A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
You can feel it, can’t you? The thirst! We humans are innately, insatiably thirsty. We have a bottomless thirst no Big Gulp can ever quench. Even in blessed, wealthy America we are always thirsty for more. We are thirsty for more money, more experiences, more devices, more pleasures, and for more and more happiness. We have a raging, quenchless thirst.
I thought of thirst last week as I hiked in “the dry and weary land” of the Wilderness of Judah in Israel. I ventured into Ein Gedi where David hid high up in caves from King Saul and pursuing troops. It was there in that barren land that David recognized that his thirst was really for God: “my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you.” David knew that his thirst was not for a king’s throne, for power, for wealth, for pleasures, or even for water. David knew deep down that he was thirsty for God: “O God, you are my God, I seek you.”
David’s many psalms, as well as all of Scripture, indicate that our problem is not being thirsty, but that we are thirsty for too little. We imagine that wealth, success, fame, and pleasure can satisfy, when only God can satisfy. We are thirsty for too little, not too much.
The Swiss psychiatrist Karl Jung wrote to Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, about human thirst. Jung thought that the thirst for alcohol was really a thirst for much more; the spiritual. Jung thought that it was not coincidental that in many languages the same word for “spirit” is used both for the “divine” and for the “spirits” people drink. People think they are thirsty for one thing, only to discover that it is God for whom they really thirst.
The great spiritual writers from the psalmists, to Augustine and to C. S. Lewis, all emphasize the importance of thirst in our lives. They were agreed that what we do with thirst, how we seek to satisfy thirst, shapes our lives.
Thomas Traherne has helped many people think through the insatiable thirst raging within. I first stumbled upon the writings of Traherne while reading C. S. Lewis. Lewis described Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations as “almost the most beautiful book in English”. In reading Centuries of Meditations, we can apply what Traherne says about longing to thirsting. Traherne believed that longing, or thirst, was God’s working within us. Thirst was God’s way of making us unsatisfied with anything less than God. Our thirst always points us in the direction of God.
Ponder Traherne’s words below about longing and think of thirsting:
- “The soul is also inclined to possess all. Its longings cannot be satisfied by anything short of infinite perfection. It must possess God or be dissatisfied.”
- “It is of the nobility of man that he is insatiable. For he hath a benefactor so prone to give, that He delighteth in us for asking.”
As I read today’s scripture from Psalm 42, and as I read Traherne, I understand my insatiable thirst in a new way. I am thirsty for many things, but deep down I realize that this thirst is really for God, and more and more of Him. We taste of God and know that we want yet more. Like the apostle Paul we thirst “to be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). We will not be satisfied with anything less! Didn’t Jesus talk about the blessedness of those who hunger and thirst!
Let’s make it our daily prayer to ask God to make us more and more thirsty for Him!
A fellow traveler,