A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
1 You, God, are my God,
Earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
My whole being longs for you,
In a dry and parched land
Where there is no water.
David acknowledged that his soul thirsted for God. That’s true of all of us, but our awareness of our thirst waxes and wanes like the tides. Sometimes we mistake the thirst for boredom or restlessness, a general dissatisfaction with our lives.
If we misdiagnose our thirst, we can get really vulnerable to the “if only”s. “If only I lived somewhere else, had chosen a different career, married a different person, had a different body type or shape…” The list goes on and on.
We’re thirsty people. There’s no shame in that. God put the thirst there and He longs to satisfy it with Himself. But we’re prone to wickedly and foolishly trying other means. Jeremiah called these “other means” “broken cisterns”.
New International Version (NIV)
12 Be appalled at this, you heavens,
And shudder with great horror,”
Declares the Lord.
13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
The spring of living water,
And have dug their own cisterns,
Broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Far too often our lives are littered with the shards of these busted vessels, of what we thought were containers of the Living Water that would slake the endless thirst. We thought it was career, or fame, or travel, or hobbies, or a new car, or sensual pleasure.
Note that the broken cisterns aren’t necessarily evil in and of themselves. Meaningful work, an intimate marriage, the beauty of creation- they are marvelous gifts from the hand of a generous Father. But the problem comes when we try to assign them a significance and value they were never meant to assume and to make them perform a function they were never designed for- to give us Life.
If we arrogantly and foolishly persist in trying to make the broken cisterns overflow with life, addictions creep up and flourish like noxious weeds: workaholism, alcoholism, escape into hobbies or sports, extramarital affairs. Mounting financial bondage comes as one gadget after another fails to soothe the ache of an empty soul. We thirst for Life and drink Death.
So it turns out that developing the capacity to come to the River, to retreat to the quiet place where we can drink deeply from the true Water of Life, isn’t just a luxury reserved for those with a mystical bent. No- it’s a life and death issue we’re all faced with whether we acknowledge it or not.
The Father calls to each of us: will you abandon your restless search for life Under the Sun, in the stuff of the earth? Will you come to Me in quiet surrender? Will you honestly acknowledge the famished state of your soul and, in humility, ask Me to quench your thirst? Cease striving. I am your God. Be still. I can fill you.
New International Version (NIV)
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
And beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
My lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
And in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
With singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.