“It is sad that somehow, when it comes to our souls, we think we can get away with just pretending that we are attending to the disciplines that matter.”
If you have spent any time with me at all, you will know why my family affectionately calls me “the daughter who loves to eat.” The truth is, I love food. My love of food is so strong that if I unintentionally miss any kind of meal, I will be feeling it—my glucose levels drop quickly, and instantly it feels like I am no longer seeing the world through rose-coloured lenses. My husband noticed this terrible trend quickly—in fact, one day into our marriage. He immediately learned that no matter what we were doing, when the clock struck noon, it would be in his best interest to find us something to eat … quick!
This is why, when we were listening to the radio a couple of months ago, it did not come as a shock to either of us that scientific research at the National Academy of Sciences had confirmed that a condition called “hanger” actually exists. The dictionary defines hangry as a state of anger caused by lack of food: hunger. And if you have ever been around someone with a propensity toward this problem, when their hunger pangs begin to grumble, you probably have a pretty good understanding of this not-so-pretty phenomenon.
But the truth is, hunger is not just relegated to the physical realm. Spiritual hunger is also very real. According to statistics, most Canadians are spiritually starving. Without an authentic relationship with Jesus, our spiritual hunger can never be filled. This truth should lead us to live lives that are constantly looking for opportunities to share the Bread of Life with those around us who are in need of being fed.
But, while people who don’t know Jesus are perpetually spiritually hungry, Christians who don’t take time to feed on God’s Word and hear His voice may also be spiritually starving. And, while physical hanger may not be very pleasant, spiritual hanger has consequences that are much more eternal.
In some ways a Christian who is spiritually starving has a much more serious problem than the person who has never heard the good news of Jesus. A spiritually hungry Christian is akin to the person who is withering away for lack of food while sitting at a table filled with the finest of delicacies. This is a heartbreaking way to live life. Admitting that we are starving isn’t always an easy thing to do. But it’s always the best thing to do.
SYMPTOMS OF SPIRITUAL HANGER
While none of us in a room of friends would probably ever admit that we are spiritually hangry, it is important that we address the symptoms of this insidious heart condition—essentially, we are addressing our emotional health.
The following list outlines some of the more common symptoms of spiritual hanger:
- We check our social media feeds more than we check in with Jesus.
- We tie our self-worth to others’ actions.
- Love, joy and peace seem like difficult fruit of the Spirit to authentically display.
- We isolate ourselves from other people because we have been hurt or disappointed.
- We are often angry at the world and its inhabitants for the moral degradation of the world.
When symptoms occur in our bodies and threaten our health, they are signs that we must take action—quickly. When we don’t, our situation can lead to a journey with far more serious complications. This is the same, whether we are dealing with a physical issue or a spiritual one.
Taking our cues from the physical world, the best way to cure hanger is to eat. Just talking about eating will not cure me. I can talk about food all I want. I can even walk the aisles of my favourite grocery store and make the most healthy selections, but until I go home and get some proper nourishment into my stomach, it won’t do any good—in fact, it may only make my symptoms worse.
Similarly, in the spiritual realm, it is imperative that I feed my soul. I am responsible for not only the physical food I ingest, but also for the spiritual nourishment I give myself. Ingesting the Bible, communion with the Father, and community with other believers are all ways that we can cure our spiritual hanger issues.
It is sad that somehow, when it comes to our souls, we think we can get away with just pretending that we are attending to the disciplines that matter. In the physical world, it would become very apparent if we didn’t eat for a prolonged amount of time. Not only would we become hangry, but it would lead to weakness, disease, and eventually death. This holds true in the spiritual world as well. When we don’t regularly engage with our Creator, it doesn’t take long for people to notice that we have been missing the thing that feeds our souls. After all, Scripture refers to Christ as the “bread of life” (John 6:35,48). And, if we are not careful, our lack of attention can lead to spiritual weakness and even spiritual death. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
OUR WELL-BEING MATTERS TO OTHERS
We live in a nation where there are spiritually starved people all around us. We work with them and go to school with them. We may even live with them. They watch us, listen to us, and may even try to feed off us spiritually at times. As Christians we must remember that those around us are looking for people whose internal life has been touched by the God we serve. As we go about our daily lives, it would serve us well to listen to the hunger pangs of our souls and make sure that we are feeding ourselves throughout the course of every day—because we must. The spiritual state of a nation depends on the spiritual strength and well-being of its Christ followers.
Decide today, right now, to make a change in your spiritual well-being. Challenge yourself with the statistics revealed in Canada earlier this year from the Canadian Bible Engagement Study. Visit www.BibleEngagementStudy.ca. Determine today to ingest the Word daily. I can assure you that it will feed your soul.
Jessica DiSabatino is the ministry development specialist for the Mission Canada department of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, which networks with districts and leaders across Canada to strengthen discipleship. For more on Mission Canada, visit www.paoc.org/canada.