Matthew 5:6 - “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
Thanksgiving is around the corner and I know exactly how it's going to go down. We're going to wake up on Thursday morning and grab a coffee. No food, because we know what's coming. By 1pm we're at the house saying hello to everyone; guests are arriving and stomachs are rumbling. We can SMELL the food. We're all salivating at the thought of that fresh spread. At 2pm we'll all gather in NaNa's house and eat a meal that could feed the U.S. Army twice. It's a good time.
You know, it’s a pretty amazing thing. Your body tells you by a series of signals that it’s time to eat. It just knows. You don’t have to keep a journal of when you last ate or set a stopwatch - your body lets you know all on its own. Babies don’t have to track their own feedings; their bodies let them know when it’s time to eat. Yet, you don’t just eat once. You eat to satisfaction and will have to eat again multiple times in a day, over the course of many months, all the years of your life.
I was reflecting on some things I've been learning about proper nutrition, and I felt God deal with me to look up how spiritual hunger mechanisms mirror physical hunger mechanisms.
Food is essential. We can go weeks without it, but we will notice the effects. If we stop eating, there are some things that take place. An article on eating disorders had this to say about people who restrict food to the extreme:
“Over time, feelings of hunger often dissipate entirely. Many people struggling with anorexia nervosa no longer feel hunger or fullness since they are so disconnected from their bodies and their physical needs.”
After weeks of not eating, the body is in conservation mode. It thinks it’s in a survival situation like a famine or a siege – time to conserve energy. Different systems in the body start shutting down to divert that precious energy elsewhere. You’re left with a body that can’t process hormones correctly, has high cortisol levels, trouble concentrating, trouble with memory, possible suicidal ideation and other psychological effects.
"The recovery process takes a long time for individuals to get back in touch where their natural hunger and fullness cues. Typically, meal plans are an essential part of the weight restoration process."
I read these articles and realized that our spiritual hunger is not all that different. We have to eat until satisfaction the Bread of Life, but we must eat it again many times a day over the course of our lives. It’s vital to the functions of our spirit. We drink of the Living Water as we pray in the Spirit and spend time in His presence. After weeks of not taking in these “nutrients”, we can begin to lose the sensitivity to the hunger cues. Suddenly, we’re not longing to be in His presence. We’re easily sidetracked, numb, and complacent. Our spirits are starving.
The recovery takes time. You can’t expect to jump into a 3 hour prayer routine anymore than someone struggling with an eating disorder can expect a few hours of training can fix their problems. It takes time to allow your habits to change and your perspective to shift. You have to re-learn what hunger feels like and learn how to satisfy it in a healthy way.
Many people in the church today have felt hunger to know more. Their spirit gives them cues just like their bodies do. Restlessness, a lack of peace, desire for purpose in your life – these are signs that you’re needing some spiritual nourishment.
Instead of looking to the absolute truth of the Word, they look at entertainment and relationships. Those may satisfy for a little while (just like Oreos and donuts) but they cannot sustain a vibrant and healthy Christian.
The takeaway from this is to develop a consistent and healthy eating plan. Is there room for entertainment? Sure. But you’ve got to know your limits just like you do when it comes to foods that lack nutritional value.
What does your daily spiritual diet look like? Are you able to recognize when you’re hungry? Are you satiated when you spend time in the Word but still ready to eat again?