How to Handle Unfulfilled Longings

Shelly 2-26-16

What do you long for? Sometimes a longing is hard to identify.

Sure, most women would like to have new clothes, a kitchen re-do, or a nice vacation. We know we become irritable if we don’t get enough sleep. Frustrated when our work goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

But do these feelings, whether positive or negative, signify a longing?

A longing is a desire that if it goes unfulfilled, leaves you with deep disappointment or heartache. Longings are soul cravings, emotional needs formed from who we are and what we need to feel secure and joyful. They motivate life choices and ambition.

2 Kings chapter 4 tells one of my favorite stories in Scripture. It’s the narrative of a wealthy woman from Shunam, who craved connection. She realized that Elisha was a mighty prophet of God, and instead of being intimidated by him or wanting to impress him, she simply recognized that he had an unexpressed need—he had no personal space to rest. So she built him a room so he could stay at her house, undisturbed, whenever he passed through her area. She connected this lonely itinerant preacher to peace.

I’m pretty sure she was lonely, too. That’s how she recognized Elisha’s need. I get the same feeling about her that I do at a dinner party or social event, when I interact with a warm, friendly women who socializes separately from her husband. She is usually confident, gregarious, and intuitive. She has a husband who is nice and hardworking but seems detached from her emotionally and physically. They don’t cross paths or touch. They function as partners, even friends, but there are no real sparks between them. She suffers not from a bad marriage per se, but from an emotional longing that has gone unmet.

This is my Shunamite friend. Married, yet feeling alone, without anything to stuff into her emotional hole. She had no children.

In response to her great kindness, Elisha prophesied that she would have a son. He gave her the greatest, most secret longing of her heart. How do we know that? Because she said to him, “Don’t get my hopes up!” She had longed for a child until she had lost all hope. She had stopped asking, stopped praying, stopped waiting.

Your deepest longings are the dreams you’re too afraid to express, the hopes you don’t even pray about anymore. They stir the strongest, most unsolicited emotions you have ever felt. They look like this:

A childless woman throwing a baby shower

A struggling artist visiting an art museum

An aging, unmarried woman attending a wedding

An unpublished author walking into a bookstore

A mother, looking at baby pictures of her prodigal son

Do you know what these women feel? Have you felt like this? Their longings have slowly transformed into bitter disappointments and discarded dreams.

Proverbs 13:12 states: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The word deferred means “postponed.” We have trouble with deferred longings, don’t we? When we desire something strongly, we assume that we must have it immediately, or it isn’t going to happen. And we feel anxious, bitter, or betrayed when it doesn’t come to pass, especially if we’ve worked hard for it.

Have you ever considered that God Himself lives with deep, unfulfilled longings? He longs for us. He longs for the whole world to know Him intimately. In fact, He longs for us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die for our sins so we could gain access to the Father. And ever since then, He has longed for us to accept His gift. Some longings are just worth waiting for.

Be encouraged during the periods of deferment in your life. God promises you “a life more abundant,” (Jn. 10:10); disappointing you is not His plan. But He does want you to wait for Him and trust in Him for fulfillment. Learn these simple (yet difficult) choices for handling unfulfilled longing:


1. Hope in God alone

Ps. 62:5—“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”

2. Choose contentment

Phil. 4:12-13—“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

3. Seek righteousness

Mtt. 6:33—”But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

 4. Have joy in God’s presence

Ps. 21:6—“Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.”


A longing fulfilled is the tree of life.


What is this tree of life? It stands in the Garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem, the two places of perfection that God designed for us to live in connection with Him. The fruit from this tree gives eternal life. Complete satisfaction.

Ahh. That’s when our longings will be totally fulfilled. Heaven. Because our deepest longing is a connection to God Himself.

No wonder I can’t ever fill it here.

Susan Walley Schlesman

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Sue Schlesman

Sue Schlesman is a Christian writer, teacher, and speaker. Her blogs, Bible studies, fiction, and non-fiction reach a wide audience. You can find her philosophizing about life, education, family, and Jesus at and or email her for speaking opportunities at

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