“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.” (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)
This devotional is based on Kay Warren’s new book, “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.”
So far, we’ve identified five false sources of joy. They aren’t really sources at all; they just appear to be. So if they’re false, why do we keep going there?
Jeremiah 2:13 says, “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” (NIV).
Those of us not raised on a farm or a ranch might not know that a cistern is just an underground container to catch and hold water. In this verse, God mentions two of the specific ways the nation of Israel had disobeyed him. He tells them they had forsaken him, the true God, and they were trying to satisfy themselves instead of relying on him.
It’s like this. We’re hopelessly lost in the desert, dying of thirst, seeking anything to quench our parched, dry throats. We see a kiosk with big flashing neon lights, and God is holding up a sign that says, “Living Water Available Here.” Yet we say, “No, thanks, God! Appreciate the offer, but I see a shovel over there. Think I’ll dig my own cistern!”
Off we trot to start digging our own well and our own cistern. We abandon God — who doesn’t just have water but a spring of water that will never dry up — and decide to figure our problem out by ourselves.
The problem is our cisterns always break; they never hold up. The water leaks out, so we remain thirsty, unable to quench our own thirst.
Here’s how this plays out in my life. See if you can relate.
I’m having a bad day. Any number of things have gone wrong, and I’m feeling down. What God wants me to do is to first talk to him. He wants me to read his Word and remind myself of his ability to quench the ache in my soul. He wants me to readjust my perspective on my life that day and seek the Spring of Living Water.
Instead, I often feel the emptiness and ache in my soul and decide to call my husband or my friend in the hopes that someone else will cheer me up. But shortly after I do that, I realize that the good feelings are gone, and I’m still lonely, afraid, or upset. Then I decide I will feel better if I turn on the TV for a while and find something to distract me. That too works for a bit.
Yet the bad feelings are still there. As I walk through the kitchen, the refrigerator calls my name, and I think food will make it better, so I consume mass quantities of chips and salsa and guacamole. But I’m still empty. I’ve talked to a friend, distracted myself from my worries, eaten far too much, and I’m still sad inside.
Digging your own cistern will never satisfy. It’s not meant to. Broken cisterns cannot hold water. And to top it off? God will never help you dig your own cistern. We get angry when it seems like he won’t help us. It’s often because we’re shoveling as fast as we can. He will never help us seek joy outside of himself.
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Kay Warren co-founded Saddleback Church with her husband, Rick Warren, in Lake Forest, Calif. She is a passionate Bible teacher and respected advocate for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS as well as orphaned and vulnerable children. Kay is the founder of Saddleback’s HIV/AIDS Initiative, author of “Say Yes to God,” and co-author of “Foundations,” the popular systematic theology course used by churches worldwide. She has three children and five grandchildren.