Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Spiritual Famine

"Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land." (Gen 12:10)
What do we do when we are hungry? We go eat food. What do we do when we are so hungry that the land we live in does not have any food that we need? We go in search of food, even if it means leaving familiar territory. What can force a person to go beyond familiar grounds? The Scriptures record the famine as very severe. It is a grim situation that demands serious planning and action.

At certain times of our lives, we too experience spiritual hunger and famine. Sometimes, when we are in such a state, even our regular spiritual 'gas stations' (like Sunday services, own Bible reading, prayer etc) are not able to fill our ravenous tank. We may surround ourselves up with sermons but remain unfulfilled. We may inject additives such as Christian books or self-help spiritual programs, but temporary measures do not last. Some people complain about the lack of feeding by the organization's shepherds and leaders. Others lament that whatever spiritual food dished out does not even whet one's appetite. The end result can be depressing. No solid food each week. Unappetizing and too plain for any enjoyment. So some people leave for supposedly 'greener' pastures. Before we come to any quick conclusions about the nature of one's spiritual hunger, it is good to ponder upon the following questions.
  1. What has changed? Our usual provider of food, or our changing appetites?
  2. Is our spiritual condition triggered by any single event?
  3. What if our current 'spiritual hunger' is in itself a gift?
This week, I like to focus on the last point. I want to suggest that spiritual hunger can be a gift from God. I remember those times when a lack of appetite is a precursor to an impending physical illness. Whether it is influenza, stomach flu or all kinds emotional conditions such as depression, a loss of desire to eat is an early warning sign that one is about to fall ill. When my kids feel hungry, I am actually glad as it tells me that they are in a state of healthy growth. Growing children eat a lot. I've got three kids, so I know firsthand. Indeed, to feel hungry is one of the best gifts in life. It is not a time to complain about whether the church is able to deliver enough food that is catered to our tastes. Neither is it appropriate for us to compare which church or spiritual entities are best able to churn out the right food for us. The latter is appropriate especially when it not the Church but us who have changed. In all these things, to be thankful remains one of the chief ways to maintain a godly attitude towards God, neighbour and self. Let me conclude with the following.
  • When we feel our clothes getting tighter around us, for it means we have been eating well;
  • When we are able to complain, be thankful for it means we have freedom of speech;
  • When we wake up in the morning, be thankful that we have the gift of sleep;
  • When we come back seeing our children watching TV or playing computer games, be thankful that they are not loitering about on the streets;
  • When we experience disappointment in worldly life, be thankful because it reminds us our hope is not of this world;
  • When we pay taxes, be thankful because it means we have a job.
  • When we experience spiritual hunger, be thankful for it is a means to desire more of God.
Finally, be thankful that in the midst of all our struggles and through our spiritual ups and downs, it could be a way that God uses to seek us instead of us seeking him. Remember that God is constantly drawing his children toward him, if we let him. What do we hunger for? If we hunger for God's righteousness, the promise of God is clear. We shall be filled.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matt 5:6)


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