Thirst as a Gift

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Jesus cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.” When does Jesus say this? The timing of this call can tell us something about our thirst. Jesus calls out for the thirsty to come to Him on the last day of the Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles). This is the eighth day. The people had been celebrating for seven days. After a seven day-party during the harvest, who would be thirsty? They likely had been enjoying themselves and eating and drinking plenty. Jesus calls for the thirsty after they had had their fill of what the earth could offer them. Here we see that even after consuming all that the world can give, a thirst remains. The world cannot quench that thirst. C.S. Lewis explains: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10). We were made for loving union with God, and so, as St. Augustine says, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. 

This thirst, this restlessness, then is a gift from God, for it leads us to seek Him who alone can fulfill us. At the time it does not feel like a gift. It may feel like emptiness, depression, loneliness, pain, restlessness, lack of fulfillment in life. We certainly do not like these feelings! And we have been taught by society to do away with feelings like these as quickly as possible–by ignoring them through distractions (some of the distractions may be goods used at the wrong time or for the wrong reason; some of the distractions may be inherently sinful). It can be good to consider from what fountains we drink in our attempt to satisfy our thirsty hearts. When we recognize our own personal fountain (perhaps it is food or Netflix or social media), we can start to catch ourselves before drinking at that fountain. We will be catching ourselves in the midst of our thirst. A prayer such as this may help redirect our parched hearts to the true source of our refreshment and life: 

O Father, I am feeling an emptiness inside of me. I want to fill it with some distraction quickly because it is uncomfortable and sometimes painful. I recognize now that this emptiness is your gift to me. It is your way of calling me back to yourself. Thank you for this gift. Jesus, be with me and give me the strength to remain with my longing, painful as it is, until you send your Holy Spirit to me to quench my thirst. Come, Holy Spirit! Fill my heart with rivers of living water!

By Clare Schiller