Lately my wife and I have been trying to improve our health. We read somewhere that sometimes when you think you are hungry that you are really just thirsty. So it is best to drink a glass of water or two and wait a while to see if the hunger goes away instead of finding something to snack on. We think our bodies are saying ‘I need food’ but what they are really saying is ‘I am thirsty.’ Now when one of us says that we are hungry the other person will sometimes say ‘maybe you are just thirsty.’
A while ago I realised that I was fairly disengaged spiritually. I decided to build some routines into my life that would help me remain spiritually engaged. I started fasting once a week, just for breakfast and lunch. There is absolutely nothing heroic about my fasting. I only skip breakfast and lunch. Often it doesn’t seem very ‘spiritual’.
But the thing with not eating breakfast and lunch is that eventually I get hungry. Fasting gives me a chance to think about what I am really hungry for. Sure, I am hungry for food, but there are things in life that I desire more than a meal. Fasting helps me to remember this.
When I am not fasting my normal impulse is to immediately satisfy my hunger. If I am hungry for food I eat. If I am hungry to be entertained I watch TV, or trawl through Facebook. The thing is, I’m often still hungry after I have eaten or I am still bored after having my fill of entertainment. There are a lot of things I try to fill my hunger with. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much I consume, I still feel empty. It occurs to me that I have never really stopped to ask what it is that I really crave.
In Ephesians 5, Paul says not to get drunk on wine because it leads to debauchery but instead be filled with Spirit. Wine will never fully satisfy us, it will just get us drunk. It is only the Holy Spirit that can leave us filled, satisfied. Likewise food will never satisfy us fully, we fill our stomachs but they empty again. TV, Facebook, sex, sport, whatever it is that we try to fill our emptiness with will never fully satisfy. Only the Holy Spirit will leave us full.
In Psalm 42 the psalmist wrote these words,
‘As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?’
What if instead of immediately satisfying my desires I stopped to question them? And not just when I am fasting. What if I am not actually hungry? What if what I perceive as hunger is really the deep thirst of my soul to meet with God? What if all my hungers and desires all point to this one great thirst?
Are you hungry? Do you feel empty? Are you searching for something that will satisfy for more than a few passing moments? Maybe you’re really just thirsty.