We Need Our Hunger
When you fast . . . Matthew 6:17
I don’t like fasting. I’m always hungry anyway, and when I skip a meal, I’m more than doubly hungry. Because this passage was coming up today though, I did try to fast yesterday, making it until only about mid-afternoon before I fell apart. During that brief fast I used my hunger to remind me to pray. Whenever the urge to eat came up, I turned to God. I prayed a lot.
I was reminded that just as I must consume food daily to sustain my physical life, I must daily fill myself with God to sustain my spiritual life. The problem, is that I almost always naturally have an appetite for food. This is not true with my spiritual life. In my addiction, I’ve gone years starving my spirit.
There are those who lose their physical appetite for food. Some, with chronic illnesses or those on chemotherapy, lose their hunger for long periods of time. With no stimulus to eat, they quickly lose weight, muscle, and strength. If left in this state long enough, they would waste away. As it turns out, we need our hunger. Without it, we’d wither and fade.
The same is true for our spiritual existence. The Christian life as Christ described it, is one of daily abandoning our way to follow his. Daily, we are to be so hungry for God, that we will do whatever it takes to pursue him. The problem for most of us, is that our natural appetite for our own way is much stronger than our spiritual appetite. So, we live for ourselves most of the week and then go to church on Sunday, giving an hour to God. We starve our spiritual life and then wonder why God feels so distant.
I’ve begun to daily ask God to give me a hunger for him. Fasting is one way in which I can spark that hunger and make me recognize my spiritual need. Jesus, in today’s passage, said when you fast, not if you fast. It was just assumed by Christ, that those who claimed to follow God would participate in behavior that helped focus their lives on him. This is of course the purpose of fasting, to make us hungry for God, drawing us nearer to him.