The longing at the center of our hearts is desire.
Put there by God.
It’s a longing to love, be loved and valued by others and by God. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Most of my past life has been built around the idea that my worth depends on what I do. I made it through grade school, high school and earned a college degree.
I made my career.
I fought my way to the lonely top with a little success, a little popularity and a little power.
But all of this was a selfish pursuit to build my own worth. My way of trying to meet my own needs for love and be valued by the world. All of it fueled by rivalry and competition, which only led to compulsions and obsessions and moments of suspicion, jealousy and revenge.
The inner thirst for worldly success is not a God-given desire.
God creates in us an innate desire to be loved by him and to truly be connected to others. This desire controls our inner thirst.
From childhood to death, this desire exists. But we can get it confused with having our needs met. As Saint Augustine indicated: Our hearts will never rest, nor are they meant to rest, until they rest in God. We love the longing. Longing is how God woos us to him. So, never fill the longing for God—which continues throughout life—with things from the world.
Nothing wrong with having things or having wealth. Nothing wrong with wanting success. It’s normal to seek the best. But if I NEED them to feel good about myself, then I’ve crossed over from desire to determining my worth by what I possess.
I’ve introduced into my life a formula to determine my worth:
Self-worth = Performance + Other People’s Opinions
If my performance is subpar, then my self-worth is low. If other people’s opinions of me are not glowing, then my self-worth plummets. This is a formula for disaster. It makes us feel broken and unlovable. Then we turn to other things to bolster self-worth.
We might even form a dependency in order to distract ourselves from our perceived failure, creating a breeding ground for addictions, which means the formula is the problem.
Free yourself from this formula by changing how you determine your worth.
Our worth doesn’t depend on how well we perform or by our failures. It doesn’t depend on the approval of others. It doesn’t depend on what we own or how much we owe.
Think of the prodigal son. He squanders his inheritance on wild living in a far country, and when the money is gone, so are his friends. He no longer matters to them. He comes to his senses and writes an excuse on the wall of his mind. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). He forms a strong belief. He no longer feels like a child of the father. Too much has happened. He’s disgusted with himself—feeling like a failure and feeling estranged.
A life based on NEEDING things to feel self-worth causes us to lose touch with the Father. We no longer feel worthy of his love. But the Father ignores the prodigal son’s excuse. Instead, he says to his hired hands, “‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:22-24).
No mention of wrong doing. No mention of being put on probation. He wants the son to understand that he’s still his child. He reinforces the son’s worth to Him, which isn’t based on success or failure.
Maybe you don’t feel like a child of the Father’s anymore. Maybe you believe too much has happened, that He could never love you again.
Maybe you’ve tried amassing wealth and seeking status but have felt even more alone in the world.
What you NEED isn’t more stuff or more prestige.
You NEED to return from the far country.
Return to the embrace of the Father.
Return without an explanation.
The Father doesn’t seek one.
He seeks a new beginning.
So come home to the Father. His love is unconditional.
 Gerald May, Addiction and Grace, (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 180.
Robert McGee, Search for Significance, (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1998), 25.