My kids just stayed at my mom and dad’s house for several days. My mom’s reaction when I asked her how things had gone went a little like this: “Those kids want a snack every three seconds! Snack, snack, snack! And then I made a roast and homemade mac and cheese for dinner… and those stinkers wouldn’t eat any of it.”
I knew exactly what she was talking about. They are hungry all day long… until it’s time to sit down and have what’s actually nutritionally beneficial to them. It can be frustrating for the cook in the house, that’s for sure. Christian, my middle child, is infamous for saying that he is full and then promptly asking for dessert… when I point out that he must not be full and should finish his corn or whatever it may be, he says, “Oh, Mom. I’m full of corn, but I’m not full of dessert.”
Uh-huh. What he really means is that he would rather satisfy his craving for something sweet instead of the vegetable that is good for him.
I’ve seen the pattern in my own life, this tendency to fill up on whatever seems most appealing at the moment. In times of stress, I’ve filled up on old sitcoms, trips to the library, conversation with friends, coffee and brownies (Christian does get that sweet tooth from me…), but on those days, I’d go to bed with an ache ever present in my heart.
I was full, but I was not satisfied.
A small, still voice would tug at me ~ “Come to Me…”
~ but I had left no room for Him. I had chosen everything else, snacked and snacked and snacked… and I couldn’t receive what I really needed. Those things I turned to ~ maybe they weren’t inherently bad.
But only the Giver of the good things can make us whole.
I’ve been thinking about this all week, how we hunger and then satisfy the cravings in our lives. Hunger is something we all have in common on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. From a moment a baby is born, he cries out to be filled… and so begins the search for satisfaction. This need is why people strive day and night for success in their business, believing that money and position will satiate that gnawing emptiness. It is why others invest their time into their image and social circles, all energies set on finding that one true love to make their lives feel worthwhile. For some, fame is the promise of fulfillment… if everyone knows their name, won’t it affirm that they are present in this world… that they are valuable? Yes, we all hunger and thirst… desire something to fulfill us and look in so many different places for that answer… but where does that need come from? Beneath all of the labels we’ve given it, what is this hunger?
Looking back at Adam and Eve, I see the roots of it.
And the Lord God commanded the man,”You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” (Gen. 2:16)
God offered them every tree in the garden… a feast more delicious than anything we could imagine, fully available… and only one tree was out-of-bounds. Only one was deemed unfit for their needs at the time…
God offered an orchard of goodness and they chose to eat from the one marked ‘NO’.
A lie convinced them that they would not be satisfied by God’s abundant gifts. The father of lies tricked Adam and Eve into believing that there was something more out there for them… something better, something more fulfilling than what God had provided.
So they chose to trust the lie instead of their Creator. They sought fulfillment in disobedience… but instead of satisfaction, it only brought the deep discontent of a sinful nature and death. Don’t we see it every day? Humanity chooses to trust the lie that God is not enough for us… that He does not give us everything that we need… and so we fall deeper into a temporary fix, filling up on sin’s offerings that only leave us broken and emptier than before. It’s a bitter cycle that has been on repeat since that day in Eden.
But the sin is not stronger than His purpose for us, so we are born with a desire for God. We hunger for a restoration of that relationship with Him. Away from the noise of all the alternatives, that quiet voice beckons. And our hearts hunger for Him.
That bitter cycle I mentioned? It can be broken in your life because of Jesus.
“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” Jesus said in John 4:13. A little later, in chapter 6, He says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Jesus… the Bread of Life. The Living Water. Why these names? Why this metaphor? I think that, simply, it’s because we understand it. We know what it is to thirst, to long for water because our bodies demand it… we know what it is to hunger, to be in physical distress because our bodies need food… we know that we will die without bread and water.
Just as our spiritual man will die without eating and drinking of Him. His body was broken and His blood poured out for us in a new covenant for the forgiveness of our sins (Matt.26:27). His sacrifice was made so that our hunger and thirst could be satisfied… through Jesus, we can have a restored relationship with the Father. In His life, His death, and His resurrection, He provided access to every good and perfect gift of the Father that we once scorned.
And in Matthew 5:6, Jesus promises that if we hunger for that relationship… if we hunger for righteousness that only comes in Him… if we long for Jesus, we will be filled.
And this is the part that floods my soul with joy.
Because, if you’ll remember… Christian, my stubborn six-year-old, thinks that dessert is going to give him something better than a vegetable. He thinks that what he wants is always better than what he needs.
But can I share another story about him?
The other day, he walked into the kitchen and said, “I’m thirsty, Mom. Can I have some juice?”
This is a question I hear approximately three thousand and twelve times a day. Christian smiled at me and added a, “Please?”
I nodded and poured him the juice… just about half a cup. He peered into the cup and said, “I’m really thirsty. I don’t think this is enough.”
“It’s enough,” I said, thinking that if I gave the kids as much juice as they thought they needed, we’d need to own a few apple orchards to keep up with the demand.
He stood still, obviously contemplating this dilemma. “I have an idea,” he said. “What if I ~” he put his cup under the water dispenser and pressed the button. Water mixed with the juice and suddenly he had his full cup. “More juice!” he said, his eyes wide. He took a sip. “Delicious!”
He looked up at me. “Mom, I added the water and it made more! And it’s so good!” He drank a few gulps. “Can I have more water?”
“Sure,” I told him. “Go ahead.”
He grinned and stuck his cup back into the stream of water. “More!” he said, looking into the cup again. “This is awesome!” He drank more down and filled it again.
He was beaming. He held his cup with both hands and ran into the bedroom where Sean and Kailey were playing. I heard this from down the hall ~ “Guys, guess what! I’ve got something new! Great and good! I put water in my juice and it made more! It tastes so good if you do that!”
He ran back into the kitchen, poured more water into the cup, and ran back to his room. This time, I heard ~ “Here, Kailey! Try it! And if you want more, come to me!”
I couldn’t stop laughing at his exuberance over his juice-water… and his excitement was infectious. It was only a minute later when he was back, with little sister behind him. Kailey said, “Mommy? Can I have water like Christian?”
Such a simple discovery for my kiddos… and, yet, it called to my heart and I heard the words of Jesus…
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
You see, what Christian didn’t realize was that, by the second or third re-fill, he was drinking pure water. And he wasn’t just satisfied ~ he was elated by the taste. Enough that he was running around, sharing it! Proclaiming it! Telling his brother and sister ~ hey, you have to try this!
What Christian needed ~ water, instead of sugary juice ~ was the very thing that brought him such joy, and that is the gift of our salvation! When it comes to Jesus, the Savior whom we need is better than everything in this world we think that we want! This satisfaction Jesus gives to us? It brings life ~ abundant life – and an unspeakable joy springing into our lives… as we give Him more and more glory, we find that our souls are more than satisfied!
Oh, how glorious are the riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory! (Col. 1:27)
May we be like Christian, running to everyone we know, jumping up and down in anticipation of what they’re about to experience, and saying, “Hey! I’ve got something great and good! You gotta have what I have!”
Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for e has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”