Water — no one disputes the truth that water is essential for life. Without it, our rivers and wells run dry. Livestock, other animals, and crops perish during times of devastating drought. A human can only live a few days without it. Even as I write these words, people are dying in many parts of this world because their waters have run dry.
Yet there is another place beyond this living world that we can see and touch that requires another kind of water. Jesus spoke of this kind of mysterious water when he encountered a woman at a well.
“7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. 9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.[b] She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water…13 …Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (From John 4, NLT)
Just look at that gorgeous water. Every time I see this photo, I move back in time to this moment. I feel the refreshing foam as it washes sand away from my bare feet. I smell the salty breeze, and everything in my spirit feels renewed. Sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico are breathtakingly beautiful as they seem to reflect God’s glory spreading over the waves. Yet the tiny bit of heaven captured in this photo can’t compare to the living water Jesus gives to those who ask.
Over the past few seasons, I have felt shut off from the living water. I still went through the motions of what I thought I needed to do to be a “good” Christian: going to church, reading my Bible, praying, helping those in need. Oh, but on the inside — I wince to think of what my heart looks like to the One who sees all. Inside my heart has been a wasteland of dry, stinging sand. Picture this:
and you’ll see a snapshot of the interior of my heart. See those tufts of dried up vegetation? Fears. Those dried up old bones are my bones, sore and weary from this journey through fibromyalgia and the weird, undefined autoimmune disease. The jagged rocks are thoughts that creep in…thoughts that contradict the very Word of God. No wonder I’ve been feeling trapped in a wasteland. I have allowed myself to become a rock head….er, a blockhead!
Charlie Brown listened to Lucy and ended up flat on his back. When I listen to my own “Lucy-like” thoughts, I end up just like Charlie Brown…down on myself, down on my future, down on my fears, down on my life. However, I have Something a cartoon character doesn’t have: Jesus. And even in those times that I feel surrounded by an empty desert, God’s Word tells me there is a fresh, bubbling spring of Living Water within me. Over the past few days I’ve realized something fresh and new: filling my head with rocky thoughts did not dry out the spring. That vegetation in the desert photo of my heart is not dead. In fact, it has roots that penetrate deeply beneath the rocky soil to reach fresh water so that when its season changes, it will bloom with new growth and life.
Suddenly, I realized that people like me who find themselves in a desert have a choice. We can give up our hold on the ground, allowing our roots to wither, or we can send our roots deeper still into that bubbling spring, soaking in that living water that gives us eternal life.
We give up our grip on the ground when we stop seeking His water altogether…i.e., when we stop reading our Bible…when we stop going to church…when we stop praying…when we stop reaching out to show love to others. By cutting off all contact with God, our roots wither.
The prophet Jeremiah vividly describes people who have lost their trust in God, and his word picture looks a lot like the state of my heart over the past few seasons:
5 This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the LORD.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land. (Jeremiah 17, NLT)
I’ve read those verses many times before but have not really connected them to my own heart. Could it be that the very reason I feel as if I’ve been in a desert is because I have been relying on my own (or my doctors’) human strength rather than putting my confidence in the Lord? I go to the doctor expecting him to be Dr. House with an entire team that has researched my strange case and come up with a strategy to cure my irritating ailments and end up feeling dismayed when he says “maybe your body will heal itself.” I go to the therapist expecting her to wave a watch and turn back years of phobic thinking in just one session and end up feeling angry when she points out the “child-like” tenor of my phobic thoughts and pushes drugs, drugs, drugs to get my mind back on track. I experience another bout of stomach pain and lash out at myself and my inability to conquer a fear enough to go through with the standard medical treatment. In all these ways and more, I see I have been placing my trust and confidence in everyone BUT God.
However, I’m not beating myself up with Lucy thoughts about my lack of faith. Instead, it seems that God is showing me that going through the motions while feeling stuck in the desert is not a bad tactic. Every time we dig deep in to the Word of God (the Bible), we are tapping into the Word (Jesus). In fact, it is the very act of digging that revealed to me the truths I’ve found while writing this blog: Relying on humans = desert. Relying on the Lord = refreshing, living, bubbling water.
But don’t take my word for it. After describing the desert that people face when they put their hope in human strength alone, Jeremiah tells us what happens when people sink down their roots and put their hope — and confidence — in the Lord:
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
Does your heart cry out for the living water, so you will not be bothered by the heat and long months of drought in your life? Sink your roots deeply into the Word, and you will find, as I am beginning to comprehend, that the Lord sees us in our present circumstances, reaches out His hand, and bids us,