Thirsting for God: Spiritual Refreshment for the Sacred Journey is the first Gary Thomas book I read and I have to say that in a world of “cutting-edge ministry techniques” and “ground-breaking theology” I found his retrospective approach to be very, very refreshing. For some time now, I’ve had the idea in the back of my head that it would be very beneficial to read some of the Puritans, some of the Reformers, some of the Middle Age classics, or perhaps even some of the early church fathers; but I’ve always been too busy reading things that were written within my lifetime.
However, after seeing the rich depth that the last two millennia worth of brothers and sisters in Christ have to offer us, I feel as though I’ve been eating a lot of Applebee’s and Red Lobster while a genuine, gourmet feast awaits me. At the end of Thirsting for God, there’s a helpful list of suggested reading that spans many centuries. I plan on reading a handful—if not all, eventually—of them within the next few years. I have decided to make a pattern from now on of alternating my contemporary, modern reading with the classics. Or, at the very least, I want to knock out one classic a year.
Perhaps the most helpful part was Gary’s comparison of our modern attitudes verses those of Christians past. One great example is where he criticizes the modern misconception that many modern Christians “work too hard” and “just don’t rest in grace” (pg. 275). He then turns that notion on its head by comparing modern devotion to devotion of the past; there simply is no comparison. Modern Christians–myself included–have spread ourselves too thin and leave very little of ourselves for the Lord. Far too often, He gets the leftovers of our lives; He gets what we haven’t invested in our careers and hobbies. Comparing that to some of the ascetic practices of the past makes me wonder how devoted I am. This is a humbling yet simultaneously inspiring realization.
Two other areas that encouraged me were his discussion of the dark night of the soul and his discussion of a Christian view of death. The dark night of the soul is a topic that is rarely, if ever, addressed today. I’ve never heard a sermon on it and have only read about it in obscure places. I’ve never seen an article about it in Relevant, Christianity Today, or on any blog. In short, the dark night of the soul is a stage of Christian growth where God strips away some of the joys of following Him to test our devotion. It’s essentially a gut check, and at the end of this dark night, we emerge to realize that we don’t cherish the feelings that come from knowing God, but we instead cherish Him alone. This was common knowledge to Christians of the past.
The second area—death—was reassuring because, until I read Gary’s explanation of how past Christians have viewed death, I thought I had a morbid preoccupation or even and obsession with my mortality! I literally think about my death every single day. I try to live my life in light of my deathbed. What will I wish I had done? What will I wish I had done less of? (For example, on my deathbed, I will not wish I had spent more time on Facebook.) How can I live my life in a way that makes sense in light of eternity? My greatest desire it so be able to quote Second Timothy 4:7 on my deathbed; I believe it is impossible to do that unless I intentionally live towards that end. I hope to leave a legacy that God will use to bring much glory to His name, and I know that can only happen if I make every effort to live this life with the fullest dedication to God’s glory. Therefore, I found great comfort from reading Gary’s chapters about death.
Overall, this book has inspired me to plumb the depths of the great classics of Christianity so that I may gain a greater perspective of what it means to live for Christ in this world. It has about 40 chapters, they’re all short, so I would recommend it as a great devotional book.