Living With Unmet Longing

by Rachel Miller, COMPEL Training Member March 13, 2024
“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.’” John 4:13-14 (NLT)

Picture this: Jesus has just finished a long hike through a hot desert. He arrives at an unfamiliar town and sits down by a well. A woman approaches, alone, to draw water. He asks her for a drink. As Jesus often does, He takes an everyday experience and turns it to reveal a deeper truth.

Just as our bodies communicate our needs through physical sensations like thirst, our desires alert us to spiritual and emotional needs. Fear is meant to drive us to security. Loneliness is meant to drive us to connection.

The woman Jesus met in John 4 had many “soul needs.” She had zero friends, had been through five marriages, and her current “boyfriend” wouldn’t commit to her (John 4:17-18).

Like this woman, you and I know the pain of living with unmet longing. Maybe you’ve been single longer than you’d like, and you’re afraid you’ll end up alone (this was my story!). Maybe you’ve always wanted to have kids, and it feels like time is running out — I’ve been there too. Or maybe you’re tired of asking God for physical healing, or you’ve given up on your dream career.

But no matter how hard you try to ignore the desire, it won’t go away. This is no accident. God designed us for companionship, purpose and abundant life. Our longings reveal the architecture of our souls.

And yet one of the realities of living in a broken, sinful world is that our hopes and dreams are not guaranteed to happen — or to happen when we want. Jesus knows unmet longing is often a tension to live with, not always a problem to solve. He highlights our physical cravings by saying, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again” (John 4:13).

He also knows we have spiritual “thirsts.” And He offers us a life-changing, radical solution: living water, a source of joy that will satisfy the deepest cravings of our souls.

“‘But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life’” (John 4:14).

In John 7:37-39, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “living water.” Simply put, God gives Himself to us. He gives us His companionship, His peace, His acceptance, His steadfast love. Yes, His gifts are good. But our infinite longings can only be satisfied by relationship with the infinite God Himself.

If you’re living in the tension of unfulfilled desires, I hope God grants your heart’s longings. But even better, may this chapter of your story forge unshakeable faith in the God who waits for you by the well. May even your greatest disappointment become the deepest point of connection with your Savior.

God, You know my hopes, dreams and disappointments. I have deep needs only You can meet. Please forgive me for putting my confidence in Your gifts instead of in You, the Giver. Help me know that You see me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


If you or a loved one is in a long season of waiting, get a copy of Rachel Miller’s new book, When It Hurts to Hope: Honest Conversations about Living with Unmet Longing.



God wants to hear from you! Start having honest conversations with Him by downloading Rachel’s free “Prayer Guide for Unmet Longing.”

You can also connect with Rachel on Instagram at @rachel.s.miller!


Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (NIV).

What are a few symptoms that you’re feeling heartsick because of a delayed dream?

What is one step you can take today to experience “a longing fulfilled” (Proverbs 13:12)? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

© 2024 by Rachel Miller. All rights reserved.

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