Water for Life


It’s officially half-way through January which means that 25% of us have already failed at our New Year’s commitments. For some of us, this means that the junk food is slowly sneaking back into our diets and the treadmill is evolving into a clothes rack once again. (In the interest of full disclosure, I sat down to write this post, in part, to delay my own exercise routine today.) Our failure isn’t for a lack of knowledge though. Every January, the media is full of menu plans and exercise programs and helpful tips; everywhere you look, you can see suggestions of what to eat, what not to eat, how to exercise, how not to exercise, etc.--all in an effort to help you along the road to a “better you.” One of the best tips that I've read (and one that has actually stuck with me through all the ups and downs of pursuing a healthier lifestyle) is that the key to physical health is drinking enough water.

Most us of know that our bodies are comprised of roughly 60% water, and we also know that we should drink the proverbial eight glasses a day. Nutritionists also tell us that drinking a glass of water before a meal can actually reduce the number of calories that you will consume during that meal as well as go a long way to alleviate the aquatic guilt that many of us feel when we substitute our water with Diet Coke, sweet tea, or coffee. But I’ve also learned something else about water recently. Did you know that it is actually possible to confuse hunger and thirst? Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty. The two impulses are so similar that we don’t always accurately distinguish between them, and because eating is so much more sensually satisfying, we tend to gravitate to this option first. Who wants to drink a colorless, odorless, tasteless liquid when you can indulge that craving with this?

I’ve observed this phenomenon with my own children. When they were babies, we had no trouble getting them to drink enough water--their entire diet consisted exclusively of liquid. But as they’ve grown into table food, they routinely leave their glasses half-full and only ask for water after they’ve eaten something particularly salty. They do however snack A LOT.  Still, I can’t say that I’m much better. I rarely feel “thirsty” so drinking enough water has become more of a conscious choice than a natural response.

I began wondering if this phenomenon—this confusing thirst and hunger—plays out in other areas of life, particularly our spiritual life. Is it possible that we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty? Because I've observed another trend--a trend in my own life and among other Christians. We seem to have an insatiable hunger for Christian resources. We are driven to consume vast amounts of Christian media—books, music, sermons, podcast, conferences, and (at the risk of alienating my own audience) blog posts. We skip from the latest, greatest Bible teacher to the next. We rush from one church to another in an attempt to fill our souls.

And still we don’t feel like we're getting enough.

The truth is that we are often gluttons when it comes to consuming Christian ideas and texts. (I read recently that the English language has over 50 different versions of the Bible while some languages continue to have none.) Because of our wealth, we also have more resources than any other generation who has ever lived--more books, more studies, more music, and more programs. And while this can be helpful to our Christian walk, I wonder how many of us are replacing our resources for an actual relationship with Christ. I wonder how many of us are confusing a hunger for Christian ideas with our thirst for Him.

Are we snacking when all we really need is a long, cool, satisfying drink of pure, unglamorous water?

When your soul feels parched and dry, you need Jesus. When you feel sluggish and tired, you need Jesus. When you feel lightheaded and think you are going to faint, you need Jesus. When your vision is beginning to blur, you need Jesus. You don’t need another Bible study, you don’t need another small group, you don’t need another podcast. You need the water of life—you need to drink Him in, you need to saturate yourself in Him.

Now, I’m not criticizing the need for sound teaching or regular Bible reading—we would not know Jesus apart from His word. But I also know that it is very easy to replace the activity of knowing Him for actually knowing Him, to replace communion with each other for communion with Him. But just like our physical bodies cannot exist without water, our souls were never meant to exist apart from Jesus. Apart from Him, we will continue to be thirsty, only to return to the broken cisterns that will never completely satisfy our souls. Apart from Him, we will eventually shrivel up and die.

So the next time you’re feeling peckish, the next time you’re feeling restless or spiritually hungry, remember this: Maybe you’re not hungry at all; maybe you’re simply thirsty, thirsty for the water of life. Maybe you need to drink freely of Him. And I promise you--once you do--you will never be thirsty again.