It was deceptively hot. Not the kind of hot that makes you shrivel up all at once, but the blistering, arid heat that slowly steals your energy and leaves you dehydrated. And that's what I was: dehydrated. After several days in the African sun, I was thirsty. I was working for a non-profit, tracking grant funding throughout Kenya, and I was a trusting teenager, new to the world of international travel. As simple as it sounds, I didn't know that I could take the initiative and ask for water. So I naively followed the non-profit leader, assuming that they'd provide what I needed.
After only a few days, my mouth tasted like cotton. I was tired. I could pinch my skin, and it would stay standing up with rigid obedience. It had only been a few days, but boy was I parched. Upon realizing this, I explored the guest house and learned that there were water bottles stacked up for guests behind the breakfast table. It had been there all along; I just hadn't been looking.
I desperately snatched the first bottle, inhaling 16-ounces in a breath. Then hastily, I brought as many bottles as I could carry to my room, sipping them under the comfort of the slow ceiling fan that gently wafted hot air through the yellowing mosquito net. My thirst had become debilitating. I needed water to keep serving, but I had been too naive and distracted to acknowledge it. It took getting desperate, seeing my skin stay pinched up and tasting my cotton breath, for me to search out the water my body so desperately needed.
Over the next week, we traveled out into the villages, meeting women and children whose endurance was much stronger than my own. We read, prayed, sang, and asked questions. We evaluated the non-profit's effectiveness in supplying for the daily needs of the people. But as we went, I was newly aware of my need for water in order to love and serve others, and put plainly, not become a liability to those on the trip.
Thirst Throughout Scripture
Ironically, just a few days later, I stumbled across these verses:
The poor and the needy seek water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I will answer them. I am the Lord, the God of Israel. I will not abandon them. I will open rivers on the barren heights, and springs in the middle of the plains. I will turn the desert into a pool and dry land into springs.... so that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it. – Isaiah 41:17-20
As you can imagine, they came alive in a fresh way. I had never been seriously thirsty before, with my entire body aching in exhaustion. But as I returned to the States, I discovered that thirst is actually a big theme throughout Scripture. Like scales had been removed from my eyes, I read about the One who offered Living Water, promising that we could never thirst again (John 4:10). I read the story of Hagar, thirsty in the wilderness, and about the God who saw her and provided a well for her to drink (Genesis 21:17-19). I read about fights over water (Genesis 26:21) and grumbling in the midst of droughts (Numbers 20:5). I read about a God who not only cares about our deepest thirst but also satisfies it.
Scripture speaks about thirst so often because we are a thirsty people. We are like grass that blows away–weak, frail, and fading. We need constant nourishment and care to even survive. But not only this, we need spiritual nourishment. We are spiritually thirsty people who each experience unquenchable thirst apart from Christ. Indeed, sometimes God even allows us to hunger and thirst to show us our need for Him (Deuteronomy 8:15-18). Our physical thirst points us to our spiritual need. A need that God has fulfilled in Christ.
Acknowledging our Thirst
But how many of us remain thirsty today? Whether due to distraction or naivety, we show all the signs of spiritual dehydration. We're quick-tempered and easily anxious. We crumble at even a hint of bad news. We're self-absorbed, urgently concerned about trivial matters, and blind to the weighty matters of eternity. We act like emotional liabilities, making others tiptoe around us to avoid our unforeseen wrath. But instead of looking to the only One who can satisfy and change us, we look inward. We try harder. We do better. We make bigger goals and fill our schedules to the brim. We indulge in ceaseless retail therapy or seek any kind of numbing distraction, inwardly shriveling while naively gasping for eternal comfort. We're too busy, distracted, or deceived to acknowledge our thirst and turn to the source of living water.
Like the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness, we try to satisfy our thirst apart from God and are left wanting. God calls us to find true satisfaction in Him, but we first, in humility, must acknowledge our thirst and turn to the only true God who provides what we need.
The God Who Provides
When we call out to God for help, we discover that He offers us something greater: complete satisfaction in Him. When Christ came, He became the living water for all who would believe. He took on our sins and our shame and died thirsty on a tree to free us from our damning state (John 19:28-29). Not only this, He came alive again, offering to bring us into His kingdom, the kingdom of everlasting life. The kingdom where we will see God face to face, and where He will lead us to springs of living water and abundant feasts. The kingdom where "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:16-17).
But until that day comes, we can still rest contentedly in Christ. As we eagerly wait to be reunited with our Love in the perfect land without hunger or thirst, we can rest satisfied in Him. We can look to God to fill us, cry out to Him for help, and trust Him in the waiting. Practically speaking, this means we press into the ordinary means of grace: church community, Scripture reading, and prayer. We can feast on His Word, the Bible, while hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). We can obey Him in the little matters and in the big ones, knowing that He is coming again. And on the days when we feel irritable or discontent, we remember that in Christ we have all we need.
As Isaiah 41 says above, God has the power to turn dry land into springs, and deserts into pools. He does this, satisfying our thirst and taking care of our needs for a purpose: to point toward His goodness. He saves His children and adopts us into His family, clothing us and feeding us, all for His glory. We no longer need to shrivel up, spiritually dehydrated and fatigued. In Christ, God offers us access to His living water, a water that never runs dry.