How to Channel Your Longing for God and Find True Fulfillment

Exploring Christian Spirituality

In The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Ronald Rolheiser brilliantly unpacks the longing that exists in the human soul—an ache so profound that it leaves us wanting something we cannot name.

In this book, Rolheiser examines the fiery energy of the human soul and how to channel this energy to find fulfillment in God. He explores topics that can empower us as Christians in a world that pulls us in many directions. His insights into Christian spirituality offer practical ways to experience life to the full as followers of Christ.

The following discussion guide presents concepts in the book along with reflections from Scripture. Questions will spark deeper engagement with God’s Word, offering your small group renewed spiritual vitality.

1. Understanding Christian Spirituality

To sustain Christian spirituality, we must first understand the struggle we face within our souls. Rolheiser defines Christian spirituality as the way we channel the eros—or fire—inside of us toward God. The way we direct this fire, either positively or negatively, through habits and disciplines, ultimately leads us closer to God or further away. This occurs inwardly through the state of the mind, will, and emotion; and externally, in relationship with God and others. A heathy soul maintains balance between the innate tensions of life, between inner chaos and order. A healthy soul keeps us energized with a zeal for life, and holds us together by positively directing our passions and longings.

Read Psalm 42:1. Do you relate to this longing after God? Consider how you channel this longing or eros. Share some of the habits or disciplines that are leading you closer to God.

2. Discovering Freedom from Sin

Rolheiser crystalizes the problem in our soul that leads to sin. He states that the energy of our inner longings is too strong for us to direct on our own. Misdirection of this inner fire can manifest in overstimulation or numbing to ease our longings. For instance, addiction can stem from an overstimulation of energy that must find immediate fulfillment through sex, alcohol abuse, or other substance abuse. Various coping mechanisms in life misdirect the healthy expression of our energy and can manifest in an ongoing inner restlessness. When battling sin or simply inner struggle, the Bible counsels us to live in the light of God’s presence to find freedom.

Read 1 John 1:7-9. Privately identify some of the ways you are wrongly directing your longings. Consider how it would feel to accept Jesus’s invitation to live in the light. If you are comfortable, share with the group or take some time to sit in silence together.

3. Practicing the Non-negotiables of Faith

Christian faith traditions have not always agreed on the best ways to express our shared spirituality. While Rolheiser argues that Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and secular society have led us down different pathways, he encourages us to hold fast to the non-negotiable essentials of faith amid our pluralistic society. He argues that our non-negotiable faith tenets include: 1) private prayer and private morality, 2) social justice, 3) mellowness of heart and spirit, and 4) community as a constructive element to true worship. Our ultimate fulfillment in life comes, not by focusing on balancing between these pillars, but by directing the passions of our soul to wield our faith rightly—to walk with God to co-create and redeem.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-19. Do your faith-tradition’s tenets look like those suggested by Rolheiser? How do your faith tenets lead to greater fulfillment and life in Christ? Discuss how your faith tenets can guide your inner lives as new creations in Christ.

4. Experiencing Biblical Discipleship

Discipleship is a necessary aspect of our spiritual journey, if we are to rightly channel the fire within us. Jesus exemplified discipleship for true spiritual living. He modeled the incarnational life: “The Word became a human being and lived here with us” (John 1:14). Rolheiser asserts that just as Jesus became flesh on earth, interacting with humanity in tangible, visible ways, so too, we should become the hands and feet of Christ to one another. We must be in community for this incarnational expression of Christ to be manifest. As Rolheiser states, “Christian spirituality is always as much about dealing with each other as it is about dealing with God.” The greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor, and Rolheiser emphasizes that spirituality cannot be divorced from the church: to deal with Christ is to deal with his body.

Read John 8:31-32. What does this Scripture passage reveal about Christian discipleship? How has God revealed his nature to you through the body of Christ? Is God giving you a vision for the community you’re currently serving?

Embrace both the challenges and joys that arose from this discussion. As you continue to explore God’s Word, keep in mind what you’ve discovered about how God meets you in the tensions of your faith as you direct your holy longing towards him.

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Laura Gish
Laura Gish

Laura Gish leads Prayer Mobilization for American Bible Society. Originally from Texas, she now calls Philadelphia home. Laura can often be spotted in the city's historic parks with her adorable Westie named Jack, whose charm befriends local passersby. As a displaced Texan, she is still looking for authentic Tex-Mex food in the Northeast. Laura is passionate about the Bible and empowering people to embrace a fascinated lifestyle of prayer.

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