The first marathon I ever ran was on an unusually hot, September morning in Colorado. The course started around a nice path, along a reservoir with some shady tree areas. By the second half it was full-on concrete sidewalks, with no shade in sight. And 80 degrees. The actual running part was not that bad. I had trained and was ready. My thirst was another story. It was consuming. The water stations could not come soon enough, and even though I filled my two little 10 oz. water bottles every chance I could, it still was not enough. My thirst was all I could think about. Lacking enough hydration effected the way my muscles moved, my mental stamina and my energy. My thirst could not be quenched.
For some reason, last week my emotions were on high alert and overwhelming, for unknown reasons to me. The floodgate of emotions washed over me every morning and I found myself praying for relief, for peace, for answers to the overwhelm.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” ~Psalm 42:1-2
Psalm 42 has always been a go-to passage for me to sit in when life is overwhelming. Like me, the psalmist was overwhelmed and overcome by his emotions and his need. He was oppressed by enemies outside, and his fears within. And while I am sure he longed for deliverance from his circumstance, what he actually wrote about was his heart’s thirst for God. He was thirsty for God himself, first and foremost.
The psalmist described his thirst like a deer panting for water, longing for flowing streams. This stream would replenish him, nourish him, sustain him, heal him. An abundant and perpetual stream, unending and unstoppable.
In the New Testament, the apostle John records an encounter Jesus had with water and thirst. Jesus had been traveling in the hot desert region of Samaria, and was thirsty and tired. So he sat down at the well, where his needs could be met. At midday a woman comes along to fill her jar of water. Surprising the woman, he asks her for a drink. We find out as he talks to her that she is an outcasted woman, a woman who would be disregarded and dismissed by most. But Jesus engages this woman by asking her to quench his human thirst. And in return offers her a deeper, more significant water that will quench her spiritual thirst. He offers her a living water that perhaps she did not know she needed, but that her heart thirsted for.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” ~John 4:13-15
Similarly, in John 7:37, Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus offers her, and us, living water. Just as our human bodies need daily, physical water to survive, our souls need a perpetual living water – one that will satisfy and fill every crevice of our being, transforming and renewing us daily. And Jesus is that living water. He alone can satisfy our every longing, need and desire. He is the flowing stream that the psalmist points to. He is the one that can offer peace for our soul.
What if our anxieties, heartbreak, anger, loneliness, confusion and a myriad of other emotions are an indicator of our thirst for God?
When we are faced with challenges, hardships, emotions that overwhelm us – where do we turn? What do we use to satisfy our longings for peace, healing and nourishment? Escape into social media, Netflix, a good book? Numb ourselves with comfort food and/or alcohol? Take a vacation or ski trip? While these things in themselves can be good, using them to satisfy our heart’s ultimate thirst misses the mark and will in the end leave us thirsting for more. They never satisfy.
In that very first marathon I ran, what I wanted most in those last two, very hot hours was to drink of a water that would actually quench my thirst. A water that would set my body at ease, and nourish me inside and out.
In the marathon of life, what are we actually thirsting for? What will actually satisfy our thirst? The Bible unequivocally says that we thirst for Jesus. We thirst for an intimate relationship with him, because he made us. He is what makes us whole.
What does it look like to thirst for God? It means we seek him in our time of need. When emotions overwhelm, when our brain is foggy, and when we feel alone or in despair we pray to him, we find him in his Word, we look for him to answer. And he promises that he is with us in every moment. He promises that when we seek him, he is there. He promises that when we ask for wisdom, he will give it.
Friends, let us redirect our longings and thirst toward God. For Jesus is the living water that quenches our thirst and satisfies our souls. Thirst for him, drink from him, and be satisfied.
Isaiah 55:1~”Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!”