Joy and Living Water blog post

A blog post I wrote for inspiredfaith.com:

“My people have committed two sins:

They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water”
-Jeremiah 2:13

but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
-John 4:14

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
-Matt. 26:42

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty” … When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
-John 19:28,30

Joy is an elusive thing, moreso as we become adults. There’s a reason most of us are nostalgic for our childhoods. When we were kids, the world was a mystical place of discovery, safety, and fun. We were blissfully ignorant of the constant pressures of adult awareness. Adam and Eve reached out for a piece of fruit that promised knowledge and got more than they bargained for. God offered them the simplicity of living by faith, and they chose complexity. We’ve been trying to unlearn that knowledge ever since.

Joy is a close relative of contentment and thanksgiving. I think the reason joy is so elusive, is that our daily lives wage war against contentment and thanksgiving. There’s always something missing, and because we know there’s got to be more to life, we seek to fill our lives with more. Whether it’s something as obvious as the stuff we buy or something more subtle like seeking others’ acceptance, we’re always looking for something else. We are thirsty and the cups we drink from leave us that way.

So what’s the secret? How do we find the joy that’s so elusive? How do we quench our thirst?

One of my favorite passages of scripture is John 4. Here we read about a woman so broken and used that she comes to the well during the heat of the day to avoid the other women of her community. She’s had six husbands and the last one hasn’t even given her the dignity of marriage. We can easily read between the lines and see a cup filled to the brim with deep sorrow.

Jesus meets her at the well in this state of loneliness–like Isaac (through his servant), Jacob, and Moses before him–symbolically becoming her seventh husband. He offers her his right hand of fellowship, renewed hope, restoration, and the gift of living water.

This living water is costly. You can’t fill a cup that’s already full, and the woman, like us, has filled hers to the brim with other things that add up to wrath and sorrow. Jesus had to drink it to fill it. Like a dad who eats the nasty concoction his daughter created on her plate while playing with her food, Jesus took our cup, swished it around a little and then swallowed its contents. Then he filled it again, this time with living water that works a deep transformation within us to slake our thirst.

Joy starts with an awareness of this reality. When the truth catches up to us and slows us down enough so that we put down the nastiness we keep drinking, we can take a refreshing swallow of living water. Contentment and thanksgiving for what Christ has done bloom on the palate of our soul, and we can only respond with a joyful sigh.

Our lives on this earth are filled with trouble just as sparks fly up (Job 5:7), and many times we thirst for joy and relief from sorrow.

But Jesus drank the cup of wrath and sorrow that we might drink deeply of the cup of joy and quench our thirst forever.

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