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“Shun wistfulness...”  When I read those words many years ago, the word “wistfulness” evoked an image of a child with bat and glove in hand looking out the window at the rain.

What’s wrong about wishing for sunshine when it’s raining? I wondered. But then the article took me deeper into the root of wistfulness: discontent, covetousness, jealousy…breaking God’s law.

My dictionary describes “wistful” as being “full of a melancholy yearning; longing pensively.” I remember a certain classmate of my teenage brother looking at him with so much longing in her heart that it seemed to be written all over her person. He never could handle or respond to her wistfulness.

Wistfulness is not limited to childhood or teenage years. It can strike at any age. For whatever reason, whether in marital relationship, workplace situation, family conflict, or even church office, we can become obsessed with our sense of need for something we don’t have.

The article, in a Christian women’s magazine, pointed out that wistfulness is the key ingredient in destroyed home-life and marriage. Now the mental image is of Eve looking wistfully at the forbidden fruit on the tree. God knew the results of her wistful actions that when the law was inscribed by God’s finger on the tablets of stone, the last five laws had to do with the fruits of wistfulness:  do not murder…commit adultery…steal…lie about your neighbor…covet.

Obsessive Longing

Wistfulness is the obsessive longing for that which you do not have—whether it is a home or vehicle you cannot afford, covetousness of someone else’s success, or an illicit relationship.

Paul tells us that the cure for wistfulness is contentment. “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11, 12).

Contentment is a skill to be learned and continually cultivated.

Perhaps the most devastating form of wistfulness is regret—regret for deeds done or not done; words said, or not said. People live lifetimes consumed with guilt and anguish—guilt for their own deeds, anguish for the deeds of others—things done that can never be undone. Paul has an answer here, too. The Damascus road encounter with Christ and the realization that he had been destroying the very ones Christ had called to himself must have filled him with remorse. He could have wallowed in that, but Christ brought him beyond.

“…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). That was Paul’s answer. It can also be ours.

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By Lois Pecce. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®.

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