MITRA: How to reverse the vanitas vanitatum of our souls
My soul thirst for God, for the living God (Psalm 42:2)
Unlike the beloved Psalm 23, the 42nd Psalm is not exactly a congenial summer-time inspirational reading, except for the similitude expressed in the first two verses.
We don’t know who the poor, wounded, sorrowing spirit was who wrote it.
Commentators suggest it was David when fleeing from his own son, Absalom.
But, whoever it was, he was a real man, with a real craving, deep and strong, that nothing on earth could satisfy.
And, he felt God could.
Do you think thirsting for God is something peculiar to a few saintly souls here and there?
No, in a real sense, I think it belongs to us all.
I think that poor restless psalmist, more than 3,000 years ago, was voicing the eternal cry of humanity all the world over.
We are all thirsting.
We are all craving.
We all want God, if only we knew it.
Just like the body, the soul has its hungering and thirsting and the only satisfaction for the craving of the soul is God, even the living God.
In the Bible, the soul of man is regarded as a living, hungering faculty, wanting its proper sustenance and restless without it.
The prophet Isaiah called to his fellows, restless and thirsting amid their pleasures and sins.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters. Why spend your money on what is not bread and your labour on what does not satisfy?”
While on earth, Jesus seemed to feel himself in a region of famishing souls that hardly had the sense to know what they were famishing for.
“I am the bread of life,” he said.
Again, “My Father gives the true bread from heaven.”
“He that drinks of earth’s water shall thirst again. He that drinks of the water that I shall give shall never thirst.”
People find many objects (read, toys) to place before them to ease their dissatisfaction.
They thirst for riches, for honours, for pleasure, for success in life — and they gain them — and still they thirst.
I do not intend to paint any gloomy view
Life is full of pleasant things, but the soul, made in God’s image, cannot rest in these.
Hence comes dissatisfaction.
Some of our most beautiful poems are expressions of this craving.
One of the truest novels closes with the weary sigh: “Vanitas vanitatum. Which of us gets his desire, or getting it is satisfied?”
That is the cry of a world without God.
Why are we thus with restless instincts?
Because God has so made us.
But, again, why?
It is for the same purpose as our bodily cravings. Reason alone is not enough to impel us to perform the functions of life.
So also in the life of the soul.
We know the soul needs God. Reason and revelation bids us seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
But, we are so occupied with the cares and pleasures and lusts of other things that we neglect do so.
Therefore, it is God’s mercy that creates in us this dissatisfaction which can never find its fruition but in God, even the living God.
As a young seagull is restless in its instinct for the sea, so is the human soul in its instinct for God.
We might make our caged seagull moderately content by pleasant surroundings and appealing food.
We may make a human soul moderately content with riches and comfort and the pleasures of life but, the restless instinct is underneath.
By keeping the seagull away from the sea, by keeping the human soul away from God, we may puzzle him as to what his restlessness means.
But it is there.
That is why the media of today tell us in graphic terms of the dissatisfaction of modern life.
That is why William Makepeace Thackeray of yesteryears told us in his great novel Vanity Fair of unsatisfied desires of his society.
Let’s not try to feed our famished souls with husks.
Let us thank God that He has made our lives dissatisfied — not in anger, but in tenderness — to draw us to Himself.
If we honestly desire to get nearer to God, we will become so, however dimly we perceive God as yet.
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