Religion and the Thirsty Soul – W.E. Smith

I love how David poetically equates his dependence on God with physical sustenance in Psalm 63 –

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1)

And again how another thirsty soul offers this same imagery in Psalm 42 –

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Psalm 42:1-2)

Here were individuals who, at the deepest level of existence and awareness, yearned for more than what this created realm could offer. Here also we see human language being pushed to its very limit as it feebly attempts to capture the intimate condition of a soul longing after its creator. Here is the language of expressive human need, of yearning, of a heart crying out desperately to survive in a dry and barren land.

Our Lord also employed this transcendent language when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well –

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:7-14)

Clearly brethren, the text-book descriptions found in our earth-bound religion and formalized Christian faith fail miserably when trying to capture the vocabulary of this inner thirst. It penetrates far deeper and wider than any derived scholarship, tradition, program or method-driven ministry, or the quaint booklets presented to new converts each Sunday.

Those among the fellowship of the thirsty soul crave so much more, you see. And perhaps more importantly, they are acutely aware of the natural incapacity of religion (as it has come to be) or any other created thing to satisfy this mysterious, soul-deep thirst.

My dear friend, if you are tired and burned out in your service to our Lord, then perhaps this is what you are experiencing.

I must confess to you that I, for one, am plain tired of thirsting over and over again, only to be left even more parched and barren than the time before. This is not what this new life was ever intended to be, nor should it ever be acknowledged as normative Christian experience. We were created, after all, by Him, and for Him, in order that we might live and grow in Him. And the first lie uttered in the garden is still, to this day, negating this fundamental reality for most inhabitants of the earth (and sadly, many of us Christians).

Clearly, the thirsty soul, panting after the Source of all life, will be content with nothing less than the abiding presence and spirit of the Living God. Anything less is mere sugar water, and immediately recognizable for what it is. Like soda, it may snap and fizz for a moment, but it will never satisfy that deep spiritual thirst, which represents the absence of God on the throne of our inner life.

The real and living water, offering real sustenance and vitality does not flow from this earth, or out of our temples and creeds and man-made fountains; it flows from He Himself, who made us, and seeks to stamp His image on our soul, that we may love Him and enjoy Him forever without end.

The reaction of the woman at the well to Jesus’ invitation of living water was –

“Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”

And that is my prayer here and now for all of us panting after God, that no longer will we come to the world’s well, whatever it happens to be, hoping to be satisfied, but ever walking away unfilled.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

“They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:16-17)

May Our Heavenly Father satisfy your hunger and thirst for righteousness and for His Son!

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