Have you ever been so thirsty you would give anything for a drink of cool, clean, sparkling water?
Imagine for a moment you had the choice of drinking from a clear mountain stream or from a rusty tub of gutter water containing dried leaves, mosquitoes, and other debris. Who, you ask, would even think about drinking from a broken, rusty tub of polluted rain water to satisfy their thirst?
In a spiritual sense, we all do. God has offered us living water to fill our deepest need, but we often look to other sources for our satisfaction.
In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, God’s people committed two sins: they had forsaken God and replaced the one true God with idols. Jeremiah compared this to someone abandoning a spring of living water for broken cisterns.
“For my people have done two evil things: they have forsaken me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:13 NLT)
The best source of water in Israel at that time was natural springs which contained clear, cool water. The worst source came from cisterns–large pits dug into the ground or rocks which were covered with plaster and used to collect rain water.
Cracks often appeared in the cistern, causing water to leak out. These man-made wells were not very dependable or safe to drink from.
We can compare the broken cisterns of that day to the many places where we look for hope today. Instead of realizing we have a steady stream of living water available from God to meet our every need, we turn to other places and people to satisfy our cravings and deepest emotional needs.
Here are examples of several broken cisterns we have dug in our futile attempt to find hope (adapted from message by Lisa Harper, author and speaker):
1. Father, Mother, Siblings
If your family of origin was healthy and loving, these cisterns may be almost full of water. However, even the most loving mother and godly father cannot meet every need in your life. Some of you may have never known your father, or may have been abandoned by your mother. Your parents may have been abusive. Your siblings may have disappointed or disowned you and you may feel all alone in this world.
Wait! Stop trying to satisfy your need for love and acceptance from broken or empty cisterns when you can drink freely from the spring of God’s unconditional love.
“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.” (Psalm 27:10)
When you got married, did you expect your husband/wife to meet all your needs? How quickly did you find out that wasn’t going to happen? If you are feeling guilty because you can’t seem to make your spouse happy, you may have been believing a lie. Only God can provide that depth of joy and contentment.
If you have a loving partner who is sensitive to your needs, your cistern may be full. You may be placing your hopes in the security of your relationship and a long, happy life together. But what will you do if your spouse is diagnosed with a terminal illness or suddenly decides to give in to a mid-life crisis? Where will you find emotional stability?
If your hope is filled with disrespect and violence, the cistern is probably dry. You may experience a few good times, but it won’t be long until cracks in the foundation cause the cistern to leak out and evaporate.
3. Children, Friends, and Fellowship
You may find refreshment and fellowship as you spend time with friends and enjoy the love of your children. The problem comes when you turn to children and friends as your source of hope when your world is blown apart. Children can often be misused as an emotional replacement for a spouse who has left, and it is easy to become too dependent on friends.
If you expect your church family to fulfill all your emotional needs, you will be dreadfully disappointed and disillusioned. Church families can be wonderful, but they can also be dysfunctional and insensitive.
God wants you to go to him first to find fulfillment and hope. When he fills you up with his love, you can enjoy comfort from children and support from friends and your church community without unrealistically expecting what they cannot offer.
4. Appearance and Vocation
Do you place your hope in what you look like or in what you do? You may feel a level of satisfaction there, but time and circumstances can ravage those cisterns until they crack and leak.
Your only hope is found in God, the one source of living water. When you find your identity and worth in all God has created you to be, nothing and no one on earth can diminish or destroy the life He has created in you, regardless of your failures or outside circumstances.
Stop drinking tepid, contaminated water from broken cisterns of your own striving. Drink often and deeply from living water that flows from the heart of God and be satisfied.
“If you only knew the gift God has for you, and who I am, you would ask me and I would give you living water.” –Jesus (John 4:10 NLT)
Copyright © 2001, 2013 Brenda Branson