Creating a Hunger and Thirst for God
Does your soul thirst for Him?
It was 112 degrees at Trona Pinnacles, a baked desert flatland with incredible pinnacles rising like the sand drippings of a giant child at play on the beach.
My family and I stopped to enjoy some impromptu climbing to break up the monotony of a long road trip. But at that temperature, under the summer sun, it didn’t take long before our enthusiasm wilted due to our raging thirst. We headed back to the car, visions of cool water bottles dancing in our heads.
Unfortunately, the sun had also warmed our bottled water.
We drank it because we desperately needed it. But it was not as refreshing as we had envisioned.
Do you crave spending time with God in prayer and in His Word as much as you crave a cool drink on a hot summer day?
Jesus declared that He was both the Living Water and the Bread of Life. Prayer and His Word are meant to be like a cool drink on a hot summer day, or a tasty meal when you have a worked-up an appetite from exercising or working hard.
I want to, but…
Perhaps, like me, you desperately want that to be the case. Unfortunately, the reality is…
Prayer and Bible reading are not appetizing. It’s not refreshing. And you’re frustrated.
Some years ago, I was reading Matthew for my devotional time, and I came across this verse.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NKJV)
“Lord,” I cried, “I want to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Why is it so hard to enjoy reading the Bible? Why do I struggle so hard to spend time in prayer?”
“What are you filling up with that makes time with Me so unappetizing?” He returned.
“What?” I queried.
Just what exactly did He mean by that? I wondered as my eyes slid to my latest detective novel laying on the side table.
Immediately my mind filled with the story. I laid the Bible aside. I’ll just read one chapter before I make breakfast, I thought.
Immersed in the story, I lost track of time. Suddenly an alarm went off in my head and I looked at the clock. Oh NO. I slammed my book shut. It was time to leave for work. Grabbing a banana and some nuts, I rushed out the door.
At lunchtime, I escaped to a secluded spot to read my book while I ate. It was like taking a mini-vacation. As insurance, I set an alarm to be sure I got back to work on time.
That evening, supper over, I returned to reading my novel. I was so absorbed in the story, I simply couldn’t put it down. My husband knew better than to bother me when I was in a good book, so he entertained himself for the evening. When the last page was finished, I went to bed—well after midnight.
I didn’t have time…
The next morning, I woke up late. No time for devotions. No time for breakfast. Barely time to brush my teeth. I headed for work but ended up being a few minutes late anyway. Once settled at my desk, I sent a quick apology to God for neglecting Him this morning. Surely He will understand, I thought.
“What are you filling up with that makes time with Me so unappetizing?” echoed again in my mind.
I thought of the way I had been absorbed by my novel the day before. Surely God couldn’t mean that my leisure reading was interfering with my spiritual life. Did He?
I shook my head. No. That couldn’t be it. I just needed to exercise more self-control. No more all-nighters.
But as the days turned into weeks and then months, I became more and more aware of how much time was absorbed in my favorite pastime—reading novels. When I was in the middle of a really good novel, all my resolutions to exercise more self-control went out the window. I still occasionally pulled all-nighters, and I often neglected spending time with my husband because I simply couldn’t put it down until I found out what happened.
And spending time with God? Well, it was hard to find the time…and it was boring.
Until one day, after apologizing to God for not spending any time with Him—again—the question resurfaced and wouldn’t go away.
“What are you filling up with that makes time with Me so unappetizing?”
Finally, when I could stand it no longer, I whined, “Oh God, why did You have to make it so hard? The Bible is so cryptic, so boring by comparison. Besides, I’ve heard all those Bible stories since I was a baby. I’ve been there, done that. How am I supposed to find anything new…or engaging, for that matter?”
The only answer was that haunting question, “What are you filling up with that makes time with Me so unappetizing?”
A Matter of Priorities
I looked at my bookcase and then at my stack of library books—the latest novels from my favorite authors—and decided that God couldn’t really be asking me to give them up. I just needed to make time with Him a priority.
In fact, I would start tomorrow.
The next morning, I opened my Bible and read,
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matt 5:29-30 NKJV)
Reluctantly I looked at my books again. I sighed. Lord, are you really asking me to get rid of my detective novels and murder mysteries? Return my library books? If You are, that would definitely be like plucking out my right eye. I prayed miserably.
“Which is more important to you?” He queried.
The Painful Realization
I sighed. I wanted it to be Him…but I knew it wasn’t. The realization was painful.
Setting my Bible aside I stood and squared my shoulders. I would “pluck out my eye” because I wanted to get to the place where God was THE most important thing in my life.
Resolutely I walked to my bookshelves and pulled out all my detective novels and murder mysteries and threw them in the recycle bin. That very day, I returned all my library books and shredded my library card so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back.
I went through withdrawals.
I found myself pacing the house craving something to read. Occasionally I would stop by a bookstore and pick up the latest book from a favorite author to assuage my craving.
The effect on my devotional life was always immediate and noticeable. So, I would throw the book out, determined to make God first in my life, regardless the cost.
It took a few years to get it out of my system. But slowly, as time passed, the craving lessened.
My mental tastebuds began to change.
The Bible became more appetizing. I found more time to pray.
I’ll be honest, God had to wean me off of other genres of books as well. But my spiritual life has reaped the results. Today, I can genuinely say that I enjoy spending time in God’s Word and praying like never before.
Let me challenge you today. Take inventory. Be honest with yourself.
What are you filling up with that makes time with God unappetizing?
What are you willing to cut out of your life to create a hunger and a thirst for the Living Water and the Bread of Life?
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