by Bob Allen:
Life has too much sand to offer our thirst. The arid climate of life dries up whatever reserves we possess, shriveling our water-skins as we drink what we have managed to hold back. Moment by moment, we toil to preserve enough to wet our whistles, desperate to saturate our throats with a quenching deluge. Like camels, we slurp a trickle, a drip, and squirrel away the effervescent droplets, full of invigorating moisture, in our humps for the trying journey to come, never knowing when we might stumble across the next opportunity to drink real refreshment. There is never enough, save for the next instant.
When we wake in the morning, promised nothing, the burdens of the day wind their way around our intentions. The routines of life and family and church and friends wash over the days in a rushing current of doing. This unceasing cycle feels like sleepwalking. We are both awake and aware yet our activities catch us in moments of unthinking compliance to an untenable standard we have erected for ourselves. When we reach the end of the day if we’ve managed our emotions, energy, and time well, we rest easier, feeling as though we’ve accomplished something. However, if at the end of the day, we find ourselves exasperated, drained, lifeless, joyless, we wonder what went wrong.
If we’re honest with ourselves, the rhythms we thump out with our lives create a droning flow of breaths. But no matter how successfully we utilize those twinkling and precious breaths spread out over each 23-hour, 56-minute, 4.0916-second period of time, something nags at us, pulling our attention away from the moment and arresting our thoughts.
Jesus wasn’t joking when he said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mt. 6:34) God’s promises are real and true and trustworthy. Believers stake their lives on them, but they can be hard to remember when the sapping monotony and drudgery of each wink of the clock streaks through our consciousness, never to be recovered. Believers invest in a future that hovers just beyond our grasp, told over and over that contentment comes from accepting God’s graceful provision for today. But achieving that contentment is hard.
Regardless of how content we know we are supposed to be with our lot in life, our discontent and unrest turn our gaze inward. We dig deeply into our hearts and find regret and resentment and irritation. Staggered by our need of reconciliation and our desire for the redemption of the cosmos, we find ourselves vexed over the state of our lives in this sin-soaked world, displeased with the outcomes of our industry. Subsequently, the ever-ticking clock warps our sensibilities.
It’s pretty doom and gloom, right?
But, if we stop and think about it, why would it be different?
We live in a fallen world with decaying bodies in a crumbling culture that is increasingly turning away from absolute truth. As the world spirals farther and farther from perfection, the centrifugal force of sin pushes the edges and expands the boundaries of acceptability.
And we feel the loss.
As a result, we grasp, claw, kick, and fight as life around us spins out of control, as it launches into an ever-increasingly wide orbit. We just want it to stop. We want to be drawn inward not pushed outward. We want ease. We want the comfort of safety. We want peace of mind in the face of the chaotic nature of a culture gone akimbo. We want to believe things will be ok for us, for our children, for our grandchildren.
Eventually, everyone and everything will be drawn back into the center, whether it wants to be or not. There is a snap-back that will come. Somewhere down the road, Christ will return and every knee will bow and tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. On the horizon lies a day through which all life on this world will find itself aligned with ultimate reality again, but until it comes our discontentment deepens as truth collides with existence.
So, what do we do with the heartsickness, with the increasing ineffectiveness of our efforts, with the lurking dissatisfaction over “could have” and “should have”? What do we do when every breath we draw threatens to turn from blessing to poison?
It is natural to feel a growing sense of inadequacy. It is even beneficial to do so. It is not only acceptable but it might even be healthy for a heart to be filled with desperation about the state of things. If you can imagine, God wants us to feel this distaste for this life. It sounds insane, I know. But stay with me and let me draw back the curtains a bit more and let in more light.
There is nothing in this world that can fill the hole in any man, woman, or child’s heart.
People figure out, in full view for all to see, that their pursuit of peace or fulfillment or happiness or significance or whatever is vain. The preacher of Ecclesiastes would call it “vanity of vanities”. Whatever substance, whatever accomplishment, whatever task, whatever joy, whatever satisfaction we throw into the void in our souls will never slake the hunger for something that gnaws at our contentment within us. There is only one balm for this yearning: Jesus must be enough.
The wellspring of life, found in Jesus, offers a crystal spring of refreshing grace where life offers dribbles from polluted puddles. When we turn to things of this world to satiate our need, we swallow the poison-pill of self-improvement and self-justifying effort and walk a hopeless path. We may feel good for a moment because accomplishment is gratifying, but before long that success fades and we must achieve another success, then another, and another, and another. That cycle never ends, it is never enough.
Jesus once put it this way, “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.” (Jn. 4:13-14) There is satisfaction to be found in Jesus, a rest from all of our efforts to fix what’s broken in us. The elixir to get us through our day, to ease our aching and pining hearts, pours from the cross.
God never intended for us to be satisfied by the world. All earthly blessings display his goodness, but create a longing for a fulfillment we cannot find here. Our deep longing for peace, stillness, tranquility can only be filled when we allow ourselves to rest in the finished work of Jesus. Our dissatisfaction with this life incites our spirit to search for a truer anchor to which we can moor ourselves. Man finds the truest rest, truest peace, truest comfort, truest acceptance, truest satisfaction in God and him alone. He offers our thirst not stale drips from a rusty tap, but brooks of pure, restorative draughts that cool and revitalize blistered hearts.
“Whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (Jn. 6:35)