This Thirsty Soul Cries

Psalm 63 is so precious to me.  Do you know why?

Because I know what it is like to be in a spiritual desert.  Most of us do, don’t we? 

David wrote this Psalm when he was running for his life.  A refugee in the middle of the wilderness, hiding in caves.  He had enemies that wanted nothing more than to see him dead.  Sometimes he didn’t know which friends he could trust and which he couldn’t.  

Sometimes I feel like Satan is after me like that.  Sometimes I feel like he wants nothing more than to see me dead, or at least spiritually immobilized.

And in the middle of the desert where David was living perpetually hungry and thirsty, his thirst drove him to God.


“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my flesh longs for you; my soul faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

He longs for more than just facts about God — He longs for the near presence of God.  Facts about God apart from His presence are lifeless and dry.  Theology that is satisfying is infused with the nearness of God.  David’s physical thirst reminded him of how thirsty he was for God.  He was desperate.  As desperate as a parched person who will drink from the most disgusting water sources simply because they are wet.  I think of the American soldiers forced to march 65 miles on Bataan to prison camps during WWII.  They were forced to march day and night without stopping, or eating or drinking, and they were immediately shot if they fell out of line.  But some of them were so thirsty that they jumped out of line at the first sight of water because their thirst had driven them crazy.  They were shot in an attempt to get a drink from pools of water that were rank from animal waste and stagnation.  How many of us have ever wanted God that desperately?  God is the Fountain of living waters, not some stagnant pool, and He invites us to come and drink without fear of retribution.  When was the last time we would have done anything to have more of Him?


The amazing thing is that David doesn’t end with his desperation.  He offers the response of his godly heart to his thirst for God.

“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.”

His response to his longing for God was to gaze on God.  He went to the place where the presence of God was most likely to be found — the sanctuary.  But David was in the wilderness!  How could he go to the tabernacle when he was running for his life?  The answer — David’s own life had become a sanctuary.  His heart was directed toward God so that it became a place where God could draw close.  Do our hearts have that same sense of sweet God-ward direction?  Oh I want mine to!!  David beheld God’s power and glory.  He remembered the way that God had powerfully worked in his life to display His own glory — and then he spent time gazing, meditating on God’s glory. 

That gaze revealed a singular truth to David that caused his heart to praise.

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”

David spends time gazing and gazing on God’s power and glory, and what does he come away with?  GOD LOVES HIM.  God’s glory and power don’t alarm him; they showcase God’s love to him!  What kind of love?  One that is better, of higher quality, sweeter, more excellent than life itself.  And suddenly he can do nothing but praise.  Hand raising is biblical!  It is a response of worship to seeing God for who He truly is.  To gaze on God’s power and glory for ourselves, we lift our eyes to the cross — where infinite power and glory are displayed in the defeat of hell and death, all out of LOVE!  Beholding God is where we begin seeing Him for who He truly is, and seeing Him engenders praise.  What a new way of reading the Bible!  When we see God in His Word, we begin to desire His presence, to see His power and glory;  and that vision translates into praise.  Do we want to praise Him?  If not, it is probably because we haven’t spent enough time looking at Him, seeing Him, worshipping Him.  It is probably because my vision of God needs to be adjusted to be more in line with Scripture.

Then David changes his metaphor from thirst to hunger.

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night,”

 After weeks in a cave in the middle of a desert, I am sure he had days when he didn’t know where his next meal would come from.  But even while the pit in his stomach grew, his soul sighed with the deep satisfaction.  Meditating on God was a feast to David’s soul.  In the middle of the night, when for whatever reason he was awake, he shifted his gaze to God.  He turned his anxiety and hunger and pain into satisfaction and praise by thinking on God.  I know there are nights when all of us lay awake  anxious, sad, afraid, and longing?  How often do we turn those moments into sweet meditation and joyful praise?

“for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

David’s praise once again arises from God’s character and work on his behalf.  David had such an unshakable confidence that he was being held in the loving protection of God. God’s shelter and support let songs of joy flow from him in the middle of the desert, in the middle of his race for his life.  He was confident that God was on his side, helping him, protecting him, upholding him.  How much more should we have that same confidence when God has explicitly promised those things to us and secured them with the death of his Son? God always over-delivers on His promises.  And when we think about how extravagant those promises are, we have every reason to hope in Him! David was clinging to God, but realized at the same time that his security wasn’t dependent on his grip.

He ends the Psalm by talking about the way that God will utterly defeat all of his enemies.  No one can stand against him because God is for him.  Paul says the same thing about us in Romans 8:32 — “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

You know why we feel so discouraged so often? Because so many times in the desert, we don’t run to the sanctuary.  I have found that so often my first response is to turn to the world instead.  So thirsty, I run to the world to alleviate my thirst rather than looking to the glory and power and beauty of Christ.  It is the same thing that Jeremiah talked about, “My people have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and have hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water”  (Jeremiah 2:13).  The devastating result is that the world dulls my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and makes it harder to see the beauty and satisfaction of Christ, the only thing that can truly satisfy me.  I feast on the world, and in doing so forfeit my only chance to find true satisfaction and true life. 

The solution: the same solution for every spiritual ill.  Look to Jesus.  Run to Jesus.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”
(John 4:13b-14).

The Brokenness that Heals

Have you ever felt acutely aware of your own brokenness?  Like something very deep inside of you is broken, and irreparable?  Do you ever feel like you have tried every day to fix yourself, just to wake up later and realize that you are more broken than you were before?

That is where I was at about 1:00 this afternoon.

I found myself there, crying in a professor’s office, trying to face doubt and cynicism with courage and faith, and failing miserably.  Lately I have found myself trapped in a cycle of cynicism and unbelief, unhealthy life patterns, and hopeless pride.  What kind of life do I want?  A vibrant faith expressed in indomitable, feminine courage and compassion.  What do I feel I have? Exactly the opposite.  I desperately needed the fatherly hug and encouragement my prof offered.

Also in that moment, I desperately needed a glimpse of Jesus’ attitude toward people like me.

The Paralytic and Me

I was reminded of the story of the paralytic in John 5.  He had been lying beside a pool for thirty-eight years, hoping that somehow its rumored “magical” powers would heal him.  But his solution failed.  He was too paralyzed to get into the pool fast enough to be healed, if it would have healed him at all.  On top of that, no one even cared enough about him to help him.  Then Jesus came along.  The renowned Healer looked at that crippled man and said, “Do you want to be healed?” (I believe, “Um, YES, duh. And thank you,” is the correct response.)  But the paralyzed man was still so stuck in his human solutions that he said, “But I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool.  How can I be healed?”  He said that to God.  Like, the One who could raise dead people — so dead that they stunk (aka Lazarus).  The paralytic didn’t think he could be healed, not unless Jesus was there to put him in the pool.  He wanted Jesus to empower his man-made solution, but he couldn’t see that Jesus had a much bigger plan, one that didn’t include his superstitious, futile resources.

The truth is, I am just like that guy. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get myself out of my mess so I can get back to Jesus.  But Jesus has come to me.  Jesus came to that man while he was still broken, when he was hopeless, when he had exhausted every human healing resource.  Now Jesus has come to me, and I am trying to use Him to empower my own human answers, when He is looking at me and saying, “Do you want to be healed??”

What I need is not another fabricated solution.  I need Jesus Himself.  I need to say “YES! I want to be healed!” And then I need Him to reach down His hand and lift me to my feet. To say, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.”

The LORD Who Heals

Jesus is Yahweh Rapha — the self-sufficient, promise-keeping God who heals.  He has reached so far into our brokenness that He even took on the likeness of our sinful flesh in order to restore us.  He is no stranger to the fragmented nature of our existence — “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).  The most happy, most perfect One, entered into our pain and restored us by being broken Himself.  “He took bread and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body that is given for you’” (Luke 22:19).  “With His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).  The hands that reach down to heal us are scarred, and their mutilation is their deepest beauty.  Jesus feels the deepest aches of our humanity, the desperation of our ineffective self-efforts to find peace.  And He doesn’t deride us for the duct tape that we put repeatedly on the cracks of our souls because we thought it could fix everything.  Instead, He gently peels it off and says, “Do you want to be healed?”

Every morning I wake up and take an anti-depressant pill.  I have a tangible reminder every day that my body and my mind and my emotions are broken.  Part of it is humiliating — I am too proud to admit that I need help.  The other part of it is thankfulness-producing — God has used the miracle of man-made drugs to help me.  However, my hope does not lie in resources crafted by human ingenuity.  It lies in my Lord Jesus.  He is the master of metamorphosing our pain into beauty.

Yet the fact remains that in this fallen world, part of me will always be broken, and I will constantly desire to be fully restored.  That final restoration will come, in the glory of heaven where in perfect wholeness I will worship at mutilated feet, be lifted up by pierced hands, and hug a body with a gashed side.  There, where I will forever be reminded of the brokenness that healed me.

I Went on a Walk

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The other day I went on a walk.  It’s really not a rare occurrence; in fact, my parents don’t even ask me any more where I’m going. I just say, “I’m going on a walk around the neighborhood, and I’ll be back.”  Might be long, might be short, who knows?  Most of the time even I don’t know, don’t know where I’m going or how long I’ll be. You just follow the curves of the road, and turn when you feel like turning, and know that eventually you’ll make it back home.

The last few weeks have been such a random mix of weather patterns, and the past few days have brought so much wind and rain that they left most of us wondering if any fall would be left on the trees when the sun finally decided to return from vacation. There’s something relaxing and aesthetically revitalizing about it all, walking all alone down the wet, deserted roads (minus the occasional stray car) and taking it all in. The multi-colored leaves plastered to the wet road by the rain and by merciless cars that drive over them again and again. The streams flooding over the dams that the fallen leaves have created in frustrating futility.  The occasional brave squirrel who knows that there are only a few short days left to gather nuts before winter comes, but turns to dart up that tree and hide as the leaves crackle under my feet.  The clear water droplets forming on the ends of barren branches.  That one red leaf struggling to hold on in the wind. My shoes are soaked now, my umbrella beaded with droplets from the perpetual drizzle. In Greenville, the early November air is revivingly crisp, but it makes rainy days like this one only cold and raw.

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But I love the rawness.

Something in it reminds me of my soul in past months.  The barrenness of the stripping season. Fall is the stripping season, the season of dying.  But the dying is necessary.  It isn’t until everything has died, until millions of leaves have let go and fallen to the earth, that new life can spring forth.  It’s not until I have died that life can truly blossom in my soul. Until all my self-made plans, ambitions, wishes, goals, and identity have fallen to the ground. “For you have died…” (Colossians 3:3). 

It’s one of the great paradoxes that make up the paradigm in which we live.  Try to live, and you will only die; come and die, and you will truly live. “Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). I think Jesus means a lot more than we often live like He means.  He is saying, “Give up all that you are. Hold nothing, absolutely no part of your life, back from Me.  Stop snatching at your life, and let Me be your life. Come to Me, lose yourself in Me, allow your identity to be wrapped up in Me.” “…your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). But really, what does that comprehensive, all-inclusive offering up mean? What does it mean for your life today?  It means that all the nitty-gritty of your life (your body, your mind, your emotions, your resources, your time, your future) are no longer yours; they are His and He has the right to do with them whatever is most pleasing to Him.  But Lord, that seems a bit extravagant! Hence the promise: you will save it.  You will finally be free to be who you were made to be. Your individuality will not be destroyed but enhanced, and sanctified. But first, you must die.

We don’t die easily, and we don’t die quickly.  But God is committed to our good and His glory, and so He often walks us through many falls and winters as He teaches us to die. However, the glory of fall and the hope of winter is that spring is coming. Every death that we die is a doorway to life. In fact, the last death we will ever face will only open the door to eternal life — full, free, and forever, before the face of Him who is Life Himself (John 1:4).

I am thankful to be smelling the scents of a long-awaited spring in my soul.  I am rejoicing in the kindness of my God, not only for this new life, but for the winter as well.  For the stripping of the fall that has purified and refined my love for Him, and for the barrenness of the winter that has spawned a stronger faith and sweeter trust in His faithfulness to His Word.  And yes, for the rebirth of the spring that draws my heart up in worship by allowing me to see those things.  I am grateful for the unique way He says, “I love you” through them all.  Truly, He is “faithful in ALL His words and kind in ALL His works” (Psalm 145:13).

But for those of you for whom spring feels more like a nostalgic memory than a present hope: hold on.  I hurt for you and pray for you, and beg you to hold on. Look up. Keep trusting what you can’t see or feel (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Whatever your pain, you can know it isn’t unbearable — He will never give you a greater temptation than your faith can handle (1 Corinthians 10:9). The truth is, you can often handle more than you feel like you can, and He will stretch your faith because He wants it to grow.  He is more concerned with your holiness than your comfort. And you can trust Him in that because He always knows and does what is best.  So hold on. Anchor yourself in the promises of Scripture and trust what it says about God. Keep sowing good seed, because when spring does come (and it will!) all those good seeds will bear beautiful fruit, and all those Scriptures, as dry as they seem now, will suddenly break through with sweetness and joy. Surround yourself with those who know you and your struggle, and your God. Find those friends who will bring you to the feet of Jesus over and over again, allowing Him to shepherd you. Be wary of focusing on “good days” or “bad days”, because it is easy to become self-centered and to idolize the way you feel. Keep your eyes upward and outward, and trust the faithfulness of God.

There is still so far to go, many more winters to walk through and much more faith to be grown. 

But life is a long walk, a journey — might be long, might be short, who knows?  I don’t know, don’t know where I’m going or how long I’ll be. But IMG_2322I do know that I have a trustworthy Guide. He knows these roads; in fact, He carved them out and made this path just for me, only me.  So I will follow Him through every turn and curve of the road because I know: eventually I’ll make it home.