Our souls cannot survive without the nourishment the Lord provides. There is no other bread and no other water that can sustain us through the fall- nothing but the body and blood of Jesus. I love that Jesus uses our sense of hunger and thirst to help this truth hit home.
When it comes to Christian living, it seems to me that there are three kinds of people: those who are constantly hungry but never satisfied, those who are full but never hungry, and those who are regularly hungry and then fully satisfied.
In the natural world, everyone recognizes the pain of hunger and dehydration and goes and eats and drinks until they’re satisfied. No one feels a hunger pang and walks around for days in agony wondering “what is this pain I feel?” It’s instinctive: we were designed with the need for daily filling. And yet, as much as we understand this in the natural world- the world that we can see, taste, smell, touch, and feel- we have this internal dysfunction that has somehow deceived us into believing that the pain we feel in our souls, the hole we sense is empty inside, is somehow unrelated to our lack of spiritual nourishment. We go days, weeks, even months and years without seeking the Lord’s filling and then we wonder why we are keeled over in pain from depression, anxiety, doubt, bitterness and pride. And the deeper our hurt runs, the more we bite the hand that feeds, so to speak; we blame the Lord for not strengthening us or coming to our rescue, too blind beneath our shroud of guilt to recognize that the Lord has prepared daily provisions for us but we simply haven’t been responsible enough to come to the table. This is the person who is constantly hungry but never satisfied.
The second kind of person is the one who is always full but never hungry. This person digests meals as part of their daily ritual; like a machine on auto-pilot, they don’t really crave the food, they simply do what they need to do to survive. Godly men and women reach a place when they’re calloused to the ritual filling of the Lord. They eat a lot, but they’re never hungry; they attend to the business of faith but never crave after the Lord. These people are fat and happy Christians and have forgotten what it’s like to passionately hunger after anything- especially the Lord.
How often do I go starving simply because I was too lazy to get up and gather my daily bread? How often do I just “get by” going to church, reading the Bible for 20 minutes a day, and performing my rituals of faith? I've been all three of those people at different times in my life, but most often I think I'm like the person who eats just enough veggies to feel less guilty about the volume of junk food I've ingested. I'm doing just enough good to disguise my bad.
The third kind of person is the one who is hungry every day and eats at the proper time. They experience both the agony of hunger pangs and the joy of being satisfied- every day. St. Augustine wrote, “There is no pleasure in eating and drinking unless they are preceded by the unpleasant sensation of hunger and thirst.” In the desert, the Israelites were instructed to gather manna from the fields where God rained it down on the earth like dew on the grass every morning. They weren’t allowed to store up a supply of bread; gathering manna every other weekend was simply not an option. They woke up in the morning and gathered their bread for the day, or they starved.
I want to do more than just get by.
I want to be hungry again and again and again so that I can be satisfied in Him again and again and again. But it isn’t my hard work or my determination or my spiritual standards that make me hungry. Rather, the God who created my stomach to growl three times a day, who formed my spirit with a “God-shaped hole” so that nothing else will satisfy but Him, and the giver of my daily bread is also the One who gives me the hunger for that provision. So I must call out to Him daily: “Lord, make me hungry for more of You.” To my mind, there isn't a more God-honoring prayer than that. “Lord, I’m just ‘getting by’ again, please make me thirsty for You so that you can once again be my deepest satisfaction.”