I was recently reading about the life of Sigmund Freud and read that he recognized within himself a deep longing. This longing was a real mystery to him, because he never could satisfy it. In fact he said that it was a longing that haunted him all of his life.
Freud never saw it as a spiritual longing because he never believed in God or the human soul. However, I contend that this is what he was actually experiencing; a deep yearning in his soul, a longing that only God can satisfy.
The psychiatrist Gerald C. May observed, “After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and most precious treasure.”
The Bible describes this longing as a thirst of the soul. King David says, “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)
In another passage David says, “As the deer pants for the waterbrook, so my soul thirsts for God.” (Psalm 42:1)
As a counselor on our staff has put it, “people are driven and ruled by unsatisfied desires, and they are desperately looking everywhere that they can in hopes of finding satisfaction.” He goes on to say the prophet Jeremiah was spot-on when he wrote:
For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me. The fountain of living waters, to hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
We forsake God, the fountain of living waters, and we construct a life strategy of making our own cisterns and filling them with water that will satisfy us. The problem is this: all of our cisterns leak. They cannot hold water. We are continually thirsty.
In the Book of John, Jesus makes this declaration:
If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37, 39)
If we do not look to Jesus for this living water, to whom shall we look?
Philip Yancey says that when he sees a person whose life is being destroyed by any of the addictions out in the world, instead of condemning them, he sees them as people who are thirsty. They are desperately trying to satisfy the deep thirst of their souls.
C.S. Lewis recognized this significant truth and wrote about it in one of his stories in the Chronicles of Narnia. The Narnia books are a series of allegorical children’s stories, yet they speak powerfully to the lives of adults as well. A young girl named Jill in Lewis’ book The Silver Chair presents a wonderful representation of humanity. She is clearly consumed with herself and is convinced that she alone knows what is best for her life. She wants to have nothing to do with Aslan, the great and magnificent lion who represents Christ. Yet Jill is desperately searching for water:
Jill grows unbearably thirsty. She can hear a stream somewhere in the forest. Driven by her thirst, she begins to look for this source of water—cautiously, because she is fearful of running into the Lion. She finds the stream, but she is paralyzed by what she sees there: Aslan, huge and golden, still as a statue but terribly alive, is sitting beside the water. She waits for a long time, wrestling with her thoughts and hoping that he’ll just go away.
Then Aslan says, “If you are thirsty, you may drink.”
Jill is startled and refuses to come closer.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I am dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion. “May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The lion answered this only by a look and very low growl. And just as Jill gazed at its motionless hulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her near frantic. “Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I come?”
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
So many people spend their lives looking for some other stream to finally and forever quench the thirsts of their souls. However, Jesus says there is no other stream. And He is very clear about the fact that if we do not drink from this spring—the fountain of living water—we will die.
If you’re interested in reading more by Richard E. Simmons, check out his newest book Wisdom: Life’s Great Treasure available on our online bookstore and Amazon.com. Other titles by Richard include The True Measure of a Man, Reliable Truth, A Life of Excellence, Sex at First Sight, Safe Passage and Remembering the Forgotten God.