What if Jesus doesn’t satisfy? Personally, I don’t care for that question, and yet that question haunts me each time I pull up my unfinished drafts folder. This post has sat in the draft pile for more than a year with little more than the title, more specifically a question and a disconcerting question at that.
The question, for me, finds its origin both in my experiences and my bible study. My experiences seem to conflict with Jesus’s statement to the Samaritan woman in John 4, and each time I consider this question I am drawn to Solomon’s life narrative unfolded in Ecclesiastes.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a look back on his feeble attempts to be satisfied apart from God. He attempts to find satisfaction in just about everything and concludes that fearing God and keeping his commandments is the best option. However, each time I consider Solomon’s quest for satisfaction, I consider the people I have known that would argue they looked for satisfaction in God and did not find it there. As a result they rejected God and looked elsewhere. I’ve always struggled with knowing how to process their experience. If God is satisfying, why weren’t they satisfied when they looked to God? I have as well, at times, personally struggled with a sense of dissatisfaction.
In those moments, I wonder if God, in His sovereignty doesn’t allow some to be ever be satisfied. Maybe those people didn’t really truly search for God. Maybe they simply used God as a ruse to find contentment. Maybe they just used religion as a means of gaining acceptance. Questions such as these result in cliches and platitudes. “Well, you just didn’t do it right” or “You didn’t go to church enough” or “You didn’t read your bible enough” or “God would have satisfied if you had done it right”.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well. In those moments, I wonder what Jesus meant when he said, “whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14a). I struggle with what he means. At times, I possess what I would consider spiritual thirst. I still have longings. I still long to be satisfied. What does he mean that I will never thirst again? If he means that I will never have spiritual longings or spiritual hunger again, then apparently I don’t have that water or the eternal life that accompanies it. That potential conclusion unnerves me.
For me, the key to both this passage and the frustrating question were found in the later part of the same verse. “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14b). The water that Jesus gives us becomes in us an unending spring or source for satisfaction. This does not mean that we will never have a thirst again, but that we will always have a spring within us to quench any thirst we may have.
Thirst for satisfaction will continue to rise, but we will always possess a spring of satisfaction. Granted, we often look to other stagnant, old, and nasty water to quench our thirst. We look to entertainment, drugs, alcohol, relationships, pornography, gaming, work, success, etc, but none of those sources bring lasting satisfaction. On the other hand, within us as believers, we possess, having been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, an unending source of satisfaction that can be tapped at any time.
Sometimes this satisfaction is less exciting. Let me liken this desire for satisfaction to food. (I like food. This illustration connects with me.) There are foods that are really enjoyable in the moment but their level of satisfaction does not usually last very long, sometimes not even as long as the meal itself. I love chocolate cake, but I’ve eaten chocolate cake before and regretted it before I got up from the table. It wasn’t healthy. It made me feel sick. The cakes value to my health or long term satiation is nominal at best – more likely harmful. On the other hand, if I were to eat a bowl of vegetables with slices of lean steak, I would feel healthier and satisfied for a longer time. The cake is exciting and fun in the moment with lasting regret. The vegetables and healthy protein aren’t as fun in the moment but have lasting value and satisfaction.
Let me draw the spiritual comparison. We tend to opt for the exciting and momentary satisfaction that is found in shallow entertainment, success, sex, and addictive substances and behaviors. Of course, not all of these things are immoral. In fact, most of them are probably good and healthy in their proper place and amounts. In the moment, they can seem more enjoyable. They are more dramatic. They are more exciting. For example, binge watching some show on Netflix is probably more entertaining than working through your bible study on Deuteronomy. In that moment, one of those two options can seem pretty exciting and the other less so. We tend to pick the one that has more excitement in the moment, with little or no thought to that moments lasting value or satisfaction. Yet, just like the cake, when we choose the temporary and shallow source for satisfaction, we experience momentary enjoyment with no lasting satisfaction. That’s why we always want to watch the next seasons episode. The one we just watched didn’t satisfy. Compound this fleeting satisfaction with the shame that comes, especially when the avenue for satisfaction was immoral in some way. Even though we know these various avenues will only momentarily satisfy, we foolishly crawl back to them. We’re quick to criticize and look despairingly on the drug addict, sex addict, and porn addict, yet fail to realize that we’ve just chosen a different addictive behavior. Our behavior may not carry as severe a consequence and may be more respectable, but it is an addictive behavior all the same and is keeping us from being satisfied in Christ.
Jesus promises that as we come to Him, he will place in us an unending source of joy and satisfaction (the Holy Spirit). That spiritual nourishment is always available and plenteous. Therefore, when we thirst, quench that thirst with the spring of water that is welling up to eternal life.
My simple prayer. Lord, give me a hunger for those spiritual disciplines that have lasting value and spiritual satisfaction. Help me to balance but still enjoy the blessings you’ve gifted us with in appropriate entertainment, food, relationships, and hobbies. Let me always grow both experientially and mentally in being satisfied in you. I want to better understand what that means. I want to more fully experience what that means.