Imagine for a moment going to the doctor. Perhaps what brought you there is a recurring pain in your knee. So you arrive at the office, fill out some paperwork, and then make your way to an examination room. Chances are, you will go through a diagnostic process that includes questions and examination that goes well beyond your knee.
You will have your temperature taken, your reflexes tested, your blood pressure checked, and a host of other things that seemingly have nothing to do with your knee. It’s a bit strange when you think about it – you came there with a specific pain in a specific part of your body – why go through the whole process of checking out the rest of your body? After all, you already know what’s wrong with you – your knee hurts!
But the plain truth is you might not actually know what’s wrong with you. Sure, you know what you’re feeling, but what you’re feeling might only be the symptom. It might be what is a presenting issue – not the true source of the pain. That’s why the full examination is necessary. It’s not to determine whether or not your knee hurts, but to determine what is the root cause of that singular pain. It’s to make sure there isn’t something deeper and more substantial causing the pain you’re experiencing.
And perhaps the same kind of diagnostic process is not only valid but necessary when it comes to other moments of pain and distress. Maybe that’s another lens through which to view these words from the prophet Isaiah:
“Come, everyone who is thirsty,
come to the water;
and you without silver,
come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without silver and without cost!
Why do you spend silver on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to me;
listen, so that you will live.
I will make a permanent covenant with you
on the basis of the faithful kindnesses of David (Isaiah 55:1-3).
There is need here. There is desire here. There is even pain here. We are thirsty, hungry, and unsatisfied. But according to the prophet, we might well look to temporary alleviation of that thirst, hunger, and dissatisfaction instead of going through the full diagnostic process. But if we did go through the process we might well discover that there is indeed a deeper kind of illness below the surface.
To be more relevant, think about it like this: These last months have been lonely for many of us. We have acutely felt the desire of close, physical relationships as many of those have been stripped from us. And so we are feeling lonely. Now we might think that the solution for that loneliness is to just get around people again. And perhaps it is – at least in part. But we do ourselves a great disservice if we do not think a little bit deeper. If we don’t at least ask the question of whether this feeling we have might be something else presenting as loneliness.
So we look to the heart level – the soul level – to try and diagnose our true thirst. Our true hunger. Our true desire. And at the bottom of it all, we find that there is indeed a longing there that can only be filled by a vibrant relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is from that deep well of satisfaction that everything else flows.
For the prophet, the one who had been in the very throne room of God, this is a question of simple logic. If you have drunk from the well of living water, if you have feasted on the bread of life, if you have bathed in the riches of grace, then it simply makes no sense to try and quench that thirst or hunger or desire with anything else. But that logic is, of course, dependent on whether or not we have the courage and the faith to actually trace our desire to the root. To diagnose the true source of the thirst we are feeling.
But let’s not be people like that. Let’s not be that impatient and short-sighted. Let’s be the ones who diagnose ourselves and look deeper. Let’s be, as the prophet says, a listening people who are willing to not just settle for presenting symptoms. For there is water. There is wine and milk. There are riches. And they all come by grace.
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