Are We Drinking from a Muddy Cistern?

by Kathy Collard Miller

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13 ESV

While in third grade, I angrily chased a girl on the playground and tripped. I fell on my face, shattering my top two front permanent teeth. I clearly remember thinking, “God allowed that to happen. He can’t be trusted.” I also condemned myself as stupid because I had allowed my anger to control me.

In big and little ways, every one of us experiences events which prompt distrust of God, which results in ungodly responses. As for me, I’m very sensitive when someone responds as if I’m stupid. My old third-grade-self pops back into my heart and I overreact—most often with anger.

In a unique way, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to describe an ungodly choice— gulping stagnant, dirty, polluted water from a broken cistern instead of from His fountain of living waters. What a contrast. When you and I overreact out of self-protection, we are spiritually rejecting the better way God offers to those who choose to trust Him.

Years ago, when my husband, Larry, and I visited Israel, we saw cisterns that had been dug to hold rainwater or water from some other source. One was so deep that we literally walked down into it. Our tour guide pointed out other smaller cisterns, and, as we expected, the water was murky, muddy, and terrible looking. If one was parched and dehydrated, I suppose that dirty water might offer some help, but it sure wouldn’t taste good.

The tour guide then pointed to a green, lush area where a natural spring bubbled up. That water was clear, pure, and seemed to invite us to take a drink. I couldn’t help but think of Jeremiah 2:13 and how often I must choose between a muddy cistern—spiritually—or God’s rejuvenating, refreshing spring—full of life and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Recently, I couldn’t figure out how to overcome a computer problem. I called in Larry, and he told me what to do. I replied, “I already tried that. It doesn’t work.” Then he repeated the same instruction. I could feel my tension and anger rise. Does he think I’m so stupid that I hadn’t already tried that obvious solution? A third time, he repeated the same instruction and my anger increased.

I was drinking from the muddy cistern for sure, but then I caught myself: Wait a minute! I’m rehearsing the lie from third grade that I’m stupid, but God says I have the mind of Christ. I don’t have to get angry and defend myself. All that matters is that God knows the truth about me—He made me smart and I’m valuable to Him regardless.

In that moment I began gulping from God’s fresh flowing spring. My anger ebbed away. (By the way, Larry loves to tell me how smart I am.)

Whenever we feel tempted to react in an ungodly way, we can pray, “Father, am I believing a lie in any way? How am I feeling threatened?

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author of 59 books, which include Christian living topics, women’s Bible studies, and Bible commentaries. She has written over a thousand articles and blog posts, and appeared on hundreds of podcasts, TV, and radio programs, including the 700 Club. As a speaker she has shared in nine foreign countries and 34 US states. Kathy and Larry married in 1970 and are the parents of two and grandparents of two. They live in Southern Idaho and often write and speak together.

Kathy’s most recent book is a women’s Bible study, Heart of Courage: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. Visit her at This article is adapted from her book Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory

Join the conversation: In what way do you sometimes drink from a spiritual cistern? And in what way do you often drink from God’s living fountain?


4 thoughts on “Are We Drinking from a Muddy Cistern?

  1. This is so helpful, Kathy. Thank you. My default response is feeling betrayed. It always seems to follow the same pattern, so you’d think it would be easy to spot and stop. BTW, was Larry right about your computer? 🙂


    1. I absolutely agree. Since our patterns are repeated, you’d think it would be easy to identify what’s happening but unfortunately, the muddy water seems better than nothing. And Larry wasn’t right. I had to call Apple Support! Horrors. I always feel so stupid when I can’t follow their directions. Another challenge to drink God’s clear spring water. When I called,… well, that’s another story for another time. 🙂


  2. Kathy, thanks for your transparency. I needed that reminder when I blurted out something out of frustration to a loved one and wished I could take it back. I should have listened with my heart instead of being in “control.” That was muddy water, for sure. Thanks for the reminder of Jeremiah 2:13. Blessings, Fran


    1. Thank you, Fran, for commenting. It’s encouraging to know my post was meaningful to you. God always uses everything, right?


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