Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. – Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Human beings are notoriously poor at knowing when they’re hungry. Often what we perceive as hunger is actually thirst. Which means we’d often be better off drinking a glass of water instead of eating that entire bag of peanut M&Ms. It takes a surprising amount of practice to know when you’re hungry. And I’d suggest to you that we have the same problem spiritually. We don’t always recognize our own spiritual hunger. Winnie the Pooh knew he was hungry when he felt “rumbly in the tumbly” but how do you know when you’re spiritually hungry?

Here are a few of the signs:

  • Restlessness…feeling a lack of contentment.
  • Emptiness…feeling as if you’re missing something on the inside
  • Purposelessness…feeling as if life has lost its meaning
  • Hopelessness…feeling as though things could never get better

Physical hunger is your body crying out for what it needs: protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber. And spiritual hunger is your soul crying out for what it needs: connection. Connection with God our creator. God made us to long for connection with him, and feelings such as restlessness, emptiness and joylessness are often manifestations of that longing.

So how do we develop the habit of feeding our soul what it needs? Let me suggest three foundational habits for spiritual health.

First, limit your junk food. There’s nothing wrong with  cookies, but if you eat a whole bag of Oreos you’ll dull your natural hunger for the good things that will nourish your body. In the same way, there’s nothing wrong with shopping, or a glass of wine. There’s nothing wrong with watching a few episodes of Stranger Things or downing a Caribou Depth Charge before work. But don’t allow those things to dull your natural hunger for connection with God. And if you really want to get serious about your spiritual health, try fasting from those things for a while. See what thoughts and feelings arise in you. I guarantee you’ll get in touch with your spiritual hunger in a whole new way!

Second, eat more “soul food”. We all know that “milk does a body good” but do you know what does your soul good? Do you know what nurtures your spirit and feeds your faith? For some people it’s a reflective walk in the woods. For others it’s meditation or a gratitude practice. If you don’t have a devotional habit let me encourage you to download the Our Daily Bread app on your phone and use it. You’ll find it here. Want to develop a morning routine to feed your soul? Check out this blog.

Finally, journal. I encourage you to journal for just a few minutes each day to increase your awareness of your spiritual hunger. Here are three questions you can journal about each day, or discuss with a family member or friend:

  1. When did I sense the signs of hunger today?
  2. Did I eat “junk food” or fast?
  3. How did my “feasting” or “fasting” make me feel?

The whole point of this exercise is to grow in awareness. The more aware you become of your spiritual hunger, the more opportunity you have to say “no” to junk food, and “yes” to what really nourishes the soul.

Faith can be more than a concept that lives between our ears. It can be a real experience of God’s presence in daily life. Becoming aware of your spiritual hunger and feeding your soul what it needs is the pathway.

What nourishes your soul?

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Ken Walter

    Thank you for this most inspiring and convicting message. Much of who I am and who I want to be and who God created me to be brought home in these words.