(This post relates especially, but not exclusively, to those in adversity and those plagued by addictions, compulsions, obsessive cravings, or a perception of unmet “needs.”)
We used to live in a western desert city. Sometimes we would drive to a trail head and go hiking through the dry, rocky land. In the summer we went very early in the morning because by the time we returned to the car at 8 a.m. the temperature could be over 100 degrees. Sweat evaporated so quickly that my skin was never wet. Only when I tasted salt on my lips did I realize I had sweated. It was easy to dehydrate quickly.
On one hike, having run out of water, thirst began to nag. The only water available was back at the car and the only way to the car was by Shanks’ pony. The temperature was rising. Thirst intensified. Conserving my energy, I stopped chatting with my companion. I stopped looking around at the scenery. My focus narrowed to just the trail back. I kept hoping that around the next bend we would see the car. Satisfying my thirst became all I could think about; it clamored for all of my attention. The last mile seemed as long as the whole previous hike. Water! All I want is water!
Thirst is an insatiable craving for a necessity of life. It is demanding; it thrusts itself to the forefront of one’s attention. A person must yield to its demand; it won’t be denied.
Addictions feel like that. Cravings dominate and enslave. Panic, also. Actually, any “felt need” can intensify to dominate us. When we’re baking in the heat of problems or suffering emotionally or physically, our knee-jerk reaction is often pursuit of relief. Water! I must have water! Focus narrows to that one objective and the shortest route to obtain it.
David knew the feeling. For several years David was on the run for his life, sometimes in the desert of Judah where he certainly knew what it was to be famished for water. His writings indicate that with his life at stake he felt as famished for safety as for water.
What is striking is that despite compelling needs and imminent danger to his life, his primary pursuit was not relief or safety. So we don’t see him escaping in pleasure to help him forget his problems or lashing out to “vent” his anger. David’s primary pursuit was God. We see this in Psalm 63. He valued God above all things, above even his security, his safety, his physical needs for food and water. Of all things, he had to have God. Give him a gallon of water and he would still be on the hunt for God. Someone who understands that he needs God more than he needs to live will not be satisfied with earthly pleasures or treasures.
While most people are not literally hunted by enemies, all can be plagued by temptations, trials, and loss. They can be famished in states of barrenness other than the literal fear of death. The principles of this psalm apply. For example, Spurgeon said that Psalm 63 is particularly applicable to those groaning from chronic or terminal illness.
It applies also to someone caught in what today are often called addictions, what the Bible calls bondage or enslavement. A person craves something so strongly that he feels it physically and views the desired object as essential for function or even life itself.
How does Psalm 63 relate to a chronic trial or bondage to a sinful habit? It directs our hearts to the only entity which truly satisfies.
My soul thirsts for You. Determine to desire God above all else.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name. (63:1-4)
David’s desire for intimate relationship with the Lord was as driving as extreme thirst. He even valued God more than continued life:
Your lovingkindness is better than life (63:3).
- Does your situation seem dry and weary to you?
- Are you on the hunt for your next fix? Is your mind consumed with frustration over a conflict? Is your body yearning for a drug? The next bite of food and the next…? Are your eyes hankering for the next picture? Your mind for the next text?
Replace those desires with longing for God so much that the body follows suit with yearning:
- Your fingers open the Bible and your eyes drink in His words of life (63:1).
- Your desires find His love better than your own love of self, more valuable than happiness, a sense of peace, life (63:3).
- Your hands lift in praise to Him (63:4).
My soul is satisfied. Be satisfied with He who is all-satisfying.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. (63:5-7)
Even when troubles were not resolved, David’s heart felt satisfied with God. It wasn’t satisfied the way a snack staves off hunger pangs for an hour. No, he was satiated with “marrow and fat,” satisfied as if stuffed at a rich banquet. He was so satisfied that he sang praises with joyful lips. That is because the reality is that only God completely satisfies. Think about that. Sin tells us that we need it and must have it. Sin is a desert mirage promising water and delivering hot sand. God provides water for spiritual life; delight in Him accords with reality.
- Are you discontent over your lot in life?
- Do you always have to have a romantic relationship in your life?
- In trials, how do you answer this question: “If only____, then I would be happy?”
- Choose your goal: God’s goal for the Christian is holiness more than happiness.
- Daily offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
- Meditate on God and what He has done. When troubling thoughts keep you awake at night, deliberately think about God.
- If you are saved “in the shadow of His wings,” then sing about it.
- Be so delighted in Him that all else pales, all other desires grow dim.
My soul clings to You. Set your will to love, trust, and obey God.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek my life to destroy it,
Will go into the depths of the earth.
They will be delivered over to the power of the sword;
They will be a prey for foxes.
But the king will rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him will glory,
For the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped. (63:8-11)
When the path of safety gave way beneath his feet, David clung to God like hugging a rope over a cliff. He LOVED God. What difference did it make? He set his will to trust the One whose right hand upheld him. He so trusted God to stop his enemies that he foretold of his rejoicing in God (before he was delivered).
- Do you cling to some particular person more than you do God? Do you always have to have some intimate relationship in your life?
- In trials, do you escape in alcohol, drugs, TV, porn, shopping, or romance novels? Do you turn to food or friends? To what do you cling for comfort? Is fear or panic so pressing that you feel severely tempted to take matters into your own hands?
- Stop trying to control the other person. Peel your grip off of demands for being loved, for attention, for being respected, for safety. Put off craving for the leeks and onions of Egypt, craving for your “needs” to be met.
- Stop clinging to pleasures that allow you to escape your problems. When you cling to a desire that displaces God from absolute rule in your heart you are hugging death.
Instead, crave God so much that you won’t, you CAN’T let Him go (63:8).
- Demonstrate your love for God by trusting Him even when your felt needs are not met (63:11).
- Demonstrate your faith in God by rejoicing in Him even when you lack what you believe you need (63:11).
May you be so satiated with Christ that you turn from fleshly salves and delight in the Lord:
My soul thirsts for You…so I will bless You.
My soul is satisfied…I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You…I rejoice in God.