We Thirst

by Jason Overman

These two words — we thirst — sum up the human condition as well as any I can think of. More than just our body’s physical need for refreshing water, we thirst deep down in our souls too. To be human is to experience longing, the desire to be full and complete. We thirst for satisfaction, for fulfillment. Many will spend their whole lives looking for that one thing – money, sex, work, food, fame, drink – to quench the inner thirst. Yet the thirst remains.

There’s a problem with insistent thirst: how quickly it turns to craving. It’s no longer about discovering that one thing to fill the hole in our hearts but a lonely, consuming addiction that pours into the abyss in hopes of forgetting, avoiding, or denying that the hole is there in the first place.

Alcoholism is a fitting example of humanity’s thirst run amok, but it’s just one of many manifestations of our unfulfilled and desperate condition. My condition, and yours, points us back to what we are truly longing for: God. Thirst in this life is a signpost directing us toward Him. In other words, we have a God-shaped hole in our heart that only He can fill.

The renowned French philosopher Blaise Pascal put it like this:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print . . .? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him . . .  though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself (Pensees VII, 425).

After spending his youth in idle dissolution, the beloved Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo expressed this truth more succinctly, and prayerfully, in his work Confessions: “. . . you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

These two great Christian thinkers echo the biblical wisdom of Israel’s King Solomon, who spoke of God and man when he wrote:

“He has put eternity in their hearts . . .” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NKJV).

A hole this big, a longing this vast, can be filled only by the infinite Creator himself. Little wonder that in our sin and separation from God, we grasp for material things to fill what only the Eternal can. Alcohol can be one of these things. Many members of my extended family have struggled — some have died — from that unrelenting thirst of alcoholism. I wish they’d known that their thirst had a Cause and that their addiction had a cure: God’s generous goodness called grace.

In the same verses above, wise Solomon, a man acquainted with a deep and restless thirst of his own, also said this: God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” How can something as “ugly” as addiction become beautiful? We certainly cannot achieve it on our own. The good news is that eternity, the beauty that fills and heals us, is available in Jesus Christ.

Jesus knew about thirst too. When He cried from the cross, “I thirst!” (John 19:28), He identified with each one of us in our desperation. More than that, Jesus bore in His body the full weight of the whole world’s separation from God because of sin, the sin that habitually makes our thirst unbearable. His sacrificial death not only carried that struggle for us but also buried it. And He didn’t remain in the grave; He rose again!

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is transformative for those who will believe and follow Him. The blessing of new life that flows from Him and fills us, satisfying our deepest thirst, is also the power that delivers us from bondage of every kind. Crucifixion bought our freedom; resurrection brings abundant life. We are complete in Him (Mark 10:45; John 10:10).

May our thirsts, our entire lives, be so claimed and transformed by Christ, from our mere needs or rabid addictions to the true satisfaction and lavish joy that only He can give.