Is it possible to be homesick for somewhere you’ve never been? I mean, literally, that couldn’t happen. You can’t miss home if you’ve never been there, right?
And yet, if we take the term “homesick” less literally just to mean that deeper longing for a place, then I think we can deeply desire to be somewhere we’ve never actually been.
Like Italy. I’ve never been there, but I want to be there so badly that sometimes it almost feels like a homesickness of sorts.
Like heaven. I’m figuring out that the reason life on earth often feels foreign, not-quite-right, or just not home is because deep, deep in my being is a knowing of my true home — heaven.
- Every time I bump up against injustice, I long for the perfect justice of heaven where everyone is treated fairly and right.
- Every time I watch someone suffering with cancer or COVID, I can’t wait for disease-free heaven — a place where there is no more suffering, no more death.
- Every time I see someone starving or without a home, I deeply desire heaven where Jesus has gone to make rooms in His house for all of us.
- Every time I feel lonely, sad, or afraid, I long for heaven where I can be in God’s presence always. Never alone. Never afraid. Ever again.
This fernweh festers in my soul. This longing for my heaven home — it’s not the kind of fester that creates an infected boil on my skin or ulcer in my stomach. It’s more of a whisper of desire that winds its way through my heart and soul in moments of earthly discontent — those moments when I feel the truth that this is not how God desired for us to live.
Travel Takes Us Places
A similar feeling of longing for somewhere or something better often motivates us to book a vacation or plan a pilgrimage. I’m pretty sure every trip I’ve ever planned started with a want-to — I want to sneak off with my hubby for some us time. I want to get away with the girls for a week at the beach. I want to escape with the family, making memories and gooey s’mores.
So, as we pause at the precipice of this ponderous journey, it occurs to me that we should make sure our want-to is there. We need to double check our desires before flying out on this foray because travel takes us places. It moves us into a new location to experience fresh perspectives, tastes, smells, and feelings. So, we need to be sure that we know what we want.
We’ve already said we want to be part of this Journey of Joy.
We’ve even tried our best to define that joy — an emotion that wells up within the depths of our souls that is not dependent on our circumstances or our ability to choose it. The kind of joy that happens by a move of the Spirit, by witnessing the work Jesus is doing in and around us.
Yet, is joy the true desire of our hearts? How can we know?
Maybe the bigger question to ask is what is the true desire of our hearts?
These are deep, soul-searching questions that require us to spend some time in solitude and stillness so we can explore our depths and listen for God’s voice.
In your journal this week, take some time with God to peel back the layers of your desire for joy. Pray, read Scripture, then put pen to paper to see what the Spirit shows you. Here are some questions you could ponder and prod for insight:
- Why do I seek joy?
- What do I hope to feel when I find joy?
- What will I do with joy when I find it?
- How will I know when I find it?
- What is the deep desire of my heart?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. They’re meant to be open-ended and thought-provoking — springboards of sorts that will launch you into self-discovery and understanding.
My Own Digging and Delving
I’ve been reading a lot of Emily P Freeman lately. Her words have been challenging me to dig deeper within myself to explore emotions so I can enter into what God has for me more fully. When I landed on the chapter, “Desire,” in her book A Million Little Ways*, this stopped me in my tracks:
“True desire doesn’t search for escape or fame or adoration. True desire is born out of death, of knowing I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. His desire was that all people might live. And the fulfillment of his desire was only realized through his death.”page 53 (ebook)
True desire is born out of death.
When I first read those words, I realized I needed to check my motives. Why do I desire joy? Is it merely for my own sense of happiness, contentment, or comfort? Am I willing to do this life the way Jesus did and trust the Father in all situations, allowing God to be my joy? Can I trust that the joy God offers is actually the true joy my deepest parts long for?
As I continue to process these questions, I see a theme of TRUST rising to the surface. It would appear that somewhere in my want-to for this Journey of Joy is a desire for control. I want to define my journey. I want to name my joy. I want to dictate my outcomes. When, really, I simply need to trust that God knows better than I do what’s at the heart of this journey. I need to trust God, period.
While on earth Jesus modeled this kind of trust, and He showed us what our true desires can look like. Jesus’ greatest desire was for all people to live. And that could only happen by way of the cross. Why would my desire require anything less than death if His did?
Think about that for a minute. Allow that idea to roll around your mind and settle in your soul.
Emily’s revelations still take my breath and show me I have some dying to do, namely dying to self. If I’m going to write for God’s glory and the good of others, it can’t be about me. If I’m going to influence the people in my life for God’s kingdom, it can’t be about me. If I’m going to find my true desire or even true joy, it can’t just be about me.
Finding joy will bring me, well, joy. Yes. So, in a sense it is about me. But I’m recognizing that any true desire that bubbles up from my truest self won’t be selfishly motivated. Joy may give me the spark I need to keep writing, to keep loving, to keep moving forward. But that joy can be shared. Given for others for their good. Passed on like a flame of hope to brighten the future.
The writer of Hebrews lays all of this out for us:
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV
We can look to Jesus’ prayers the night of His arrest to know He dreaded the suffering and shame that lay before Him (Matthew 26:36-39). Yet, Jesus could see beyond the sorrows that were crushing Him to the joy that was coming. The joy of knowing His death would save people from sin and death helped Him step into great suffering with courage.
He didn’t feel happy or comfortable or even content as He was betrayed, beaten, brutalized, and buried. But joy was there. And it kept Him going.
Joy can do the same for us.
We stand on the edge of this extraordinary expedition, grappling with the reality that “anything we do on earth that brings true joy or delight or fulfillment was made possible by death, by Love’s sacrifice on a cross” (Freeman, 54). And we surrender to its truth.
We release our death-grip on life’s circumstances, on the people we love most, on our worries and hopes and fears. As our fingers loosen, we allow the seed of our lives to fall to the earth and find itself in the depths of Jesus — that place where we die to self and find new life in Him.
We step forward full of faith that Jesus accompanies us on this excursion. He will continue to buff and shine our hearts’ desires till they glow with His image, reflecting His light into our souls and into the view of others.
We long for the true joy Jesus shows us through His life and death. The true joy the Bible promises can be ours in Him. The true joy that is emotion, but is more than feelings. The true joy that sustains and empowers and gives us hope.
Joy, we desire you! But even more, we desire Jesus. And it is in Him we will find our true joy.
Friends, we have found our want-to!
We’re ready for the next step on this journey because we know what we want. We also know that as we allow this trip to take us to new places, we’ll continually uncover emotions we didn’t know existed, discover dreams we’ve abandoned, and encounter an abundant array of adventures that will unlock within us new desires that will lead us onward in this life full of passion and purpose. And joy.
Let’s pray, incorporating an idea from Pete Greig in his book, God on Mute* (p.263).
Lord Jesus, we come to You today with all our desires — good, bad, selfish, and holy — and we lay them at your feet. Help us to want to seek your presence each day in the coming week so that we may enter into that holy space and just be with You. As we spend more time with You, I pray that we’ll get to know You more deeply and trust You more consistently. Continue to peel back the layers of what we think we want so we can get to root of our motives and the depths of our true desires. In the end, may we desire You above all else. Lord, we tend to hold things too tightly, but right now we imagine holding in our clinched left hand our greatest desire, and in our right hand we hold tightly our deepest dread. Just as Jesus prayed that night of His arrest, we pray believing that everything is possible for You, and we open our left hand, giving You our deepest desire. Then we pray that Your will be done, Lord, not ours, and we open our right hand hand, naming our deepest dread and choosing to relinquish control over it. Thank You for being our peace, our hope, and our joy. Amen.
So honored to have you on this journey with me , Shelley
- Grab a few travel buddies for our journey — invite others to join us! You can share on social media, copy and paste the link in a direct message to someone, or ask them to check out shelleyjohnson.me.
- If you haven’t yet, subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a post!
- Take time to process this week’s journaling prompt — peel back the layers of your desire for joy to uncover why you seek joy, what you hope to do with it when you find it, or how you expect to feel when you find it. Or, what do you discover is your deepest desire?
- Here are some Scriptures that could help in your explorations:
- Psalm 37:1-6
- Mark 4:18-20
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Proverbs 10:28
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- Here are some Scriptures that could help in your explorations:
- If you’d like a new journal, I found one on Amazon that fits our theme!*
- Share your experiences and revelations by commenting below. As I dove into my motives for this journey, I discovered a desire for control. By confronting that head-on, I’m better able to let go of selfish desires and make room for God’s. How about you?
- Did you remember our “egg hunt.” Did you find this week’s travel word?
- Last week’s travel word was wanderlust — A German word describing a deep desire for travel.
- Our Journey of Joy playlist on Spotify has multiple songs on it that thematically follow our theme. I’d love to hear what songs/lyrics resonate with you!
- If you like it, you can “follow” the playlist so it shows up in your Spotify library.
*These are affiliate links, so I’ll receive compensation for any purchases made.