You intimidate the perfectionist, threatening her impeccably manicured image. So, she exiles you to the cobwebby corner of her soul where all her insecurities fester.

You agitate the self-righteous. Antagonize. Chide. Torture her with insecurities she cannot abide. Restricting food and resisting affection, she slices her skin to watch pain bleed.

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!” Parenting flesh that acts like an irksome toddler, proves itself too daunting. So, this fella keeps shoving spoonfuls of sex, status, and sweeties down his throat, hoping you’ll hush.

You consternate humanists who closely connect you to two things they dread most: death (hence the preoccupation with fitness regimes and night creams) and poverty, which looks and smells too much like death. Scarcity and lack? There’s no night cream for that.

You substantiate realists who reason that you’re vital to humanity. “Without you, our bodies would perish for lack of food, oxygen, or water,” they say. You also substantiate the existentialists: “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 an invitation to all.

All of us ache with hunger, but many believers to understand why. Thoughts wander…If I had a spouse…kids…that promotion… parents who cared…someone who really knew me…then this gnawing ache would end. I’d be contented. For me the underlying assumption was that God withheld fulfillment until I repented of some hidden sin or perpetual shortcoming. While I cannot speak to the specifics of your situation, I can confirm that God does not a dangle your expectations like a carrot before you. No, he does not delight in deprivation. Rather, he believes that recognizing our desires and lacks can propel us to Christ as sum and source of everything we want and need. Therefore, hunger is not to be despised; it’s an invitation to communion.

Consider how your stomach growls shortly after a meal. Or the craving for the presence of God mere seconds after you’ve been with him. Hunger comes like the sea to the shore. Each wave crashes over us, tugging and taking us deeper. We long for shalom and get swept up into a current of prayer. We feel the tug of loneliness and get swept into the embrace of a loved one. We crave a slice of gooey pizza and a sudsy beer and get swept into a corner booth where we spend a delightful evening with friends.

The tugging of hunger draws us deeper into communion—with God and others. This was true for Israelite refugees as they gathered manna each morning. It was true for the God-man who craved companionship with his human brothers and heavenly Father (Mt 26.36-46). And, it’s true for us today. Though righteous in Christ, we continually hunger for righteousness (Mt 5.6). Though eternally secure, we hunger for safety. Though fed and clothed, we continue to hunger for God’s provision. Though unconditionally loved, we hunger to be loved. With each tug of hunger, we are drawn into the depths of intimacy with God and others—out into a sacred space where human and divine intertwine. Hunger invites us to holy communion. Will you come?

Prayerfully consider the following action steps:

  1. Name your hunger. Write a list of things your soul and body needs.
  2. Talk with hunger. Rather than freaking out when it shows up, practice the spiritual discipline of pausing. Ask why it’s there and what it needs. Discern if those reasons and needs are legitimate. If so…
  3. Invite God and others into your hunger.

Amy Leigh is a writer, landscape designer, organizational development specialist, and teacher living in Dallas, Texas. Her articles address themes in faith, culture, creation, the church, theology of the body, theology of women, and relationships.