The chunky black letters graffitied on the underpass caught my eye as we drove through: “ACHE.” My heart tightened in a sympathetic bond with the writer. We all understand what it means to ache. It is constant, unrelenting pain, not always enough to incapacitate us, but enough to make us miserable. We suffer heartache, backaches, stomachaches, toothaches as an ever-present gnawing we can’t escape.
What was the author of this graffiti going through when they wrote this? There were no other words of explanation, just pain that needed to voice itself to the world. We all need that—someone to listen and have compassion, and help us find solutions.
Aches, like all pain, are evidence we’re in need of care. They’re a signal something needs attention. Pain is a good thing if it motivates us to find the cure.
A stomachache lets us know we’ve got a bug and need to get some rest, or that we overate and need to stop eating until our body catches up. Or it tells us there’s something going on inside that isn’t right and needs to be checked out. Or our stomachache tells us it’s time to take some deep breaths and let them out slowly until our nervous energy slides away.  
Toothaches and backaches signal we need to see a doctor, rest, floss, change our diet, or learn how to lift/work more wisely. If we don’t listen to our body’s signal to stop or change we’ll suffer greater consequences. 
When our heart aches, because of rejection, disappointment, or abuse, it’s time to be wise and pull in. We need to find a safe place where our heart can heal and not be repeatedly torn or bludgeoned.

Of all these aches, there’s nothing compared to the ache of a soul longing for God. Like other aches, this unrelenting emptiness is good if it motivates us to action. God plants this ache in us that can only be filled by His love. Nothing else will satisfy. No person, place, or thing; no puppy, career, or the glory of nature can fill the emptiness of a soul without God.
Job ached for his God when he was going through the torment of loss and grief; his body covered with painful boils. He wondered where God was in all this suffering. To top it off, his friends decided all this had happened because he had sinned and started preaching at him. He ached for relief, yes, but even more than that, he ached for God, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth…I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25, 27). And Job’s yearning was satisfied.
God also created us to ache for relationship with other people. Together, we don’t feel so alone in our struggles, or even in our joys. We can vent, cry, or rejoice together. One man wrote a song about this ache to be in God’s presence with His people, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psa. 84:2). His ache was satisfied when he went to God’s house.
Surprisingly, as we discover the solution to our soul-ache, it grows deeper and more persistent, “My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you” (Isa. 26:9). This pain is not from trauma or sickness, but the increasing sweetness of our relationship with Jesus. The more time we spend with our Creator, the more we want. We wake up thinking about Him, continue all day long, and even into the night. His love saturates every pore of our being with gratitude and purpose; we ache for His love and He fills us over and over. 
I have prayed for the graffiti artist to experience this exquisite ache for God, and find friends to sing, dance, laugh, hug, and cry with. I hope they paint their love for Christ on the walls of their church or home with joyful abandon. Aching, yet filled.
#wheredoesithurt #yearning #longforJesus #lookforlove #purposeofpain #createdtoneedhim #Psa84:2 #Isa26:9 #Job19:25