At the end of January and throughout February, I found myself navigating a medical crisis with my 90-year-old mother. It started with an emergency room visit followed by a 10-day hospital stay, and then rehabilitation and skilled nursing. Making the time for daily visits of encouragement and working with family to close down her current residence and prepare for a move to assisted living or skilled nursing was very physically and emotionally draining. I have a new empathy for those of you who have gone through this experience before me. I am grateful to the entire congregation for the way that you have supported Gina and me through this difficult time. Thank you for the prayers, the encouragement, wise counsel and practical help.
One thing I observed of myself during this time of stress and long days was the way that my body sought to comfort itself. Surprisingly, it was with hunger. I wish I could say that it was with an increased hunger for God, but unfortunately it was with a hunger for snacks and other “junk-food” items that are so plentiful in the church office breakroom and my home pantry.
I usually fast on Mondays. I began this practice four years ago to pursue and listen to God during my Monday morning study time and to step into the faith tradition of Christians, especially Wesleyan Christians, who have been practicing this spiritual discipline for hundreds of years. What was disappointing in my spiritual practices is that when I entered this season of stress, I broke the fast, seeking the comfort of food over the consolation and intimacy of God. It wasn’t just the fast day that I hungered for emotional comfort from food: I found myself consuming more snacks during the other days as well.
To hunger and thirst for God is at the heart of the Christian. It is the way that God has made human beings, but it seems that those who are awakened in Christ are keenly aware of it. When I became aware that I was content to choose physical snacking over my desire and hunger for God, it was an indicator that something was spiritually wrong. Because hunger is so basic to human nature, it often finds fulfillment in other areas rather than God. As additional snacking can dull the physical appetite, so that which is not of God can dull the spiritual appetite.
When Christians allow their appetite for God to be dulled by other things, they soon become satisfied by other activities, programs and even good church projects that take the place of intimate time with our Heavenly Father. When we snack our way through the day with busyness, we can find ourselves no longer desiring a “feast” with God. Ben Patterson, in his book Deepening Your Conversation with God, states “We have become satisfied with mere church, mere religious exertion, mere numbers and buildings—the things that we can do. There is nothing wrong with these things, but they are no more than foam left by the surf on the ocean of God’s glory and goodness.”
Psalm 34:8 says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Again, God has designed us to have our hunger for peace and strength filled by His goodness. This is just one of the many passages throughout the Bible that speak of having our hunger and thirst met by God. For example, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Even the Book of Revelation concludes with this inspiring vision: “Whoever is thirsty, let them come;
and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:7).
The imagery of hungering and thirsting after God is a scriptural concept consistent throughout the Bible. Biblical writers experienced it and proclaimed the Lord as the One who truly satisfies the hunger of the soul.
How is your hunger for God? Do you find yourself lacking desire to be with the Lord? Is your hunger for God manifesting as an empty feeling, a sense of longing, loneliness or boredom from working a full schedule that brings no fulfillment?
As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, “We are far too easily pleased.”
My friends, you were created for more. You were created to hunger for God. God has called you through Jesus Christ to desire a life centered on God. As we begin this new Christian season of Lent, I invite you to fully engage our sermon series Hunger and all the practical spiritual exercises it will offer. I also encourage you to move towards God, holding nothing back in your pursuit of Him.
Sharing the journey,