Hunger for God: Spiritual Appetite of the Soul

Hunger for God

And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents … And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage

… And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. [Genesis 25:27-34].

The hunger of Esau illustrates the power of appetites and the consequences of unrestrained urges. A man of the field who manifested a disposition for the material world, Esau is contrasted with Jacob, his bother, a man of uncanny intellect with a penchant for connivance. Esau arrives from the field so ravaged by hunger that he is willing to trade his birthright for a bowl of porridge.

This is not just excessive appetite or overeating. It is unrestrained gluttony produced by total immersion in material pursuits. It is the  insatiable hunger aroused by the absence of the Divine, a hunger that takes control of the soul and makes it act recklessly when God is forgotten.

Only contemplating a Divine Reality can restrain it. Only the mercy of God can conquer it.

So if a man live in any way of lasciviousness, the more his impure lust prevails, the more sweet and pleasant will it make the sin appear, and so the more will he be disposed and prejudiced to think there is no evil in it. [Jonathan Edwards].

Power of Appetites

The prevalent appetite in today’s society lacks a spiritual foundation. Whether an athlete or an executive, a scholar or a politician, the physical passions evoked by their fields of endeavor are so overwhelming that the spiritual aspects of existence are often ignored or forgotten.

… the truest solitude is not something outside you, not an absence of men or of sound around you; it is an abyss opening up in the center of your own soul. And this abyss of interior solitude is a hunger that will never be satisfied with any created thing. [Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 80-1].

Our every effort is focused on worldly accomplishments and satisfying material desires. We pay slight attention to the benefits of spiritual advancement, and find little value in the promise of a higher consciousness or an eternal life.

The Love of the soul is for Life and the Living One,
Because its origin is the Soul not bound to place.
The Love of the soul is for wisdom and knowledge,
That of the body for houses, gardens, and vineyards;
The love of the soul is for things exalted on high,
That of the body for acquisition of goods and food.
The Love, too, of Him on high is directed to the soul:
Know this, for “He loves them that love Him.”  [Rumi, Masnavi].

Subconscious Hunger

Despite all our efforts to perfect our diet, a subconscious hunger persists — so long as we remain hungry consumers craving the wrong things. When we continually ignore the spiritual aspects of nutrition, our diet is incomplete.

But in the glorious presence of God, not any one can be pampered with too much, nor any one be pined with too little … They that are once possessed of that presence of God, are so possessed with it that they can never feel the misery of thirst or hunger. [Edward Willan].

How then does someone feed the spirit? As we dedicate ourselves to maximizing productivity in secular occupations, so also must we strive for the highest level of spiritual awareness.

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: Within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities … They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied until they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water. [A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Preface].

The focus of our weight loss and stress reduction should be based on how we think, not on what we eat. Our attention to nutrition should be coupled with concern for the spiritual value of our life.

Suffering is increasing in the world today. People are hungry for something more beautiful, for something greater than people round about can give. There is a great hunger for God in the world today. [Mother Teresa].

What comes out of our mouth should be scrutinized as much as what we put into it. When we strive for spiritual and physical nutrition, then true satisfaction is within reach.

Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of God: for without doubt, in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction. For those who believe and work righteousness, is blessedness, and a beautiful place of return. [Quran 13:28-29].

Spiritual Diet

Clearly, there is a spiritual aspect to nutrition. When physical existence offers no satisfaction, we come to realize that we hunger for something deeper.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. [Psalm 42:1].

Spiritual exercises become vital when we are inundated by worldly pursuits and besieged by secular temptations. These negative conditions blind the mind, depriving it of divine awareness and contemplation.

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. [Psalm 84:2].

To strengthen our spirit for such struggles, we must engage in regular meditations, prayers, and other practices that help us remember God often. Fasting and time dedicated to devotional activities help to restrict excessive indulgence in worldly pastimes.

Fasting asserts the will against the appetite – the reward being self mastery and the danger pride: involuntary hunger subjects appetites and will together to the Divine will, furnishing an occasion for submission and exposing us to the danger of rebellion. [ C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain].

Not everyone responds in the same way to straying away from their faith and its obligations. However, many who stray find the disruption to their metabolic process quite disturbing. A subconscious imbalance persists that leads to psychological and physiology difficulties not easily remedied.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. [Matthew 5:6].

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