Empty? Thirsty?

Still
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Dear friends, I’ve found something important that I believe we need to approach with careful pastoral discernment.

I’ve been working as a ministry associate pastor in the Christian Reformed Church for 14 years. As such, I spend a lot of time trying to understand people’s behavior and needs, while seeking to address their spiritual needs from a biblical perspective.

The challenge I’ve discovered is this: how do we help people deal with “emptiness of the heart”?

We all know that human beings are very complex. We are fallen, separated from our Creator, and as a result have experienced spiritual death. Spiritual death manifests itself in internal emptiness. That emptiness is the root of our fears and insecurities and the force that impels us to behave the way we do in our search for security and significance.

In their book The Mind of Christ (Lifeway Christian Resources, 1994), T.W. Hunt and Claude N. King include this statement: “I realized that I was manipulative in ways I had not suspected. Some of my behavior was a false bravery that covered a fear of being perceived as simple or naive. Sometimes my innocent remarks were really self-protective or self-securing.”

I believe we are often driven by false motives as we try to compensate for our emptiness, seeking to preserve a status of cultural and religious life and give the appearance of security and peace.

Christian psychologist Larry Crabb asks an important question: “Can we enter those hidden inner regions of our soul where emptiness is more the reality than a consuming awareness of [God’s] presence and where an honest look reveals that selfserving motives stain even our noblest deeds?” (Inside Out, Navpress Publishing Group, 1998).

Jesus told a Samaritan woman, “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life”
(John 4:14, NRSV).

There is no better example of a person who longs for life, love, significance, and security than that woman by the well. Is this not a biblical picture reflecting our own thirst and anxiety?

So how can we help people drink the living water that satisfies our basic needs? How can we best encourage each other to drink it and share it with others?

On Pentecost the people gathered in Jerusalem saw the Holy Spirit’s transformation of the apostles, and thousands were motivated to drink the living water.

I believe that today, more than ever, we need to focus directly on Jesus’ authority, allowing the Spirit to pour out and fill us with the living water you and I need so much. I mean “fill to overflowing”—allowing the power of God to break through and destroy the masks so many of us wear to cover our insecurities and fears.

I also believe that spiritual leaders, especially, need to focus more on the transformation of our own hearts and the development of the mind and character of Jesus in our lives.

Our society is thirsty for the living water. When we are filled with this water, we’re able to endure pain and suffering for the cause of Jesus and to become channels of blessing through which God’s Spirit offers the love, security, and significance that so many people so desperately need.

About the Author

Pastor Gerry Muller, a ministry associate in the Christian Reformed Church, serves Iglesia Evangelica Christiana Reformada, Sunnyside, Wash.

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