O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 (NLT)
David wrote Psalm 63 out of his experience in the wilderness. The wilderness was a barren, desolate place where he was deprived of the comforts of home and exposed to bad weather and hostile enemies. He focused on the things that matter. Or should I say, he focused on God, the only thing that matters.
God is not afraid of the desert or wilderness, nor should we be afraid. In fact, when we are in the desert, we may be right where God wants us to be. In the desert, only the essential matters. In a way, life is made simple. When God uses the illustration of hunger and thirst to represent how we should be pursuing him, it is more than an analogy or parable. Like fasting, life in the wilderness has a way of stripping away less critical things, and if we are open, we can realign our priorities.
I object to those who would claim that the child of God should never go through a spiritual wilderness, that he should never feel barren and desolate spiritually. But most of us know that it is inevitable for us to have such times. Even though David was one of God’s most favored and blessed, he was not exempt from the wilderness experience he describes in this psalm.
The question is not whether we, as God’s people, will have to go through wilderness experiences but how to face them.
What is thirst?
The Bible uses the ordinary bodily functions of hunger and thirst as an analogy for spiritual need and desire. Psychologists classify thirst as a drive, a basic compelling urge that motivates action.
Living in arid lands without modern water systems, the people of the Bible were acutely aware of the pains and perils of being without water. In biblical literature, thirst is often frightening and life-threatening, as opposed to the modern experience of temporary discomfort. The Israelites in the wilderness complain to Moses, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Ex 17:3 NIV).
In the New Testament, particularly in John’s writings, it is Jesus who can quench our soul thirst. Jesus proclaims to the woman at the well, “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” (Jn 4:14 NIV).
What are you hungering and thirsting after?
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 (NIV)
To those who love the Lord, we would undoubtedly say that we are hungering and thirsting after God. It is our desire, but how often do we settle for less? The urgency of the immediate will often lead us to compromise.
We have good intentions, but the desire to hold out for the good things of the Lord is just not strong enough within us when other things come along to entice us.
Imagine for a moment that I have invited you out to a fine dinner. Perhaps a Michelin-rated 5-star chef at an upscale restaurant, or better yet, I invite you into my home for a meal my wife prepares.
You do not have far to travel, but you feel a little bit hungry along the way. You stop at McDonald’s, and not only do you order a full meal, but you also ask them to supersize it. By the time you arrive, you are no longer hungry. Because you were not willing to wait, you cannot appreciate the delicious meal.
That is the way it can be with spiritual hunger and thirst. We know that the Lord is good and has good things in store for us, but we indulge in things that this world has to offer, and by the time we get to Jesus, we have reached our capacity.
To hunger and thirst after righteousness sometimes means delayed gratification. We must deny ourselves, and often that is the last thing we want to do, so we miss out on the blessing.
How do you invigorate thirst?
In the natural realm, the best way to encourage hunger and thirst is to exert yourself. Exercising or working hard at physical labor creates a hunger and thirst within us demanding to be satisfied. The reason that some people lose their hunger and thirst for God is that they are effectively sponges. They absorb until they are saturated.
I remember hearing someone say God wants us to be leaky vessels for him. Now, this is different than not being able to retain teaching or sound doctrine. As a pastor, it is frustrating to experience people who are “always learning, yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” No, what I am referring to is that when God fills us with living water, water will leak all out over everyone. We recall that Jesus said, “out of our innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” Whether or not it is because we are leaky or simply because God continually fills us to overflowing, we are to be vessels that are continuously refreshed and refilled.
God’s rivers must flow through us. As we empty ourselves offering the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit along with nourishment from God’s Word, we will be hungry and thirsty for more. That is how we increase our thirst.
Satisfied, yet not satisfied
The Lord can satisfy us, but we still want more. Satisfied, but wanting more is not a contradiction. There is nothing more satisfactory than to be in God’s presence. After all, “In his presence, his fullness of joy.” He satisfies my soul with good things, but it is not greedy or selfish to desire more. However, the only way we can receive more is to continuously give what he has given to us.
I leave you with this quote from Oswald Chambers. (May 15 in My Utmost for His Highest)
The only proper goal of life is that we manifest the Son of God; and when this occurs, all of our dictating of our demands to God disappears. Our Lord never dictated demands to His Father, and neither are we to make demands on God. We are here to submit to His will so that He may work through us what He wants. Once we realize this, He will make us broken bread and poured-out wine with which to feed and nourish others.
God satisfies us not so that we can sit back and live on what we have stored up but so that we can be nourishment to those around us. Remember what Jesus said:
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:7–8 (NIV)
 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today’s Language, ed. James Reimann (WORDsearch, 1992), 136.