What’s This Sehnsucht Anyway?

noun literary

noun: Sehnsucht
yearning; wistful longing.
Origin: German

Sehnsucht  is a German noun translated as “longing”, “yearning”, or “craving”, or in a wider sense a type of “intensely missing”. However, Sehnsucht is difficult to translate adequately and describes a deep emotional state. Its meaning is somewhat similar to the Portuguese word, saudade, or it can be equally translated as the Romanian word dor. Sehnsucht is a compound word, originating from an ardent longing or yearning (das Sehnen) and addiction (die Sucht). However, these words do not adequately encapsulate the full meaning of their resulting compound, even when considered together.

Sehnsucht represents thoughts and feelings about all facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences. It has been referred to as “life’s longings”; or an individual’s search for happiness while coping with the reality of unattainable wishes. Such feelings are usually profound, and tend to be accompanied by both positive and negative feelings. This produces what has often been described as an ambiguous emotional occurrence.

It is sometimes felt as a longing for a far-off country, but not a particular earthly land which we can identify. Furthermore there is something in the experience which suggests this far-off country is very familiar and indicative of what we might otherwise call “home”. In this sense it is a type of nostalgia, in the original sense of that word. At other times it may seem as a longing for a someone or even a something. But the majority of people who experience it are not conscious of what or who the longed for object may be, and the longing is of such profundity and intensity that the subject may immediately be only aware of the emotion itself and not cognizant that there is a something longed for.

English-language Literature:
Sehnsucht took on a particular significance in the work of author C. S. Lewis. Lewis described Sehnsucht as the “inconsolable longing” in the human heart for “we know not what.”


I have struggled for almost as long as I can remember with the concept of home. Being born in Canada, but being raised nearly completely German, I have always felt torn between these two countries. On one end, Canada feels like home, because technically, it’s always been home. On the other end Germany has always had a chunk of my heart. Germany is my history, my family, my heritage, and it’s where a part of me always thought I was meant to be.
Having said that, after living in Canada for almost my entire life and also having spent a significant time (soon to be more) in the country my heart screamed for, I realized it is more than just being torn between to countries. My heart searched for more.

In the last few years, like I have mentioned before, I struggled to find what I was suppose to pursue. I tried to figure out what it was I enjoyed most and what I wanted out of life. I had pressure from every angle, telling me I had to choose something, to do something, to find something I was passionate about. I looked into numerous options and considered many in great detail, but something always stopped me from going after those things. I found it an impossible task to put my finger on what I wanted but I was longing to figure it out. My heart searched for more.

Often, I’ve felt like I was longing, wishing, waiting for something in my life to change, without being able to pin-point exactly what. Some days it felt like a career choice, other days it felt like traveling or something as simple as finding a hobby. Some days it would look like me missing my dad and other days it looked like me wishing Prince Charming would just walk into my life like a Disney movie. Again, my heart searched for more.

These are all sides of sehnsucht I’ve experienced, but there is something important that I realized recently.

My heart searched for more.

That’s what I was aware of. What I wasn’t so aware of, was that

My spirit searched for more.

The world teaches us to follow our heart, to follow our emotions and to find more of what makes us happy; Foolishly, I too thought that by doing that, I would find what was missing. That I could one day quench this sehnsucht like a thirst.

I have come to realize that this intense, sometimes confusing, sometimes even frustrating, desire  is one for more of Jesus.

My spirit was more aware than my mind and heart, that this is not my home and what I long for is more of Jesus.

Even when I am completely unaware of what it is I need, and even when I don’t always  know what it is I want, He is constantly fulfilling the true desires of my heart as I seek Him.

As I satisfy my spirit, He satisfies my heart.
Because even when I don’t know what my heart screams for, He does.

This is my sehnsucht; To pursue a life where I am growing to be more like my Father daily and a deep understanding that I am in this world but not of it.


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