Every soul thirsts. It may not be felt every moment, but to some degree every soul thirsts after something it does not have. We are rarely content in our current condition and it seems that this is the way we have been Divinely wired. But while we all thirst, we do not all thirst in the same way. A couple of years ago I read Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health which was written by Don Whitney. I posted a review of it here and highly recommend that you read this book for yourself. The one chapter that gave me the most to think about and meditate upon was the one dealing with spiritual thirst. It has proven helpful in times of weakness and times of thirst in helping me discern just what it is I seek after. In this article I will list the three types of thirst the author outlines and briefly discuss each of them.
The Thirst of the Empty Soul
The soul of the unbeliever is empty towards the things of God. Until the Spirit fills the soul with His presence, it is devoid of any love for God. Without God, the unbeliever is constantly looking for something, anything, but is unable to fill this emptiness. This is something many people do not understand, but that the Bible teaches clearly: While the unbeliever’s soul is empty because he does not know God, he does not seek to fill it with God. Many people believe that unbelievers are truly seeking after God, yet the Bible tells us that the empty soul is unable to see his real thirst. Not only that, but the empty soul does not want to see his own thirst, and would not, even if it were possible. The empty soul is completely and fully opposed to God; it is deceitful and desperately wicked. In Romans 3:11 Paul quotes the Psalmist, David, who wrote “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Psalm 14:2) Humans may have a God-shaped hole in their souls, but this is not a whole the unbeliever seeks to fill with God until the Spirit does a prior work in Him.
And so it is that the empty soul seeks to be satisfied. It seeks satisfaction in work, family, love, sex, money and everything else the world has to offer. It may seek satisfaction in religion and even the Christian religion, but yet never truly seeks God and thus never finds Him. Until the Holy Spirit enables that soul to understand the source of his thirst and enables him to see the One who can satisfy, he will continue to look in vain. “Just because a man longs for something that can be found in God alone doesn’t mean he’s looking for God…Many who claim they are questing for God are not thirsting for God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture, but only for God as they want Him to be, or a God who will give them what they want.”
All who know Christ have known the thirst of the empty soul. All who know Christ have known the satisfaction of having their thirst quenched.
The Thirst of the Dry Soul
There is a second type of spiritual thirst, and it is the thirst of the dry soul. This is a thirst that is felt only by those who believe. It does not indicate that one has fallen away from the Lord, but that he is in a dry place spiritually and that his soul is in need of refreshment. This is the thirst the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 42. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” This man knows God, but feels that God is distant from him and so cries out for hope and restoration.
There are three ways a Christian can become spiritually arid:
The first is by drinking too deeply from the fountains of the world and too little from the river of God. When a believer drinks too much of what the world has to offer and too little of what God offers, the soul becomes parched. Giving ourselves over to our sin means we turn our backs on God, even if only for a while, and we allow the soul to run dry.
The second way a believer can become arid is what the Puritans referred to as “God’s desertions.” There are times in life when God’s presence is very real to us and other times where we feel only His absence. We know as believers that God’s absence is merely our perception and that there is never a time where He actually withdraws from us. However, there are seasons in which He removes from us a conscious knowledge of His presence.
The third way a believer becomes arid is fatigue, either mental or physical. Becoming burned-out by the cares and concerns of the world will cause a believer to focus too much on himself, thus turning his thoughts from God.
The dry soul yearns for God and nothing else will satisfy. The soul has tasted and seen God and wants nothing more than to return to being close to Him. And when the soul is dry, God is faithful and good to provide the nourishment we seek after. He fills, He restores and He satisfies. The Psalmist new this, for he wrote “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
The Thirst of the Satisfied Soul
The final type of spiritual thirst is the thirst of the satisfied soul. The satisfied soul desires God precisely because he is satisfied in Him. There are many biblical examples of this, but perhaps one of the most clear is the apostle Paul who, in Philippians 3, went to great lengths to describe the depth of His relationship with Christ, but then added the words “that I may know Him.” His satisfaction in Christ and the deep love and affection he felt for God, only stimulated his desire to know Him more. Paul wanted nothing more than to know and love God. His satisfaction made him thirsty for more. Thomas Shepard wrote “There is in true grace an infinite circle; a man by thirsting receives, and receiving thirsts for more.” This is not a cycle of frustration, where we continually lament that we do not know more, but a cycle of satisfaction and earnest desire.
I will close with a prayer of A.W. Tozer. “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made thirsty still.”