The 10PM Hunger
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. Matthew 4:1-2
For the most part, I start out my days with good intentions and good behavior. I exercise early and I eat well through most of the day. Something in my brain changes though as evening approaches. I may remain strong against the temptation of junk food at 10AM, but at 10PM, my self-control falls apart, and I often find myself rummaging through the cupboards for something with sugar and chocolate in it. The next morning, I’m annoyed at myself and resolve to do better. Then, as the evening approaches, my discipline once again crumbles as I repeat my failure.
Most of us can identify with some similar stressors that wear down our willpower to resist temptation. AA refers to our most common triggers as HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired – referring to those feelings and emotions that make us vulnerable to temptation. We all struggle with something and we all have triggers which make us more likely to surrender to those struggles.
When we’re tired, our self-control wanes. When we’re starving, we’re more likely to eat poorly. When we’re angry, we often lash out, saying hurtful things we don’t mean. Like Jesus, in today’s passage, our worst temptation comes when we are the hungriest.
What can we do against such attacks on our sobriety and self-control? First, we must recognize the threats and do what we can to avoid them. With food, we must work at eating healthy meals and avoiding starvation. In our anger, we need to choose how we respond, refusing to live enslaved to our emotions. We must care for ourselves, doing what we can to get enough sleep, avoiding over-tired and over-stressed. In short, we must learn how to abandon our old way of doing things.
Second, as we abandon the old, we must pursue God. We engaged in those old behaviors in a search for satisfaction. We cannot now just leave that void empty. In pursuing Christ, we will find him, receiving the only adequate answer for our deepest life needs . . . without the painful consequences of our self-destructive appetites. In finding God, we can know the true joy and life that we were looking for in the first place.