“Blesses are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Physically, I once struggled with an irrational fear of being hungry, so I stuffed myself with food at any possible moment. I over-ate regularly and almost totally forgot the sensation of actual hunger. It was confused with an anxiety about being hungry, and so I would eat before I was hungry to alleviate the anxiety. I was anxious about lacking something: relationships, discipline, peace, etc. And so I somehow (unknown to myself) denied that reality and I let the lie into my head that I was not lacking in any of those areas, because when I ate chocolate cake, I suddenly felt fine. So, I decided that I was really lacking chocolate cake, instead of all those other things. Eating became a way of deflecting negative emotions and a very short-term fix to any negative scenario. At the same time, as a consequence to letting a lie into my head, eating also became an addiction and thereby took away my own control of how I would handle or how God would handle any hardship in my life. If I had a problem, I would still pray, read the Bible, and seek counsel from others (all good things), but only after stuffing myself with a heavy dose of the closest carbohydrates available. From 1990-1996, I led a fairly healthy life except for the over-eating addiction. It is a socially acceptable thing. I never told anyone that I was compulsive about eating. I didn’t want anyone to know and I was pretty much in denial about it myself. But as time went on, I felt worse and worse about myself, and about the fact that I didn’t have control in this area. I would overcompensate in other areas like working-out daily and eating mostly vegetarian. It became a front and sort of like my own penance to pay for the over-eating. I would wake up every morning with a compulsive anxious feeling that I had to get to the kitchen for my 3 big bowls of cereal. I ate really fast. And then felt awful. But after dealing with the resulting painful stomach cramps, trembling, cold-sweats, and diarrhea, I would get ready for school, and then shove a few cookies into my mouth as I went out the door. Totally irrational.
I even went to the doctor once to try to figure out why I had stomach aches and digestive problems so often. That’s called being seriously out of touch with your instincts. It’s also got some major “denial” and “I think I’m invincible” components to it. And although over-eating can be a very real addiction, people usually giggle and laugh at the thought of it. The reason is because it’s legal and everyone can relate on some level.
During my 7 years of compulsive over-eating, I prayed all the time and asked God to please take away this problem… it’s like Paul said, “Why do I do the things I don’t want to do?” I knew that God had grace for me, but I also knew that I was not being obedient to a basic Biblical principle to treat my body as a temple. And I felt awful inside and out. That’s when guilt set it. And what’s the best way to deal with guilt? At the time, eating really helped me. Ha, ha! I felt kind of like I was having a party every time I ate. But it was a party in a prison… and I wanted out.
When I met Steve (my husband), something began to change in me. Although falling in love can help just about any situation, I knew that something deep was changing in me for the long-term. He didn’t know it, but he was my mentor as I watched the way that he greatly respected food and took care of his temple. He has an appreciation for the earth and loves to garden. He loves being adventurous and eating a large variety of food, and as a bachelor he would even take the time to cook healthy meals and sometimes gourmet meals. He showed me how to cook and listen to my body’s God-given cravings...and I’m not talking about a frantic need for sugar… rather, I had a major protein deficiency and I learned to feed that craving along with many other cravings that I didn’t even know I had because it was all masked with processed foods and sugar. I started to taste foods differently and my body felt at peace for the first time in years. The addiction totally and completely fell off of me (praise God!) and I’ve never experienced the out-of-control compulsion to over-eat again.
I realize now that there’s a lot of beauty and potential in hunger. It’s a time of awakening in my senses to prepare for provision and good things to enter in. Starvation is not ok. But hunger is ok. Hunger lets you know that your body is ready for more of a good thing. Spiritually speaking, this is also true. God’s Word is to my spirit as whole foods are to my body. At our house, my kids and I call whole foods “grow food” or “God food.” One of the best quotes I’ve heard regarding good eating is, “If you want to be alive, eat living food.” The Bible is alive, active, and God-breathed (1 Tim. 3:16). Processed food is heated, ground, powdered, produced in a lab, and preserved for a long stagnant shelf-life. Jesus said that he came so that we could have life and have it to the fullest. This means abiding in (the vine) Him and receiving the fresh water of His Word into our souls daily, then breaking off a piece of my life to give to someone else. But only if it’s fresh. No one wants stale bread. If I learn a deep spiritual truth and never apply it to my life, it becomes something I talk about and process over and over. It’s got a good shelf-life in terms of the truth concept, but it’s not life-giving to anyone else because I decided to preserve it inside me instead of give it away.
Hunger is like a very keen sense of hearing. It is not a point to feel desperate. It is not a point to act quickly. It is not a need that should be satisfied with the closest available food. Those reactions are the result of either addiction or malnutrition. Hunger is a sensation which triggers the simple daily realization that I am a walking vessel that needs to be filled. Fill me Lord! There are so many choices. Some foods make me feel clean, healthy, and energetic; while other foods give me a headache, a stomachache, and a bad mood. Jesus was hungry. I think that is so cool. After he was raised from the dead, he appeared in a room with his disciples, and while the men were standing in awe and amazement, Jesus asks them if they had any fish to eat. That cracks me up. At the beginning of his ministry, he was on a mountain in the midst of a major confrontation with the devil. And he was extremely hungry at the same time. Satan made some suggestions about how Jesus could get himself some food, but for some reason, at that point, there was greater value in the hunger than in a miracle. Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The 40 days of Jesus’s hunger became a stage for a different miracle to take place. The angels came and cared for him. Jesus showed me trust. He showed me patience. He even showed me dependence. This whispers to me…Be still and know that I am God… wait on me… trust me. My ways are not always the most convenient but they are life-giving!