A Purpose in Longing

Waking on this morning in La Villa, Italy we knew we needed to climb 3,000 feet before taking one step downhill. For some reason, even though it seemed a big undertaking, I was excited. Soak up the view of the photo below…that is what I looked forward to. Each step didn’t look like that, but I don’t remember any one step–I remember this view and what I accomplished in walking up it.

Our challenge on this day was to climb the 3,000 feet to the saddle in the upper center of the range just north of La Villa, Italy.

My buddy Dan and I both were wearing American sized backpacks that probably weighed close to 40 pounds. Every other person (and I think they were all Europeans) we saw had packs half the size of ours. That morning, we jettisoned items we no longer deemed useful. Tent…gone! Water purification…gone! Teddy bear…gone! Still Dan said at one point, “Dude, you are carrying like 20 pounds of camera gear. Is it worth it?” Yes, it was. Especially now as I scan in images from that trip.

Some things are absolutely worth it. Having great photos from that backpacking trip. Being able to remember those verdant hills, recalling the precarious climbs up those glacier swept canyons, thinking, “Man, I could live here seeing this view every day.” Worth it! Every time I see these images, that same sense of amazement hits me. I was there! Oh how I wish I could go back. I could look at that view every day. I can’t stop soaking in the beauty. What is this feeling called? Longing!

A view of La Villa, Italy from the saddle we spent the morning conquering.

What is longing? A definition is “a strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something distant.” Oh yeah, I know that craving to be back wandering those lush green hills. I ache for that. It is almost a heartsick feeling. I need to get back there.

Why do we get that feeling? That’s a good question. I think it is because we were made to experience shalom. Shalom is peace…a deep experience of peace. My pastor said shalom is “the world as it should be.” A perfect sense of peace and all is as it should be. Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, we know the lack of shalom far more than the experience of it. We know busy, frenetic, expectation-filled lives, and rarely allow ourselves to slow down and breath deeply. Longing is the heartsickness we feel waiting for shalom in our lives. We work to get that feeling only to rarely ever experience it. Why does it always feel so out-of-reach?

Is there a purpose to the longing we ache for? When it seems like a taunting carrot dangled in front of our face, why would longing actually have purpose? Isn’t it more like a cruel joke held out to torture us?

We may need to rethink this. I think longing is actually an invitation to slow down. It is the heartache for peace we all have bubbling inside us. Even in the many realms we feel longing…waiting for a spouse, hoping for that perfect house, working toward that dream vacation, finding a quiet spot away from loud children…the fact remains, longing is a persistent reminder that we need shalom. The more we busy ourselves, the more ache we feel. It is never satisfied until we stop the insanity of life for an hour, or day, or week. The purpose in longing is to feed the craving to slow down. We need that distant thing—shalom.

Why not take a break, go for a walk, and breath deeply. Find a place that gives you a moment to bask in wonder. It might not be the Italian Alps, but it doesn’t need to be in order to make you smile.

What do you long for? How might viewing the ache you feel as an invitation to experience shalom change your outlook? What one step can you take this month to slow down and rest? 


Christmas is a longing season. Parents long for their children to come home, children crave the opening of presents, many families ache for reconciliation and peace. Many of the familiar carols sung bring the element of peace to the forefront. I think all of us find ourselves hoping for surprises and goodness. Advent means onset or arrival. Christmas is waiting the arrival of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We intrinsically feel a longing for peace on earth. Listen to the longing this year. What may it be inviting you to experience this advent season?

Peace be with you this Christmas season.


One thought on “A Purpose in Longing

  1. Great post, Mick! I am definitely yearning for peace this year in many places where there is pain and loss. Accepting my reality this year allows God to offer me His supernatural peace, comfort and hope – beautiful gifts. Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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