This isn’t an admission that you will find me making often but the truth is that sometimes its a disadvantage to be Scottish, I know you will find that hard to believe but that’s the truth. Reading these verses from the Psalms brought that home to me

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
Psalm 42

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
Psalm 63

I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.
Psalm 143:6

I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Psalm 84:2

All night long I search for you;
in the morning I earnestly seek for God.
Isaiah 26:9

You see in Scotland one thing we never really have a real drought. Water is not a commodity that is ever in short supply in Scotland. So, its difficult for someone like me, born and brought up in Scotland, to fully appreciate the strength of longing and desire that is expressed in words like these

I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

I have never really experienced that kind of thirst, coming from a “wet and verdant” land rather than a “dry and parched one” I have also never really experienced proper hunger, I have felt hungry but I have never experienced the hunger that comes from famine or a shortage of food. That means that when Psalmist uses the words “thirsting and hungering” I am at a disadvantage because I have never fully experienced what he is talking about . The problem is made worse because these words are vital in the book of Psalms to help us understand something foundational to our spiritual lives.

The Psalmists uses “Hungering, longing, yearning, thirsting, panting, earnestly seeking” .… to describe longing and desire but of a particular type. I was trying to think of one word that summed them up and the best I could come up with was “passion.” To thirst, long, year or hunger for something is to desire it passionately.

There can be no stronger human desire than the desire for water when your tongue has swollen and stuck to the top of your dry mouth from thirst and there is no water anywhere around. I can only guess at what that kind of longing feels like. Its the same with hunger. Living in the ancient near east there is no doubt that the people who originally heard those words, living as they did in an arid dry climate, where crops often failed or were destroyed or stolen by marauding armies, would have understood from personal experience the depth of desire expressed through words like “hungering and thirsting” They would have know that kind of desire would cause you to do almost anything, they would have known there was no deeper desire they could experience.

I find it significant that the Psalmists links these incredibly powerful human physical desires, the strongest kind of desire we can experience, with the desire for God. These words, like “hungering, thirsting and longing” show us that meeting God, knowing God, encountering God was the passionate pursuit of the life of the people who penned this ancient poetry. These people were serious about knowing God, they were in a sense driven by that desire to know him more deeply and have fresh encounters with him than just about anything else in life.

Its unavoidable when you think about these kinds of words and the desire for God they express not to become slightly introspective. These words cause me to think about my desire for God and whether in all honesty any of these words could describe my desire to encounter and know God. Trivial pursuit is not just game, it is perhaps an accurate description of how many of us today pursue God. Trivial, being of course something that is relatively unimportant. I am trying not to judgemental, except of myself, but it does appear to me that so many of us who claim to be God’s people are in truth passionately pursuing, pleasure, making money, getting on in their careers, having a house that looks like a page from the Ikea catalogue, having more stuff, being prominent or powerful etc, etc. Pursuing God in contrast, is our trivial pursuit, a relatively unimportant drive in our life that motivates us to turn up to a church building one day a week for just over and hour but very little beyond that and we manage that only if nothing more pressing or more attractive comes up.

Maybe you think I’m being harsh. Well think about the last prayer time you were part of, how many people used this kind of language? How many people expressed a desperation to encounter God, how many people prayed passionately about coming to know God more deeply? When was the last time you personally expressed this kind of deep desire for God?

It would be easy for all of this just to lay an enormous guilt trip on us, and perhaps there is a place for some guilt if our relationship with God has been more of a trivial pursuit than a passionate pursuit. But I came across a quote from one of the great “soul doctors” of the church a medieval mystic called Meister Eckhart, this is what he said

The soul must long for God in order to be set aflame by God’s love; but if the soul cannot yet feel the longing, then it must long for the longing. To long for the longing is also from God.”

“long for the longing”

I love the hope contained in those words. If you read those words like “hungering, thirsting, longing and seeking” and thought I wish my life was marked once more by that kind of passionate desire for God Meister Eckhart has an insight you need to cling to. Eckhart realises that the very longing to long for God is in fact from God, its a sign that the Holy Spirit is stirring our souls. Eckhart is saying that a sense of dissatisfaction with our trivial pursuit of God and a longing, to long passionately for God is in fact in nudge from God for us take the first step on the journey to that passionate spirituality we want to experience.

A soul doctor of the 20th century AW Tozer wrote a famous book called The Pursuit of God in which he makes this almost throw away remark speaking of God. Tozer says of God, “He waits to be wanted.”

We all need to just stop and think about that. God is waiting for you to want Him, he is nudging you in that direction, he wants you to have that passionate desire for him, so why not take the first step, and simply ask God to give you a “longing for the longing” and see where that leads?

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  1. Pingback: 12 April 2019 Are you playing Trivial Pursuit – Westlake Church Nyon

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