to cope with a wide array of unfulfilled desires?

Since we have mortal bodies, each of us will experience physical infirmities in life. Some will have arthritis, diabetes, asthma, emphysema, or colitis. Others will suffer with cancer, heart disease, or kidney failure. Whoever we are, hundreds of different influences may affect our bodies and these bring pain, disability, physical limitations, and eventual death. While good nutrition, reasonable health practices, and medical treatments may alleviate some of these afflictions, we still know that we have fragile bodies that must continue on a downward course until eventual death (cf. Gen. 3:19; Eccles. 12:1-8; Heb. 9:27).

Maybe you are a woman who, because of a necessary surgery, is unable to have a child of your own. You observe children playing and you long to have your own offspring. Every time a friend gives birth to a child, your own heart cries out to God for children of your own, but you know this is impossible. Like Rachel of old, you cry in your grief, "Give me children, or else I die" (Gen. 30:1), but no children are given. However much you crave to carry, bear, and raise a precious little one of your own, it can never be.

Your problem may be finances. Because of a variety of limitations, you may never be able to earn a great amount and have an abundance. Perhaps you have no education, training, or abilities to find lucrative employment, thus you are confined to low-paying, menial work that cannot seem to pay the bills. Or you have many children and can’t seem to find adequate housing, food, health care, or clothes for your family. You just can’t seem to make ends meet and life becomes a continual burden.

You may be a husband whose wife divorced you to marry another man. The wife whom you trusted has been unfaithful and your heart seems to be overwhelmed in pain as you reach out in unrequited love and devotion. All of your efforts toward reconciliation are rebuffed by a hardened heart. Furthermore, since your wife divorced you, you realize that for you to remarry would be adulterous in the sight of God (Luke 16:18; Matt. 5:32; 19:9). You are faced with the grievous prospect of living in celibacy the remainder of your life. Your desire for further marital intimacy will never be fulfilled.

You may be a young man or woman (or an older man or woman) who has never married and yet this has been a continual longing of your heart. You prayed for marriage, you planned for marriage, and you prepared yourself for marriage. You have a deep inner longing for a mate with whom you may share your life and your body. You want to share the joys and pain, the victories and the struggles of life with a precious life partner. Year by year it seems like the human possibilities for marriage are more and more remote, yet you refuse to lower your moral and spiritual standards in seeking a marriage partner.

Maybe you recently came to Christ, thus your children did not have the benefit of Christian training when they were growing up. Now that you have been saved, you are seeking those things which are above (Col. 3:1-2) and are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). But your children do not share this perspective. Your son may be living a dissolute life of sex, drink, and drugs. Your daughter may have lost her "innocence" or virginity and is now living in fornication with a boyfriend. In fact, all of your children may live lives of disobedience, disrespect, worldliness, and spiritual unconcern. Regardless of your longing, your past cannot be undone and your children may never be reclaimed and brought to faith in Christ.

You may be a woman who has prayed fervently for many years that your husband would turn to Christ, but as yet he seems to be as far away as ever. He may allow many worldly influences in the home and want you to join him in his carnal pursuits (2 Cor. 6:14-17). It seems like the marriage is filled with such sadness and spiritual emptiness. Your desires for your husband’s salvation and a truly united marriage and family have thus far remained unfulfilled.

Again, suppose that you have had the privilege of sharing the gospel of Christ with a dear friend, then had the joy of seeing this person respond to the Lord in complete repentance, committed faith, and then being baptized into Him. Suppose further that you helped to nurture this dear sister (or brother) in the ways of God, teaching her to observe all that Christ commanded (Matt. 28:20). You rejoiced to see her willingness to suffer rejection and deprivation for the sake of Jesus. For years, you had sweet fellowship with this fellow-believer, you worshiped with her, prayed with her, sang uplifting hymns with her, and reached out and taught others with her help. You shared your time, your substance, and your very life with this fellow-saint. You often encouraged each other in the ways of the Lord and together you looked forward to the coming of the Lord and His glorious kingdom. And then the sister allows sin to enter her life and chooses to walk away from Him who died for her (Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:20-22). She refuses to see you or talk to you, and she walks in her own self-chosen path, away from the sound teaching she once embraced. You fervently pray hundreds of times for her and do all that you can to reach her—all to no avail. As in the other illustrations above, you must face unfulfilled desires—the desire for her repentance, her restoration, and her reclaimed allegiance to the Lord who died for her and continues to love her.

So many other examples could be offered but these are sufficient to show that we may encounter many desires in life that remain unfulfilled. We do not refer to carnal, worldly desires that would displease God, but we refer to legitimate desires that are normal and may be used to glorify the Lord.

Others Have Had Unfulfilled Desires

Even those men and women mentioned in the Scriptures experienced unfulfilled desires, proving that our situation is not unique. The hope of Moses to enter the promised land of Canaan was never fulfilled (Deut. 31:2). David’s desire to build the temple of God did not come to fruition (1 Chron. 28:2-3). Jesus’ longing for the repentance of the people of Jerusalem was, for the most part, unfulfilled (Matt. 23:37). Hebrews 11 gives us a view of many men and women of faith who lived for God, who were faithful in adversity, and who died with unfulfilled desires. "All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised" (Heb. 11:39). Just as in these cases, surely every one of God’s people today must live with some degree of unfulfilled desires.

Think also of the apostle Paul’s experience. When the Lord appeared to Ananias and told him to visit Paul, He said, "I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake" (Acts 9:16). Paul’s life indeed was a life of suffering for the sake of Christ! He wrote, "To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands" (1 Cor. 4:11-12a). He said that he was reviled, persecuted, slandered and had become as "the scum of the world, the dregs of all things" (vv. 12-13). He said that he was a servant of God "in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger" (2 Cor. 6:4-5). We went on to say, "I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure" (2 Cor. 11:27).

Apart from such external sufferings, Paul experienced inward struggles in life: "We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life" (2 Cor. 1:8). He continued, "Our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within" (7:5). He wrote of the "daily pressure" of concern for the spiritual welfare of others. He spoke of the "intense concern" for those who chose to walk in sin (2 Cor. 11:28-29). Paul longed to see unity among his converts, but often he found strife and division. He desired to see people walking in the truth, but he often saw people willing to embrace error. He desired to see people come to Christ, but he often saw people refuse to accept the gospel. He longed to see his fellow-laborers remain true to the Lord, but he often found that people turned away from Him, having loved this present world. Paul did not find the fulfillment that he must have longed for, yet he did not allow this unfulfillment to dominate his life. What Paul lacked in physical and material fulfillment and even in the fulfillment of knowing that his fellow-believers remained faithful, he gained in the "surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [his] Lord" (Phil. 3:8; cf. vv. 4-14).

You may think of your own heart desire. Regardless of heartache, tears, pain and grief, your desires are unmet. You have sought for answers, you have prayed repeatedly, you have tried every conceivable avenue you can think of, but the situation remains unchanged. All of us to one degree or another have experienced these feelings and longings. Some of us, of course, have experienced much more unfulfillment in life. It seems like some people enjoy much health, a number of true friends, a faithful and loving marriage partner, respectful and obedient children, a fulfilling profession or occupation, sufficient finances to live comfortably, and enough leisure to have rest and relaxation. But even in such cases, there will be various unfulfilled desires. Many others, however, will go through life with debilitating and painful illness, a broken marriage and irresponsible children, grinding and burdensome poverty, few or no true friends, a horrible job, and difficult circumstances every day. Their entire life is one of unfulfillment.

Coming to Christ as the Basis of Fulfillment

If you have never been spiritually born into God’s family (therefore are not a child of God), it may be that these difficulties in life will serve a useful purpose. When life does not go well and we must live under unchangeable circumstances, we can understand more fully that this life simply is not meant to provide ultimate satisfaction. Actually, you may be in a better position than others who live lives which seem to be overflowing with material abundance, physical health, and worldly pleasure. When everything seems to be going well, people think that they do not need God. They may continue through their life in this self-deception and self-satisfaction, therefore they never sense their spiritual need. And they may also die in that condition, "separate from Christ, . . . having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12). Most people do die without God and will not enter the wonderful kingdom of God (Luke 12:16-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8).

Because of this, it may be to your advantage if you deeply recognize that this life has many sorrows, pains, and unfulfillments. You may be in a better position to renounce your sins and come to Christ. Because of our sin, we stand guilty and condemned before a holy God (Romans 1:18; 3:23; 6:23). Because we could not save ourselves from the just penalty of death and hell, God sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to deal with our sin problem (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:15). The Lord Jesus died for those sins! Jesus died for you (Romans 3:24-26; 5:6-11)! God then raised Him from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Based on these amazing facts about Christ Jesus, your own sins can be forgiven and you—even you—can receive eternal life (Acts 13:38; 1 John 5:11-13). As you remain in Christ and continue in faithfulness to Him and His will, you are assured of eternal life to come and a place in God’s wondrous, eternal kingdom (Revelation 2:11; Matt. 25:46; 2 Peter 1:10-11; John 15:1-7).

Can you see now that if you are not presently in Christ, God may be using your difficult life circumstances to lead you to Him and a far better and more wondrously beautiful future than you otherwise would have? Consider this: Would you rather have a pleasant life with everything going well for you now—or would you rather have hard times now but everlasting pleasure and joy in the life to come? The answer should be obvious! Therefore, let your present unfulfilling circumstances motivate you to come to God while you may. Repent of your sins and believe in God and in His beloved Son. Confess Jesus as Lord and be baptized into Him, into His death, and then rise to walk in newness of life—a life of joy and peace in Christ your Redeemer! (See Acts 20:21; 26:18,20; 16:31-34; 2:36-41; Romans 10:9-10; 6:2-11).

If we have been rescued from the guilt of our sin, from spiritual death, and from the coming wrath of God and the lake of fire, we have the basis of true fulfillment. If we have been received by God Himself, if we have sweet fellowship with Him through Christ each day, and if the future riches of heaven are before us, we have the greatest fulfillment already! While many other elements make up our life simply because we are in a fleshly body and dwell on earth, and some of these elements may never find fulfillment during our short stay here, we can still enjoy a fulfillment of spiritual realities now and enjoy spiritual fulfillment in the life to come!

Truths to Counsel and Comfort

If you are a child of God, the Scriptures offer many truths that will help to make sense out of the many unfulfilled desires that we have and will continue to have as long as we dwell on earth. Overarching all of the Father’s dealings with us, His children, is His unfathomable love. This love is a genuine regard for our highest good. Often our own life is tainted with self-interest, but the love of God is a sincere concern for our welfare. One hymn-writer expressed God’s love in these familiar words:

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure,
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Such love will be found as the basic motivation in God’s dealings with us, His children. As we make the following observations, remember that God loves you with a love far surpassing your ability to comprehend. Particularly if you are a child of God, you are a recipient of His love in Christ Jesus—an incredible love that "surpasses knowledge" (cf. Romans 8:38-39; Eph. 3:19; 1 John 3:1-2). We may rest our assurance on this.

First, we must remember that God understands our life situation and will be with us.

No one else may be able to fully perceive what you are going through. You try to explain the ache in your heart after your husband leaves you for another woman, and people try to understand—yet you know that they just cannot feel what you feel. You try to share with others the continual grief you have in being married to an unbeliever and sharing life with someone you know is under God’s wrath—but it seems like people simply cannot understand the inner sorrow and unfulfillment you experience and the desire you have for a spouse who deeply loves Christ as you do. You try to describe your heart desire for a marriage partner, but people—especially happily married people—just can’t seem to grasp your loneliness.

However, God does know! He sees every tear drop and they are all recorded in His "book" (Psalm 56:8). He has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). Jesus also is able to "sympathize with our weakness" and will stand with us in our time of need, although everyone else may depart (Heb. 4:15; 2 Tim. 4:16-17). Therefore, you can trust in the Lord! We have the comforting promise: "[Cast] all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7; cf. Psalm 55:22).

Second, God will hear us when we pray.

It may be that you have prayed and prayed for answers to your unfulfilled desires, but it seems like God does not really hear. It is true that various factors may keep God from answering your prayers—such as walking in sin, closing our hearts to truth, living unrighteously, lack of faith, and other elements (cf. Psalm 66:18; Prov. 15:8; 28:9; 1 Peter 3:12; James 1:6-8). But even when we walk before the Lord in sincerity, truth, and obedience, it seems like some of our prayers are not answered. I, personally, have prayed thousands of prayers—for many years—and find that God does not grant many of my petitions. However, in spite of this lack of response, if we are walking with God, we must have a firm assurance that God indeed is listening to our prayers and will grant them according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).

We are not like the pagans who cry out to false "gods" who "do not hear" (Psalm 135:17; cf. vv. 15-18; 1 Kings 18:25-29). Rather, we pray to the true and living God who is our own heavenly Father! Jesus said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:11). Remember that when you pray about desires that remain unfulfilled, you have a loving, merciful Father who is listening to your words—and even perceives the thoughts of your heart which you cannot put into words (cf. Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 139:1-2,23). His throne is a "throne of grace" and we may approach Him for mercy (Heb. 4:16).

Third, God will provide for our true needs.

Paul said that sometimes he "suffered need" (Phil. 4:12), but such needs had been relieved from time to time (v. 16). He went on to write: "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (v. 19). Notice that God will not necessarily supply our "wants" or "desires," but He will meet our genuine needs.

Our trouble is that sometimes we confuse our wants with our needs. We want another house. We want a child. We want marriage—or remarriage. We want to live in another part of the country. We want another job. It may be that some of these "wants" are legitimate needs but maybe they aren’t the kind of needs that God chooses to fill. God who knows us better than we know ourselves (remember that He made us!) also knows our true needs. If we knew all of the hidden factors involved, as our all-wise and all-knowing God does, we would see that many of our desires are not fulfilled because they are not really needful and for our ultimate good.

Referring to the necessities of life, Jesus said, "Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" and "all these things shall be added" to those who "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:32-33). We have the need of food, drink, and clothing (v. 31), and God will generally graciously provide. We may want tasty food and fine clothing, but such things are not really needful (and may be harmful). God has not only given us His Son (the greatest gift), but he will "freely give us all things" we need (Rom. 8:32).

We should cultivate a special contentment with present circumstances, even when some aspects of these circumstances are not fulfilling. We must realize that God has provided and will provide everything we need. This was a lesson that Paul learned through his adversities as a persecuted believer. While being confined as a prisoner for Christ’s sake, he wrote, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11). Later he said, "Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment" (1 Tim. 6:6; cf. vv. 7-10). If we develop this quality of contentment with what God provides, unfulfilled desires will not be the burden they otherwise would be. We will surrender to God’s gracious providence, content in the knowledge that He will give what He knows we need.

Fourth, our heavenly Father will give what is for our good.

We previously noticed that God will "give what is good" to those who ask Him (Matt. 7:11). When the psalmist declared, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1), he is saying that since we have a Shepherd who lovingly cares for us (His sheep), we will not suffer need. But compare this with Psalm 34:9-10: "To those who fear Him, there is no want. . . . They who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing." We shall not be in "want" or shall have no unmet need of any "good thing."

One problem is that, in our ignorance, some things we call "good" are not really for our spiritual good. And, conversely, some things we label as "bad" are actually for our ultimate good. God knows the difference. The more that we know of the ways of God and have the mind of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5), the clearer will be our insight into what is really for out good. The psalmist wrote, "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). The more that we delight ourselves in God and His ways, the more accurately the desires of our heart will reflect His desires or His will for us.

In another psalm, we read, "No good thing does He [God] withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!" (Psalm 84:11b-12). Since no "good thing" will be withheld from us, we may be assured that if God does withhold the fulfillment of our desire, it actually was not for our good. I believe that this is an answer to many of our present unmet desires, but it is hard to accept, isn’t it! Perhaps this is why the psalmist immediately declares, "How blessed is the man who trusts in You!" It requires trust or faith to accept this truth. Paul’s words, in a different context, say something similar: "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). We go beyond mere appearances, beyond what our circumstances seem to be, and trust that God really knows what He is doing in our lives. Trust is the key to seeing God in all our life circumstances.

Fifth, God may graciously keep certain desires unfulfilled to keep us from sin and to lead us to righteousness.

Not only will God give us what we need, but He will also sometimes keep us from what would be for our harm. Could it be that something as tragic as blindness may keep us from sin? Since the eyes can often lead us to sin (Matt. 5:29-30; 1 John 2:15-17), perhaps God allows blindness to prevent this form of sin. Could it be that lack of a desired marriage is for our good? Since celibacy may give one the opportunity to serve the Lord without as many distractions (1 Cor. 7:32-35), perhaps even a lack of this blessing can turn out for good. Could it be that the death of a precious child has a merciful outcome? If we believe that a child is received by our precious Father and that he or she will be with Him eternally, it may be that even this sorrowful tragedy is not totally without good. Could it be that material or financial lack also has a spiritual purpose in God’s plan? Maybe even this tragedy will cause us to trust in God more completely and make us long for the complete fulfillment of God’s paradise where the deprivations of life will be past.

While we may not be able to see the reasons for unfulfilled desires, God can see them and can use them to keep us from sinful attitudes and actions. He can use these life tragedies to spur us on to holiness and righteousness (Heb. 12:7-11,14). The psalmist wrote, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word" (Psalm 119:67). Unfulfillment and the suffering that accompanies it may be used to draw us closer to God and away from the evil that could so easily cause us to fall. Paul discovered this when his "thorn in the flesh" (perhaps a chronic and painful physical affliction that came because of his service for Christ) was not removed by the Lord even after repeated prayers. Paul was able to say, "I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:7-10). He was willing to suffer this undesired malady if it would bring spiritual strength and blessing.

Sixth, there will be aspects of our life that we simply cannot understand but must commit to God.

If you are like most people, you want to be able to see how all of the aspects of your life have meaning. You want to understand how a chronic illness, how the death of your child, how the unfaithfulness of your spouse, or how continual financial difficulties have some rational purpose. You want some good to come out of the present distress you now have. It may be that God will give you the wisdom to see the good in these things or at least see how they may be "blessings in disguise."

However, there will probably be many longings we have in life that simply cannot be explained. We may think we see some purpose in them but it simply is not clear. God is able to use sickness and affliction for His own purposes (cf. Psalm 119:50, 67, 71). He is able to use pain to remind us of the future when there will be no more pain (Rev. 21:4). He is able to use rejection to remind us that we always have God near to us. He is able to use grief to remind us that this earth holds no true and unmixed blessings. He is able to use financial distress and material lack to remind us that one day there will be riches untold (2 Cor. 8:9; 1 Peter 1:4; Rev. 21:1-7). He may even allow the departure and unfaithfulness of a dear fellow-saint or a spouse to force us to find in our faithful God the comfort and consolation that only He can give.

Even when we cannot understand why God allows such sorrow and deep unfulfillment in life, we can rest in the promise of Scripture: "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). While not all things are "good" in themselves, all things may "work together for good" if we sincerely love God and are called according to His purpose. And what is His purpose? Paul says that God’s ultimate purpose is that we be "conformed to the image of His Son" (v. 29). All of the distress, sorrows, rejections, loneliness, grief, loss, sickness, and pain in life may be used to bring us inwardly into conformity to the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10; 1 John 3:1-3).

Seventh, God will help you to bear the burden of unfulfilled desires.

While others may try to help you in your difficulties and they may assure you of their prayers, we know that no person will ever be able to meet all of our needs. The Lord alone can fill those needs. At the end of his life, Paul was called to stand before his persecutors but all departed. Paul wrote, "At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me. . . . But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me" (2 Tim. 4:16-17). Even if God does not grant your petitions for alleviation and fulfillment, He will be with you to help you. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28-29). Yes, Jesus will give rest and peace to our troubled souls when we find that this world has nothing to offer.

When God is with us and yet allows us to remain with unfulfillments in life, we will be able to deal with whatever life brings. Paul discovered this in his own life. He wrote:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (2 Cor. 4:8-10).

Paul endured the disappointments in his life by relying on the Lord to sustain him. He realized that the "life of Christ" would be manifested in his body as he responded to these difficulties in a righteous and trustful way.

Finally, we must expect some unfulfilled desires in this present earthly life.

While we are dwelling here in the flesh, imperfection is found all around us. This world system has been corrupted by sin. The earth and all of God’s creation that originally was "very good" (Gen. 1:31) is now under the curse (Gen. 3), and thus reveals a lack of perfection. Paul says that "the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (Rom. 8:22). In other words, because we dwell in the midst of sin and because sin has marred everything that we see and experience in this earthly life, we will always find imperfection and even misery in this life. There will be immorality, birth defects, disease, bodily frailty, old age, bad weather, natural calamities, interpersonal conflicts, rejections, betrayals, wars, and hundreds of other factors that bring disappointment, heart-rending grief, mental and physical pain, and loneliness into life. Life will bring, to some degree or another, many different negative influences that make us cry for fulfillment, yet we often remain in unfulfillment.

Therefore, we cannot expect to find total satisfaction in earthly things in the present state. Inner desires and longings will sometimes remain unfulfilled. Someone has remarked that some of these longings may suggest that a fulfillment only lies in the eternal state. In other words, an imperfection here can make us aware of a complete perfection in the life to come.

God plans to give us a beautiful future—free from the limitations and disappointments of this life. God said to Israel: "I know the plans that I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11). Just as He brought Israel back to Palestine from the Babylonian captivity after a wearisome, unfulfilled seventy years, so God has plans for us—to give us the measureless blessings of the new heavens and the new earth in which many of our deepest spiritual longings may find ultimate fulfillment. We read in Proverbs: "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the LORD always. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off" (Proverbs 23:17-18). Why should we envy the pleasures, prosperity, and popularity of those who do not know Christ? They will live for a few years and then perish. Their eternal future will be tragic beyond comprehension. But we, as children of God, have a wondrous and beautiful future! Our hope will not be cut off; our hope will find its fulfillment!

One day we will inherit "an eternal weight of glory" if we are willing to endure affliction now for the cause of Christ (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Paul wrote, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18). In that eternal realm, mourning, crying, pain, and death itself will pass away—for all the "first things" will be no more (Rev. 21:4). We will receive from God’s gracious hand deep spiritual satisfaction (v. 6), intimate fellowship with God (v. 7) and with Christ (7:17), association with all of the saints and angels (5:8-14; 7:14-17; 14:12-13), in a perfect environment (2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 2:7; 21:1-22:5), and inherit all things that God has prepared and promised to us (21:7).

Yes, a glorious future will be ours! While here, our desires may not be fulfilled. The blind person may never see the light of day. The quadriplegic may never walk in this life. The laborer may continue to have difficulty making ends meet. We may continue to face loneliness, pain, sorrows, rejection, and deep earthly unfulfillment. But a bright and glorious day will come when the disabled will walk (Rev. 3:4), when the blind will see (22:4), when the lonely will find fellowship (7:13-17), and when we will inherit all the blessings of God (22:14; 1 Peter 1:4).

Therefore, some of our desires may never come to fruition. For example, after death, the salvation of our loved ones will be impossible (Heb. 9:27). In the eternal state marriage will be no more (Matt. 22:30). In the life to come, childbearing will be impossible. But we may be assured that what God has planned for us will be manifold more blessed than anything we could desire here. God will enable you to live today with unfulfilled desires. He will give you the spiritual victory you need. All of His glory will soon be ours. Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord!

Richard Hollerman