Summary: Divine Desperation is an all-consuming passion to know God, to be like God, and to live forever with God.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
His name was Nicolas Herman, and due to a lack of education, he spent his life serving in the kitchen and cobbler shops of a monastery in Paris. Though passionate about spiritual matters, Nicolas was often dissatisfied with his own life and worried much about his relationship with God. One day while looking at a tree, Nicolas came to the same conclusion as the psalmist long ago—the source of life for the tree was in the fact that it was rooted in something other and deeper than itself. From that day forward, his life became an experiment in what he called a “habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God.”
Upon his death, this long-time servant’s friends put together a book containing his letters and written conversations with God. It is called Practicing the Presence of God, and apart from the Bible, many believe it has been the most widely read book of the past four centuries.
Dissatisfied with one’s relationship with God may be the best terminology to use for one who seeks God, but when I consider the words of Jesus in this verse, I choose to call it Divine Desperation. It is an all-consuming passion to know God, to be like God, and to live forever with God. In Biblical terminology: “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10); “I want to see His glory” (Exodus 33:18); “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You” (Psalm 42:1); and “O God, You are my God, early in the morning I will seek You, my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
In Jesus’ words, it is “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.” Such terminology is hard to wrap our heads around when either of those problems from a physical perspective are easily solved today by opening a refrigerator or turning on a tap. Such was not the case in Jesus’ day. They knew hunger and thirst in a way most of us never will. And when it comes to righteousness, we as a nation are passionate about a lot of things, but righteousness is not high on that list. The words of Mother Teresa ring in my ears as she wrote, “People in India are physically hungry. People in America are spiritually hungry. That makes people in India better off, because Americans don’t know they are starving.”
Are we starving? Do we know it? While our Declaration of Independence asserts that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness, that is neither a guarantee nor a reality for most people. I would argue based on the words of Jesus that we are simply looking in the wrong places. It isn’t that we aren’t passionate in our pursuit of happiness, but like most before us we are confused. Lucifer was passionate for power (Isaiah 14:13); Nebuchadnezzar for praise (Daniel 4:30); the Rich Fool for possessions (Luke 12:17); and Demas for the “present world.” It isn’t that ambition, passion, and drive are bad things if that which is pursued is used for right reasons. Therein is the problem, because when it comes to Godly priorities and God-honored pursuits, the creation is not generally listening to the Creator.
Do you want to be happy? Desire, pursue, seek a right relationship with God. Jesus uses the strongest words that can be used for hungering and thirsting, as He wants all to know that the only place happiness is found is in such a relationship. Upon understanding our brokenness, mourning our sinfulness, submitting to the authority of Christ, one now lives hungering and thirsting for that which they need and only God can give. Too many spend their lives chasing what God wants to give. Position, possessions, pleasure, and power will not produce happiness. Happiness is brokenness, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Long before Jesus’ promise, God saw the folly of His children’s selfish pursuits when He said, “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus’ promise a bit later in this sermon is, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and ALL THESE THINGS will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). John’s warning was, “Don’t love the world or the things of the world” (1 John 2:15).
Happiness is a byproduct of righteousness. We want happiness but do not want to deal with the disease that prevents it. The problem with our world (and many of us) is not sickness but sin, and only righteousness can remove the source of the problem. One who hungers and thirsts for righteousness desires to be free from sin, its power, presence, and penalty. They want the salvation and righteous standing that can only be had in a relationship with Christ, a desire that only intensifies as those saved by the blood of Christ now turn their attention to be like Him. Pay close attention to what Jesus says. He does not say, “Blessed are those that possess righteousness” but rather, “Blessed are those that pursue righteousness.” It is a passionate pursuit that knows no end. One translator put the meaning of this verse in perspective by writing, “I continually hunger and thirst for all the righteousness there is, and only then am I satisfied.” It is an all or nothing pursuit of God, a relationship with Him, a desire to be like Him. It is a passionate, consuming ambition for righteousness.