It is a datum of human experience that we crave. We want, long, yearn, desire. Some things we crave are petty—tickets to the Packers game, a box of Raisinets©, a new fountain pen. Other things are more central to our well-being—staying healthy, material possessions. And some are essential to our well-being—intimacy, meaning, purpose.
Erwin McManus has written a book exploring three of these core human soul cravings: the universal human longings for intimacy, meaning, and destiny. He argues:
From your first breath you have been on a journey. There are things your soul longs for, and whether you have yet recognized it or not, your life is shaped by your search for them.1
I agree. We long to be loved and to love. We long for a story to locate our life within in which to find meaning and purpose. We long to live for a cause bigger than ourselves. McManus argues that each of these fundamental soul cravings ultimately finds satisfaction in God:
God has placed cravings within your soul that will drive you insane or drive you to him. Your soul longs for God; you just may not know it yet.2
We must learn to listen to our soul cravings. If we listen attentively to our desires, God will use them to draw us to himself. For example, in his spiritual allegory The Pilgrim’s Regress, C. S. Lewis describes how his soul cravings played a role in his journey to God:3
It appeared to me therefore that if a man diligently followed this desire [of intense longing or joy], pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoning them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given—nay cannot even be imagined as given—in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience. . . . The dialectic of Desire, faithfully followed, would retrieve all mistakes, head you off from all false paths, and force you not to propound, but to live through, a sort of ontological proof.
Our desires point to something that is missing in our lives, whether it is food, sex, or God.
The problem is that for many of us, we’ve stopped listening. We’ve stopped paying attention to our souls. The dialectic never gets beyond the little episode of sensual pleasure or moment of personal success. We’ve become pacified, settling for one fleeting satisfaction of desire after another. And our lives remain empty and fragmented.
May I encourage you to stop and pay attention to your soul’s cry? As McManus puts it, “Doesn’t it make sense that if we were created for relationship with the Creator of the universe, he would leverage everything within us so we would search for him, reach out for him, and perhaps even find him?”4 In the end, there are really only two options for us: misery or the happiness that God gives. May you allow your longings to lead you to their source, and in doing so find life, love, meaning, and (true) happiness.
1. Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), last section on “Seeking.” (Oddly, he doesn’t use page numbers in his book.)
3. C. S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 204-205.
4. McManus, Soul Cravings, Ibid.
Paul Gould is an assistant professor of philosophy and Christian apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the author of The Outrageous Idea of the Missional Professor (Wipf & Stock, 2014) and editor of four books, including Beyond the Control of God? Six Views on the Problem of God and Abstract Objects (Bloomsbury, 2014) and Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J. P. Moreland (Moody, 2014). Paul blogs at www.paul-gould.com.
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