When a person is thirsty and in need of water, their only thought is about finding and drinking water. Everything else becomes secondary as the parched person seeks out their single desire and need. Nothing else will satisfy the person thirsting for water: not a tasty meal or a short nap. Only once that person is drinking water and finding their thirst quenched will they be satisfied.
The same is true for those who “thirst” for God. Christians who cultivate a desire to pursue God above else find themselves parched in a desolate land, seeking out the Living Water, which alone can satisfy their thirst.
The Lord wants His children to grow and move away from merely wanting Him because of His gifts and blessings and instead to desire and love Him above all else. There are many things that Christians seek out for fulfillment, but what they are really longing for is the Lord.
Biblical Examples of Longing for God
In the Bible, there are many descriptions of people longing for the Lord. Multiple psalms describe an intense desire for God.
As Psalm 42:1-2 states, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (NIV).
In using the imagery of a thirsty deer looking for a stream in the wilderness, the sons of Korah dramatically depict their desire for the Lord and to be with Him.
Another psalm written by the sons of Korah describes the blessedness of those who ministered before God in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple, for they were always near the Lord (Psalm 84:3-4).
As is declared in this song of praise, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2, NIV). These men did not merely give lip service about the love of God, but earnestly desired a deep relationship with the Lord.
Psalm 63 is another psalm, which includes the rich depiction of those who earnestly long for God. David wrote Psalm 63 while he was in the wilderness running from his son Absalom. During this time, David expressed his desire and love for the Lord.
Specifically, he thirsted for God like a man “in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1, NIV). Even so, David experienced the risk of losing his life at the hands of his rebellious son, David knew that God’s love is better than life itself (Psalm 63:3).
Such a statement could only come from a man who had experienced God’s love and made it his main goal in life to know and love the Lord. David was rightly described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).
One of the key figures in the New Testament who held a similar longing for the Lord was the Apostle Paul. Not only did he wholeheartedly live his life for the glory of the Lord, but he also made it his aim to know Christ more deeply.
As is stated in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, “I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10, NIV). No matter if he lived or died, his focus and passion was always Christ (Philippians 1:21).
Pursuing Gifts Instead of God
While there are multiple biblical examples of those who developed a longing or “thirst” for the Lord, there are many people who desire God mainly for what He provides. Christians can too easily focus on the blessings and gifts from God, such as material provision, marriage, children, or service opportunities.
As Francis Chan emphatically asks in his book, Crazy Love, “Do you love this God who is everything, or do you just love everything He gives you?” In a consumer-minded, “me” culture, it is very easy to focus on pursuing gifts from God instead of God Himself.
God does graciously provide gifts and blessings for His children (Matthew 7:11). In fact, every good thing that comes in life is from Him (James 1:17). Believers should want to give thanks for such blessings while also keeping in mind the Source of the gifts.
However, the things that the Lord graciously provides should not become the focus of one’s relationship with Him. Instead, the provisions of food, shelter, friends, family, and other blessings should point believers to the Lord who is greater than all.
As Christians grow and become more spiritually mature, they will realize that they want more of God instead of His gifts. Those who are growing in Christ eventually learn that God alone sustains, provides, and is the refuge they need (Psalm 54:4).
He is the Bread of Life who alone provides life (John 6:35). Spiritually maturing believers learn that God is all they need regardless of their circumstances (Psalm 73:25). Their longing for other things, even good things, points to their true desire as a longing for the Lord.
Falling in Love with God
To develop a longing and deep love for God, people must first know Him. Individuals cannot arbitrarily manufacture love toward God. Rather, “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Understanding and reflecting on Christ’s great love toward humankind through His sacrificial death and resurrection is needed for Christians to develop love for Him (Romans 5:8).
Believers should spend time pondering “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18, NIV).
A major part of knowing, and thus loving, God is spending alone time with Him. Human relationships would never thrive if, for instance, two friends never spent time together. Likewise, spending time with the Lord through Bible reading and prayer is essential to falling in love with Him.
As Brother Lawrence stated in The Practice of the Presence of God, “Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him” (“Brother Lawrence Quotes”).
Those who know the Lord Jesus and love Him dearly will follow His commands (1 John 2:3). Jesus specifically said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15, NIV). Loving and longing for God will enable Christians to live faithful and radical lives.
Keeping the two greatest commandments will not be a burden but a delight: to love God and love other people (Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:27). Instead of serving God out of a sense of Christian obligation or guilt, they will lovingly give themselves for the One their soul desires above all else.
A Desire for God
Following the example of the psalmists and the Apostle Paul, Christians today should seek to develop a longing and desire for God. Wanting the Lord above all else in life is a legitimate desire considering that Christians will spend eternity with Him.
Taking the time to know and love the Lord will be well worth the effort spent in Bible reading and prayer since eternal life is an ongoing, everlasting relationship with the Lord (John 17:3).
Instead of seeking out lesser things, Christians should recognize that their longing is really for God. Just as a thirsty person will only be satisfied with water, so also nothing else will satisfy the soul except the Lord Christ.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/PixelsEffect
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.