Here’s a simple bit of information that everyone should know: if you ever find yourself stranded at sea, don’t drink the water. The salt in the sea sucks water right out of your body. Seawater dehydrates you.
Truth be told, the only time you’ll likely ever use this tidbit is when you’re watching a movie or a show. When the main character is dying of thirst, you’ll know why they can’t walk to the beach for a drink. You can be surrounded by water with nothing to drink.
This idea doesn’t die when we reach shore, however.
Over the weekend, Hanna and I reached a significant milestone in our lives; we bought our first home. It’s a goal we’ve had for several years. At times, we doubted whether it would ever happen at all. Even still, God in his kindness has provided for us. And as the days keep passing, we see his provisions more and more.
But something happened when we bought the house. We stopped dreaming about “a house” and started worrying about “the house”. We reached our goal of buying a house only to find that the finish line wasn’t really buying a home. Now there are upgrades to make and upkeep to…well…keep.
Just as soon as I thought I might be satisfied with finally getting a home, I walk from room to room and see projects.
The goals we set for ourselves can have adverse effects, just like drinking saltwater. We find that our goals don’t deliver quite like we hoped once we reach them. Just like you can be surrounded by water with nothing to drink, you can reach your goals without finding real satisfaction.
The Bible is no stranger to this concept. Isaiah 55:2 says, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” It’s possible—and even easy—for us to to chase after things that leave us emptier than when we started. Or, even if they do fill us up, the full-feeling doesn’t last.
In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well that there is a water that can quench her thirst forever. Obviously, the water from the well is of some use, but it cannot satisfy her deepest longings.
Similarly, we have longings that can be satisfied by nothing short of Jesus Christ. No water, no house, no job or dream or goal or achievement—no nothing!— can quench our souls. Only the fullness of God, who is bigger and greater than anything we can imagine is capable of filling our hearts, minds, and souls.
Which means we must guard ourselves against seeking satisfaction in a return to “normal”. If the coronavirus has been making you miserable and you believe going back to how things used to be will make things better, you are building your foundations in the sand.
Instead, our foundations are built upon the hope we have in Jesus. We both know and are known by God. Our satisfaction is in belonging to the Creator of the Cosmos, the one who holds history in his hands and turns the hearts of leaders wherever he wishes (Proverbs 21:1). “Normal” is nice. And goals are good. But they aren’t enough to fill us up.
We can’t quench our thirst with saltwater. Only living water will do. And by the grace of God we may take hold of living water—free of price (Isaiah 55:1).