When Christmas Meets Your Unmet Longings

Christmastime is filled with celebration and joy. We blare the peppy Christmas tunes, indulge in our favorite treats, and decorate our homes to the hilt with twinkling lights and garland.

But beneath all the festivity, you might be experiencing feelings that aren’t so merry and bright. Sometimes, the holiday season can dig up buried hurts and fears, causing us to feel particularly lonely, depressed, or restless. And perhaps these feelings linger beyond December 25 and hang around well into the New Year.

A longing to be known . . .
to belong . . .
to be loved . . .
to be appreciated . . .
to find relief from pain . . .
to be happy again . . .
to start over . . .

Friend, these desires of ours aren’t unnatural or uncommon. You’re not alone in wrestling with those feelings.

We can take those longings and misdirect them—chasing after things in hopes of finding fulfillment, taking our eyes off Jesus, the Source of true satisfaction (Ps. 107:9). But this longing for deep, true peace was originally woven within us by God Himself. Longings drive us to Jesus. He wants us to find peace and joy in Him (Ps. 16:11).

The reason we wrestle with these longings throughout our lives is because we’re not yet in the presence of the Jesus, the One who actually embodies peace and joy and love.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us in Lies Women Believe:

We have to recognize we will always have unfulfilled longings this side of heaven. We just will. The deepest longings of our heart can’t be filled by any created person or thing.

How can we expect to feel at home in this life when this simply isn’t our home? We will never find anything in this world that will truly ease all our pain or satisfy our longings forever. That’s because God created us for more than what this world can offer.

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The Christmas Story and Our Longings

If you read the Christmas story in the first two chapters of Luke or Matthew, you’ll find a similar theme of longing, waiting, and seeking. It’s what the manger scene story is all about: Jesus left His home and entered into ours to tell us we don’t belong here, to show us the way to our forever home, to grant us eternal joy in His presence (John 14).

Consider these familiar faces from the narrative and see what drove them to Jesus.

The Wise Men

These men left their homes in faith to journey across the known world to seek out a King who would fulfill thousands of years of prophecy. All this because they longed to see Jesus.

And when they found Him, they gave Him the best they had to offer—not merely gold, frankincense, and myrrh but humble hearts filled with worship and awe (Matt. 1:1–12).

Sometimes God gives us dreams and goals to inspire us to live kingdom-oriented lives for His glory. But all too often we insert our own agendas and priorities above His—and then feel miffed when our plans get derailed.

Ask yourself if the restlessness you’re feeling is actually because you’re clinging to selfish desires. Are you willing to surrender everything—to give up your dreams and longings—and humbly worship Jesus?

The Shepherds

Their usual routine was interrupted one night by a grand announcement—the birth of a Savior! Somehow they knew this was big news. (Maybe the night sky filled with shining angels tipped them off.)

The shepherds were bursting with joy at the sight of Jesus, so they proceeded to tell everyone what they had seen (Luke 2:8–18)! Then they went on tour and made megabucks selling copies of their memoirs.

Well, actually, Scripture simply says the shepherds returned. That’s right. They went back to their sheep in the pasture to faithfully carry out their regular, ordinary tasks. No spotlight, no fame, no money.

Do you long to do great things for God? Do you wish you could always live on that “spiritual high” you experienced at summer camp or in youth group?

Sometimes what initially is a genuine motivation to serve the Lord can morph into the desire to promote yourself. It may be that some of your current frustrations are the result of seeking attention or a spotlight.

Are you willing to repent of this sin of pride and ask the Lord to give you a heart that serves and glorifies Him alone?

Anna and Simeon

Scripture describes these two individuals as righteous and devout (Luke 2:22–38). They both spent much of their lifetime serving the Lord and waiting, longing, for the promised Messiah. They did not see their prayers answered until very late in life, and yet they didn’t lose hope as they waited. What an example!

There may be something you’ve been earnestly praying for—a restored relationship, an acceptance letter, a promotion at work, a new friend, a husband, a new opportunity.

Whatever it is you’re longing for, are you willing to entrust that desire to God? Will you wait upon the Lord and let Him renew your strength and fill you with hope?

Handling the Homesickness

Having unmet longings or feeling discouraged around the holidays (or any day!) doesn’t mean necessarily that you aren’t trusting God. It just means we live in a broken world where hurt and disappointment are always present. But that is why Jesus came—to heal the brokenhearted and bring joy (John 10:10–11).

Homesickness is really about longing for heaven. Unfulfilled longings are a bittersweet reminder that this world is not all there is. And even in the midst of the hard and chaotic things in life, God’s love for you doesn’t change. He proved that when the Son of God hung on that cross and joyfully suffered and died for you (John 3:16–17).

So when it feels like your Christmas joy is overshadowed by heartache, rest in Jesus, your Savior. Remember why that little baby boy was born in Bethlehem. Think about the unchanging character of Jesus and why He came (and is coming again!).

Where do you find comfort in the Christmas story?

Which names of God or aspects of Christ’s character fill your heart with hope, even with your unmet longings?

If you want to hear more about this topic, there’s an excellent podcast series on Revive Our Hearts called “Unfulfilled Longings by Janet Aucoin.” Check it out! You will be so encouraged!

About Author

Leanna worked on staff with Revive Our Hearts from 2014 to 2019. She loves a cup of hot tea with a good book, experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe, and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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