The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. ~ Mother Teresa
Do you remember the last time you were hungry? I’m talking really, really hungry. Your stomach empty. Your innards growling. Or, as a friend used to say, “It feels like my stomach is eating itself.”
It’s an uncomfortable feeling to say the least. When you’re hungry or thirsty, it’s hard to think about anything else except finding some food to fill your stomach or water to quench your thirst. Both are powerful, driving forces, and the hungrier or thirstier you get, the stronger the compulsion to eat or drink something, anything, to make it stop.
While we’re all familiar with that feeling, there are some people who feel that craving twenty-four hours a day. It’s called Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disease that causes chronic feelings of insatiable hunger. This rare condition affects about one in every twelve to fifteen thousand people. Prader-Willi also causes other problems, such as learning issues, but for sufferers and their families the appetite issues are the main concern. Finding and consuming food is the number one priority. Kate Kane, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, described it like this: “I could eat until I die, basically.”1
People with Prader-Willi syndrome never feel full or satisfied, even after a meal. Kane will “do literally anything for food.” Sufferers can get in trouble at school or lose relationships and jobs, and some have been arrested for shoplifting and consuming food items. Families are forced to lock up kitchen cabinets, pantries, and refrigerators and freezers to prevent midnight food raids.
“Her hunger gets in the way of everything,” said Kate’s father. It’s hard for Prader-Willi sufferers to have a happy life when they can never get enough food, no matter how much they eat. So far, scientists have no cure for the condition. Left untreated, Kate and others with the condition typically end up grossly obese and at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Think about it — no matter how many hamburgers you eat, how much pasta you consume, how many sandwiches you have, or how many bowls of cereal you slurp down in the morning, you can never fill yourself up. Your cravings are in charge, not you. You’re obsessed with food. You’re empty and looking to be filled every single second of every day, all year long. For your entire life.
While Prader-Willi syndrome is an extreme example of never feeling you have enough food to feel full and satisfied, there are many other cravings that can take over your life. Some people struggle with strong and persistent cravings for sex, drugs, or alcohol. Horror writer Stephen King once told the story of fighting his alcohol cravings, explaining how he couldn’t sleep if he knew there was any alcohol in the house. He would lie in his bed, feeling like the bottle was calling to him. Before he could go to sleep, he’d have to get out of bed, go to the kitchen, and pour the wine or beer down the sink. Then and only then could he find rest.
Other people fight their own obsessions with shopping, gambling, or pornography. Even seemingly innocuous pleasures such as coffee, diet soda, movie theater popcorn, or even exercise can become harsh taskmasters when a person can’t seem to stop.
It’s never a good feeling to be in perpetual need of more, more, more.
Coffee is a common addiction, and specialty coffee shops know that the more caffeine they infuse into their products, the more customers will crave them. There are quizzes scattered around the Internet that will tell you if you’re addicted to Starbucks or not. Hint: you might be in trouble if the barista knows you and your order by name.
The pursuit of wealth and worldly success is another appetite that is hard to tame. So often people spend much of their lives going after things instead of going after God. Then they get to the end of their lives and realize that everything without Him is really nothing. The food pantry is bare, the fancy paper coffee cup is empty, but the desire for more is still there.
People living during the time of Jesus had all the common cravings we have, although they might have been popping dried dates or figs instead of movie theater popcorn. They were going about their lives, trying to make themselves feel better and pursuing whatever seemed to satisfy their longings. Just like us, they could never get enough to really be happy.
Since He was fully God and fully human, Jesus felt these cravings too.
He understood extreme hunger and thirst, and there was a day when He showed up at a well in the region of Samaria, both hungry and thirsty. It was the noon hour, and he sat, tired and waiting, as a woman arrived to draw water.
“Would you give me a drink of water?” He asked politely.
The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” In those days Jewish people wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritan people. Two thousand years ago, people also struggled with categorizing others and giving in to their biases and prejudices. Racism and other judgmental isms were alive and well in the ancient world.
Ten kinds of prejudice have been identified:
- Chronological (age-ism)
All these prejudices are bad, but what is even worse is that they all have oozed their way into the Church. In today’s world, racism is currently one of the most difficult and painful challenges we face. How can we overcome it? It’s significant to note that when you put a big G (for God) in front of the word “race,” you get “Grace.” Grace is bigger than race.
There is no prejudice in Christ, and for certain there is no racial prejudice in Christ. The Jesus many of us think we know is a Jesus of our own making. We have constructed an image of Him from various experiences, failures, and victories. The problem is that the Jesus we have constructed is different from the Jesus who really existed.
We’ll never penetrate the world with the Good News until the Good News first penetrates the world between our ears.
So regardless of what the Jews thought of the Samaritans, Jesus brought a message of grace and went after the woman at the well like the Good Shepherd goes after the lost sheep. And not only did Jesus go after her, but He also went ahead of her, because He got to the well before she did. He was waiting on her to get there, and He couldn’t wait to talk to her.
Not only was it unusual for a Jewish person to be talking to a Samaritan, but talking to a woman in public was also frowned on. Yet Jesus did what He always did by rising above the stereotypes and demonstrating what Paul would later say in Galatians — in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.
Jesus answered the woman with a hint of His identity, and a significant but mysterious promise. “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking Me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
The woman was intrigued. “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?” The Samaritans were an offshoot of the Jewish religion. They believed in Mosaic law, so the woman challenged Jesus to explain who He was and what He was all about. She was wondering if she’d missed something. Was this strange man teaching something more important than the law?
Then Jesus explained something incredible. The living water? It’s an unconditional gift. It doesn’t have to be earned. “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
Thirsty and yearning for this living water, the woman believed what Jesus said and asked him for something that would change her life.
“Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”2
As their conversation continued, her checkered past came to light (five husbands and currently living with a man she was not married to, and Jesus knew all this and called her out on it). Yet even then, Jesus continued the discussion with her. There was no condemnation from Him as He responded to her hunger for the truth.
The thirsty woman daring to approach Jesus is a picture of so many of us, yearning for fulfillment. She’d been looking for fulfillment everywhere, except from the one true, living God. The prophet Jeremiah shared God’s view on this:
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.3
It’s a sorrowful and fruitless way to live when you’re pursuing happiness and fulfillment from activities, people, and material goods that can never fulfill you. Countless celebrities, successful businesspeople, and incredibly creative artists and musicians have spent their lives climbing the ladder of success, only to get to the top and find out their ladders are propped up against the wrong wall.
As the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well began to wind down, He made a stunning revelation. This piece of information was something He had not yet told anyone else. And it turned out to be the news flash of the year!
It all started when the woman said, “I do know that the Messiah is coming. When He arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
“I am He,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”4
The Samaritan woman was the first person Jesus revealed His true identity to, and it was such a surprise. There was no audience, just a quiet conversation between Jesus and an outcast over a drink of water. Jesus met her where she was, at her point of need, and revealed His true identity based on her need. He asked for a drink of water, but He gave her so much more in return — the truth of who He was, the forgiveness of her past, the promise of eternal life, and hope for the future. With that, the private conversation was over because she was so excited that she ran to tell everyone in town. They listened, and many believed. They begged Jesus to stay and tell them more.
The unlikely woman looking for love in all the wrong places became the first evangelist in the New Testament. She almost seemed to get who Jesus was and what He was on earth to do better than His disciples did. It’s a compelling contrast — while they were in town purchasing food (and not making any converts, by the way), she was being fed by Jesus, and soon to be on her way to helping transform her city with the good news of the Messiah.
Whenever Jesus came along with the messages of living water, the bread of life, and grace, most people sat up and listened. Are you listening to the One who can give you the bread of life and the living water you crave? Are you ready to turn away from the hollow offerings of the world to something much, much better?
When you feel overwhelmed with hunger and thirst for things you know are not healthy or good for you, Jesus will be enough because He can fill and satisfy those longings with living water. Jesus is like the ultimate barista who knows you and knows your order and your unhealthy dependence on coffee, and yet He still loves you, cares for you, and yearns to make you free. No cup of coffee is going to fill that emptiness in your soul. It will never be enough.
Through Jesus, you have the ultimate victory over behaviors, attitudes, addictions, and sins that would hold you down, bind you, and keep you from moving forward in your life. No more permanent emptiness, and no more unquenchable longing for satisfaction.
God offers you love and grace, and He is enough.
1. Juju Chang and Cathy Becker, “She Can’t Stop Eating: Living with Prader-Willi Syndrome a Daily Struggle,” ABC News, August 17, 2009, http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=8222023.
2. John 4:7-15 The Message.
3. Jeremiah 2:13.
4. John 4:25-26 The Message.
Excerpted with permission from Desired by God by Van Moody, copyright Vanable H. Moody, II.
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What craving do you struggle with? Could it be that your craving is actually a desire for happiness and fulfillment? How can you confront this craving today after taking a fresh look at Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman? Write down a prayer to the Lord Jesus and ask Him to fill your thirst with His living water, using some of the words and ideas from the passage in John 4:1–42. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog! ~ Devotionals Daily