It is that deep, raw, sometimes torturous feeling of being parched; a pain so central to the human experience that no man is excused from it. It has become so commonplace that I’m guessing most of us don’t even realise when it happens, or know what to do to satisfy it.
The most common and intensely-felt form of thirst is on a physical level. If you’re anything like me, a short 30-minute run will see you running from the activity itself and into a search for Something. To. Drink. I’m proud/ashamed to say that on more than one occasion, I’ve satisfied that thirst by drinking from places that I would have never thought of approaching at any other time; I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
It’s strange that thirst can lead us to such peaks of desperation, where we willingly resort to drinking from anywhere, or anything, that could dissipate our need for a drink. Both the substance and source become of little concern, as our discernment takes a backseat to the overwhelming sense of being parched.
We know how this feels on a physical level; it also takes place in our hearts or minds, for a thirst of a different sort.
In moments of restlessness, we find that one Snapchat story alone never satisfies. Neither does that one Facebook post or one Instagram image; we just keep scrolling on and on for more.
Consider how we tend to “self-medicate” during long, mind-numbing train or bus rides, where we grasp for anything at all to keep us occupied. Or between high-pressure meetings and the unrelenting demands of bosses, when we suddenly find ourselves craving for a quick snack or a cup of coffee. For others, that thirst is found in our deep longing for meaningful conversations with friends or strangers, or in the heavy, palpable sense of despair and emptiness that greets us when we return home after a long day – a void that many of us eventually try to fill with some form of momentary pleasure or entertainment.
We thirst – all the time. With such an intensity and frequency that sometimes we forget to concern ourselves with the sources, the wells from which we drink. But somehow, it never satisfies. Not for long anyway.
Our thumbs know this story far too well. In moments of restlessness, we find that one Snapchat story alone never satisfies. Neither does that one Facebook post or one Instagram image; we just keep scrolling on and on for more. I’m looking at my Web browser now and there are at least 20 tabs open.
So we go off in a wild search for that next post, meme, image, song, or story that will captivate and satisfy us. But somehow, it is never enough.
What do you thirst for? Have you sought to satisfy that thirst?
Isn’t it strange? While too much physical activity triggers a thirst for water, our lack of activity causes the deeper thirsts to well up within us.
Jesus Christ understood this human condition perfectly – He experienced it Himself. Just moments before He died, He cried out, “I thirst” (John 19:28).
Everyone thirsts. Even the God-incarnate Himself.
Some of those gathered near Him took it literally and gave Him sour wine on a sponge for a drink. But others recognised that this call of thirst went far deeper than that.
It was a cry welling up from an unfathomable abyss, caused by the weight of sin that He was carrying, which led to His separation from the one person He loved the most.
It was the thirst that comes from lack – the Son of God’s lack of intimacy, for the first time in his life, with His Father (Matthew 27:46).
Earlier, this same Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a well and asked her for a drink. In a remarkable plot-twist, the conversation ended with her asking Him for water instead. What did He say to her?
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and He would have given you living water… Whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again.” (John 4:7)
Never thirsty again. I want that.
Everyone thirsts. Even the God-incarnate Himself. Knowing this, I’m led to reconsider the sources I turn to when I find myself longing and thirsting for more than what life offers at that moment: Am I satisfied with what is before me? What exactly am I thirsting for?
As it turns out, Jesus made that offer to the Samaritan woman because He understood her grave sense of dissatisfaction as reflected by some major missteps she’d made in her life. He understood her thirst, and He knew exactly what she needed. And it wasn’t just water.
I’m prepared to take Jesus’ word for it. I’m prepared to take a journey and find out what He is offering, and if indeed, I “will never be thirsty again”.
He might just know more about my life than I do. And He might just be able to help quench the unquenchable thirst.