You intimidate the perfectionist, threatening her impeccably-manicured image. So, she throws you into a cobwebby corner of her soul. There you sit, in the shadows, along with every other thought and feeling she exiles.
You agitate the self-righteous. Torture her pride. Antagonize. Stab at the human frailty she cannot abide. "Restrict, refrain," she scolds, for you must be starved out. Her wrists are scarred. Her eyes are stained. She wastes away.
You validate the self-indulgent. “What else am I to do?” he entreats. “It won’t stop whimpering unless I give it what it wants!” You’re like an irksome toddler, whining until she gets her cookie or candy or toy. Unaware that his flesh has hijacked you, this fella keeps shoving spoonfuls of sex, status, and sweeties down your throat, hoping you'll eventually hush.
You consternate humanists, likely because of your close connection with two things they dread most: death and poverty. Death is grotesque (hence the preoccupation with fitness regimes and night creams). And in nearly every respect, poverty–whether social, financial, psycho-emotional, or physical–looks and smells like death. Scarcity and lack? There’s no night cream for that.
You substantiate the thinkers and feelers. “You’re part of humanity,” the realists reason. “Without you, our bodies would perish for lack of food, oxygen, or water.” Similarly, the feelers recognize you're a part of the human soul. “Without you," they declare, "our souls would perish for want of affection, intimacy, and pleasure.”
You’re an intimidation to some, a consternation to others, and yet an invitation to all. Consider how humans wander in the consequences of sins–not because God delights in our torment, but so we can recognize sins’ devastating effects and run to the only one who could forgive and free us. So, too, we wander in hunger–not because God delights in our deprivation, but so the recognition of our emptiness might propel us to Jesus. In him we find the sum and source of God’s provision. No, hunger is not to be despised. It’s part of our God-designed humanity and spirituality. Through it we find an invitation to communion–with God and with his people.
Many believers struggle with hunger, wondering why they continue longing for fulfillment that just can’t seem to be found. “Maybe if I had a spouse…or kids…or that promotion…or parents who care…or someone who really knows me…then I’d be contented,” they think. Often there’s an underlying assumption that God is withholding fulfillment, dangling it like a carrot, until they repent of some hidden sin or perpetual shortcoming. While I cannot speak to your personal sins, I can confirm God is not a carrot-dangler. I believe our struggle with hunger may result from an incorrect view of its purpose.
What if the finish line for hunger isn’t the spouse…or kids…or promotion…or loving parents…or bosom friend? Not entirely.
Consider the growling of your stomach just hours after a meal. Or the craving for the presence of God mere seconds after you’ve been with him. Hunger keeps coming in wave after wave, like the sea to the shore. Feed it; it wants more. Starve it; it keeps coming. Each wave washes over us, tugs, and takes us deeper. Longing for shalom tugs, sweeping us into a current of prayer. Loneliness tugs, sweeping us into the embrace of a loved one. Craving for Italian tugs, sweeping us into a festive meal with friends.
What if the aim of our struggle with hunger is holy communion? This was true for Israelite refugees as they came to God for manna each morning. It was true for Jesus as he walked this earth, especially during his temptation. And it’s true today. Any longing can become holy ground–an intimate place where human and divine meet. Jesus affirms this by saying, “Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness” (Mt 5.6)!
If you are ready to actualize this blessedness, consider the following action steps:
- Name your hunger. Write a list of things your soul and body needs.
- Talk with hunger. As you’re going about your day and hunger arrives, rather than freaking out, simply pause and ask why it’s there/what it needs.
- Invite God and others into your hunger.