For three months, I was a seminary intern in Jamaica. There were many things that I enjoyed about this experience, there were also some things I found difficult. Topping the list of difficulties was the heat. Being a small-town Canadian boy did not prepare me for the intense heat of the Jamaican summer.
Every week I would walk to the nearest internet-café to send messages home. I would walk for approximately 30 minutes in the blistering Jamaican sun.
By the time I arrived at the café, I would be dripping in sweat. My shirt would be soaked through, my bones would ache, and I would have a slight headache from the beginnings of dehydration.
Thus, before entering the café, I would go to the nearby convenience store and gulp down the largest bottle of water I could find.
Scripture often talks about our spiritual needs through the language of hunger and thirst. God promises to quench our spiritual thirst and satisfy our spiritual hunger.
In the Book of Isaiah, for example, God calls out to a discouraged nation with a lifegiving invitation: “Come all you are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat” (Isaiah 55:1).
Similarly, Jesus says, “Whoever comes to be will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Jesus invites us to himself to receive our full spiritual satisfaction.
How might we accept Christ’s life-giving invitation? Accepting this invitation means these three things.
1. Recognizing Our Thirst
Thirst is not a recreational symptom. Thirst is visceral; it speaks to a need that goes to the very core of who we are and how we live. Our physical thirst highlights what we need to grow and flourish. Essentially, our thirst tells us that our bodies lack something it needs to survive.
The same holds true in our spiritual lives. Our spiritual thirsts inform us that there is a part of our life that remains unfulfilled. This spiritual thirst can take many forms.
For some, the thirst is to know we are loved and accepted. Others may thirst for forgiveness, the assurance that the mistakes, errors, or sins of the past do not eternally condemn them. Others may feel burdened or discouraged in their lives.
The fact is, each of us has places where we need God’s presence and support. None of us are immune from the need for healing, revival, or encouragement. We all have spiritual thirsts.
We do a disservice to our spiritual lives if we pretend that these spiritual longings do not exist. No matter how faithful we are, we never progress to the point of spiritual mastery or perfection.
Having a spiritual thirst is not a denial of our faith. In fact, recognizing our spiritual thirst is an expression of our desire for the Lord. We cannot find satisfaction for our thirsty souls unless we first uncover the need that only Jesus can fill.
After all, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12). The same can be applied to our spiritual thirsts. Quenching our spiritual thirst demands that we recognize the need within us.
2. Reject That Which Does Not Satisfy
Part of discerning our spiritual thirsts involves rejecting the things, which fail to satisfy our longings. Physical thirst, for example, can never be satisfied by drinking salt water. In fact, drinking salt water does more harm than good!
Similarly, we can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fill our spiritual needs with transitory delights. While such delights may make us feel good for a moment, they leave us perpetually wanting.
The deep things of our soul can never be placated by that “what’s and the where’s” of our lives. This is because our deep thirsts are never about the what’s and the where’s.
Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
It does little good to try to feed our souls with that which can never spiritually satisfy or delight us. As St. Augustin famously wrote in Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
Our soul is made for God alone, and it is towards the Savior we must turn. Isaiah says, “Let the wicked one forsake his ways, and the evil one their thoughts, and let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy and will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
To quench our spiritual thirst, we must turn away from that which does not satisfy, or from that which increases our frustrations, weariness, and discouragement. It is only when we put down our vain attempts of self-satisfaction that we uncover the full blessings of Christ’s presence.
3. Receive Jesus
To where do we turn if we wish to quench our spiritual thirst? We turn to Jesus. Jesus issues the invitation, “Come to me all who are weary and over-burdened, I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Ultimately, quenching our spiritual thirst comes not from a product, but from a person. After recognizing our thirst, and rejecting that which does not satisfy, we must turn to the source of our spiritual livelihood and open our lives to him.
Turning to Jesus is not an action simply for the moment. The spiritual satisfaction that Jesus provides is enduring.
Jesus assures us that “anyone who drinks the water that I give will never thirst; indeed, the water that I give them will become a spring welling up to eternal life” (John4:14).
This reality is further testified to in the Book of Revelation. John’s vision of the great multitude in heaven involves the declaration that “he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence, never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst” (Revelation 7:15).
It is the eternal relationship with Jesus that brings the quenching to the deep thirsts of our lives.
What does it mean to receive Jesus in our lives? In truth, it is relatively easy. Receiving Jesus means that we pursue a life-long connection with him.
This means we listen to the things that Jesus says in our lives; we pay attention to our experiences where we feel caught up in his presence.
Receiving Jesus means we pursue activities that intentionally strengthen our bond with him; we pray, we read Scripture, we take communion.
Receiving Jesus means that we dare to believe that we live each day in his presence and purpose. When we do so, we can be confident in the satisfaction of the deepest needs and thirsts of our lives.
Take the Next Step
It does little good to recognize our need, to reject that which does not satisfy, but to avoid receiving Jesus. This would be like walking in the blistering sun to the point of dehydration yet refusing to go for water.
Once we recognize our thirst, we must boldly move towards its full satisfaction. Isaiah calls us to “seek the Lord while he wills to be found, call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Even if our thirst seems small and insignificant, we can find its satisfaction in Jesus.
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The Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada. He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.com, ibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others. He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca. He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.
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