Jesus lays bare the longing that fills each of us, and he wants to teach us how this longing can be stilled in him. He knows the burden of guilt under which our life is groaning, and which oppresses our hearts like a nightmare. He knows the longing that fills our innermost being, almost crushing us. We can try to divert this longing, but that will not help us. It will burst forth again and again and not rest until it flows into the river of life.
The woman who came to the well could not find contentment; her thirst could not be quenched (see John 4:1–42). She carried two heavy water jars, but she had a still heavier load to carry. A heavy guilt lay on her life; her heart was a vast wasteland, a yawning emptiness of destroyed hopes, defiled expectations, and debased love. She came to the well dragging this burden, and there she had an encounter she had not expected. Perhaps there are some among us who drag something around with them. The yawning emptiness of their hearts tears at their innermost being – unfulfilled hopes, the unmet demands they have made on life, injured honor and love trodden underfoot. Their futile attempts to satisfy this longing have rent and lacerated their hearts and dragged them to the ground. Like this woman, such people carry a heavy, almost unbearable burden.
Like this woman, we need an encounter with the only one who knows our wounds, who can still our longing, who heals us for the very reason that he knows all the darkness in our lives. He has seen into the depths of our hearts. He who brings life in abundance wants to rescue us and give back to us what we need.
The woman met Jesus, and Jesus showed himself to her as he was. He was thirsty and asked for water. He did not meet her with haughtiness but instead asked her for something and accepted it from her. God wants to rescue us from the pride that hinders us from asking and receiving. People who cannot ask have not yet crucified their egos. When the woman expresses her amazement that he would associate with her, a Samaritan despised by the Jews, he replies: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
Many people know that their lives are not redeemed, their sin is not atoned for, their longing not fulfilled, their crushed hope is not healed. And now there comes one who wants to confront them and says, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you living water.” What he wants to give you cannot be taught through theology. It is not something theoretical but the innermost experience.
Jesus walked among human beings and exclaimed: “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Those who believe in him have life, life in abundance, overflowing life. “Those who will drink the water that I give to them will not thirst for eternity” (John 4:14). Nothing finite can satisfy our longing. Only something springing from eternity is able to fill the unquenchable; nothing mortal is able to fill our impenetrable soul. Only when we have found the spring of water welling up to eternal life are we able to bear witness to satisfied longing. Not until the peace of God fills our souls like streams of water are we able to speak of longing fulfilled. The stream of water is living and will not become stale, will not spoil; on the contrary, it rejuvenates itself again and again. Jesus, the eternal wellspring that never runs dry, is the stream of water which is our peace, which fulfills our longing. If we have him, we will discover the fulfillment of our longing.
From an unpublished manuscript "Longing Fulfilled," written in 1915.
Article edited for length and clarity.