A Satisfying Hunger
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
Have you ever been hungry? Really, really, hungry? There have been times that I’ve said I’m starving, though in truth I’ve never been close to such. There have been times when I’ve felt weak and knew I needed to eat something, but sustenance was never far away. For most of us, we know what hunger feels like, but we don’t let it stick around long enough to satisfy us. That’s right…to satisfy us. We think of it as a ping that needs to be ponged so that its pangs no longer prohibit our progress. (Can you say alliteration? I can!)
The truth is, I find my stomach gets the noisiest when my mind wants it to be the quietest. If I know I can have a piece of cake I don’t want it nearly as much as when I know I can’t have a piece of cake. That’s why I don’t like diets and that’s why I still struggle with the discipline of fasting. I can go days without something sweet (I know, your perception of my disciplined nature is now either confirmed or conformed, depending on whether or not you thought I had one), but once I tell myself that sweet things are off the radar, then my desire for them escalates. The next thing I know I’m halfway through a bag of double-stuffed Oreos…and they’re not even my cookie of choice! While they lived up to their double-stuffed purpose, my unstuffed resolve lay sandwichless on the floor. Hunger. It not only grabs hold of our stomachs, but it lays hold of our minds as well. And, according to Scripture, hunger can also cause our spiritual appetites to rumble.
Over the years, I have thought about what God’s word says in regard to hunger. In Matthew 5:6, I learned that those who hunger and thirst for the right thing will be satisfied. In Jeremiah 15:16, the prophet declares, “Thy words were found and I ate them, and they became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.” In John 6:35, Jesus describes Himself as the Bread of Life and in John 4:14 He calls us to drink from His well so we will never thirst again. And so, for years, I thought about spiritual hunger the same way I thought about physical hunger; when you feel it you should feed it. After all, hunger is meant to be extinguished, not extended…or is it? That’s when I realized I needed to stop viewing hunger as something that required an action but rather as something that resulted from an inaction. I needed to think about hunger as an effect rather than as a cause.
And so I did just that. Rather than thinking about what hunger caused one to do, I thought about what caused hunger in the first place. The answer was easy enough: a lack of food. That resulted in an epiphany! In order to have a hunger, something had to be withheld! While that seems simplistic and unrevolutionary enough, it really does become more complex when you apply it to spiritual hunger. Going back to Matthew 5:6, the hunger is for righteousness. That means that righteousness has been missing; it has been withheld. In other words, we could say, “Blessed are those who have gone without righteousness, who have lacked righteousness, who have ceased to have righteousness in their diet, for in time they will be pleased.”
Have you ever been in a place where you felt deprived of righteousness? Have you ever felt that your own sinfulness rehung the veil of separation between you and God? Have you ever looked around and felt like you’d been rezoned to an area with an address of 123 Sodom Lane? Have you ever wondered where your godly friends were hiding or when the right thing wouldn’t be viewed as the wrong thing by the culture around you? If so, you have no doubt hungered and thirsted for righteousness; it was missing and you noticed its absence.
The positive aspect that arises out of this place of spiritual hunger is that God causes it. He allows things to be absent from our lives not to deprive us but to replenish us. He allows us to hunger for the very thing that is missing so that we will desire that very thing more than anything else. If I don’t have a hunger, then I won’t search for food; if I don’t search for food, then I won’t be filled; if I’m not filled, then I won’t be satisfied; if I’m not satisfied, then I won’t display contentment. And, as a child of God, shouldn’t I have a countenance that reflects the One who keeps me? Yes, God’s purpose for causing spiritual hunger pangs is to heighten our awareness of what we are lacking so we will search for that which we truly need from the only One who can supply that need.
There is, however, a negative aspect that may arise out of a spiritual hunger as well. It bears the marks of its physical counterpart in that it involves undisciplined eating. The thing about spiritual hunger is that, just as is true for physical hunger, once we notice something isn’t available, we really, really want it. While in physical terms we find this may lead us into temptation (can’t have cake…gotta have cake…eat cake), in spiritual terms, we may also fall prey to temptation if we attempt to feed on the wrong kind of food. The preventative course is to know what you are hungry for, so you will know what you need to eat. If your hunger stems from a lack of forgiveness, then only the fruit of forgiveness will bring satisfaction; if your hunger is the result of unfed acceptance, then you need to dine on a bowl of imputed self-worth; if your thirst arises from the desert of affection, then only the waters of redeemed love can quench your dryness. Unfortunately, sometimes we overlook the cause of hunger and attend only to the effect of hunger. We feel the pang and grab the grub. We’ll eat anything if it will allow us to forget about our hunger. And, even though we may choose good foods to fill up on, our state of satisfaction will not be found if we don’t feed our specific hunger. If we’ve been lacking peace, a platter of encouragement…though tasty…won’t bring nourishment; if we’re starved for patience, then a forgiveness sandwich isn’t going to get us very far. We have to examine the cause for the hunger so that it may be properly fed, resulting in effective nourishment. We also need to make sure that the food we’re choosing comes from the right storehouse. As the Scripture states, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the rightness of God, for then satisfaction will follow. If we fill ourselves on things that aren’t stocked in God’s pantry, then we will never know contentment and our hunger will only be appeased and not abated.
When it comes to spiritual hunger, God’s provisions are met in the portions, but His purpose is met in the pangs. For it is only when we can see our need, that we can appreciate our feed. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…for virtue…for forgiveness…for acceptance…for assurance…for faith…for they shall notice its absence, desire its presence, and be satisfied with its consumption. God is not only the Provider of righteousness, but He is also the Provider of our hunger for righteousness. As you feast upon God’s word, do so with an empty stomach; do so with a gnawing need for fulfillment. Then, thank God for that hunger; thank God for giving you a hunger that satisfies.