Spiritual Formation

Lent & What We Long For

Our family has given up sugar for Lent.

What this means on a practical level is that we have replaced our actual consumption of the “sweet, short-chained, soluble carbohydrates” with detailed and descriptive conversations about what we look forward to eating come April 16.

Five-year-old Amelia is typically the one to broach the topic. Several times a day she reminds us with great fervor, “When it’s Easter, I can eat chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and those little fruity pink and orange and yellow square-shaped things. What are they called again?”


What this means on a heart level is that we are wanting to replace our craving for cookies and cakes and candy and caramel shortbread with an even deeper desire for Jesus.


For his book What Americans Really Want…Really, Dr. Frank I. Luntz surveyed tens of thousands of Americans from all walks of life, and he recorded what we desire—in our daily lives, our relationships, our jobs, our government, and even our religion.

So what do we really long for? Really?

What american's really wantIn our day-to-day, Luntz found that the top five things we want are this:

  1. More money
  2. Fewer hassles
  3. More time
  4. More choices
  5. No worries

In our work life, we want:

  1. Appreciation
  2. Recognition
  3. Individual identification
  4. Daily celebration

And as our personal long-term priorities, we hope for:

  1. A loving family
  2. Good health
  3. Financial security
  4. Happiness

What I find most compelling about Luntz’ book, however, are not the specifics of our American desires. Looking through his lists, I didn’t come across too many surprises.

But what I find most important is the foundational truth upon which this book is built…

As human beings, we have fundamental, gut-level, inherent desires.

We are a people of longing.

We were created that way.

And we spend our entire life trying oh-so hard to satisfy those cravings.


In his book, Engaging God’s World—a work that seeks to help readers deepen their understanding of faith and its connection to learning and all of life—Cornelius Plantinga begins with a chapter on longing and hope.

We all know what it is to yearn, Plantinga writes. We yearn for a particular career or a family or a certain kind of life. But in looking toward those things, what we really long for is significance and intimacy and peace. And even when our specific goal might be attained here on earth—we marry the spouse, we land the job, we have the baby, we buy the house—the longing is not satisfied. Plantinga writes, “It might even be as good as human experience can be, but something in us keeps saying ‘not this’ or ‘still beyond.’”

C.S. Lewis famously describes this yearning in his beautiful sermon “Weight of Glory:”

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”


In John 4, a woman of Samaria comes to the well in the heat of the day. She is longing for a drink.

But more than that, she is longing for love. She has had five husbands after all.

But even more than that, she has a spiritual craving that she can’t even identify for herself.

Jesus sees it, of course. He placed it in each one of us. And He offers Himself as the only possible satisfaction.

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,

but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.

Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”


So this is what I believe Lent ought to be. Not deprivation for deprivation’s sake. But a daily, hourly reminder of what we truly long for.

Not money.

Not recognition.

Not time.

Not Starbursts.

But the Living Water. That quenches every thirst. That satisfies every longing. That fills us to overflowing and spills bountifully over the brim.

What are you longing for? 

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