Day 6: Spiritual Hunger

The Bible is filled with food analogies for our spiritual lives. In Psalm 34:8,

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

In Deuteronomy 8:3 (quoted by Jesus during his temptation in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4),

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

And in Luke 22:19 (and elsewhere), Jesus uses bread as a symbol for his sacrifice on the cross,

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

It’s only natural, then, for us to speak of a spiritual hunger: a desire for God that is regular, recurring, and results in life-giving sustenance. I get physically hungry whether or not I think about it. It’s a little after 8 pm, and I’m starting to get hungry even as I write this. This hunger is a reminder that I should eat something.

Too often, I wait until I’m spiritually hungry to open my Bible or seek out true Christian community. The problem is two-fold. First, spiritual hunger works differently than physical hunger. This morning at church, a friend of mine reiterated a truth that I’ve known, but had never phrased it so concisely:

Spiritual hunger works the opposite that physical hunger does. When you eat, your physical hunger subsides. But the more that we taste who God is, the more that we want of Him.
~Stephen Okamoto

Second, I don’t always recognize my spiritual hunger for what it is. I find this a little ironic because I also have issues recognizing physical hunger, too. I have had SO many conversations with my girlfriend that go likes this:

Chris: I’m really tired.
Olivia: Oh? Do you need to take a nap?
Chris: …Or maybe I’m hungry? What time is it? Maybe I need to eat.
Olivia: *rolls eyes* Let’s go get you some food.

I notice the exact same thing with my spiritual hunger. When I’m spiritually depleted, I often mistake it for being tired, worn out, burnt out, “peopled out” (that introvert life, though), or flat out exhausted. And this will go on for a day or two or a week, and then I’m at Bible study or at church and someone says a spiritual truth that really resonates with me, and I regain some spiritual stamina. And usually that sparks a fire to spend more time reading my Bible and praying and singing worship songs, and I feel spiritually vibrant once more.

Now, with physical hunger, I tend to eat and then move on to the next thing (much to Olivia’s chagrin). But this spiritual vibrancy leads to a greater desire to read my Bible, pray, worship, and fellowship. And I get caught up in this positive loop of increasing desire for God.

So what does this mean, practically? If I’m not feeling spiritually hungry right now, that probably means that I’m not feeding myself spiritually. Rather than wait and pray for spiritual hunger, I need to seek out spiritual feeding. This will start the loop, and I’ll find the spiritual hunger that I was lacking before.

So what about you? Is it time to seek out spiritual feeding?

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