We spend a lot of time in our lives seeking our path. Whether we sense or know there is a plan or a purpose for us, or we flounder and drift uncertain, we seek. That inner cry for fulfillment hits us all—sometimes really hard, and sometimes really often.
When we’re young, we think we have all the answers, but the older we get, the more we realize we don’t. We grasp that we don’t even know all the questions and that, when we settle into old age, we still won’t. We grasp that more happens in our spiritual lives and to us on subliminal levels than occurs in them physically and emotionally combined. And the older we get, the more we realize that those spiritual things most matter because they impact us for a much longer period of time. It’s the difference in a lifetime and eternity. The physical grabs our immediate attention because it is just that: immediate and easily recognized.
If we’re hungry, we feel it. And the hungrier we are, the more demanding our bodies become for food. We feel pangs. Then our stomachs growl and, if food isn’t ingested, the hunger pains grow stronger and stronger until we eat.
Spiritual hunger is more subtle but travels the same kind of path. It can be as faint as a whisper, a longing sigh. As we become more aware of it, it can grow from a fleeting thought or a heart prick to a deep desire or steady craving. Spiritual hunger can grow as intense as a relentless yearning that resides so deep inside us we can’t tell where it starts or stops, only that there isn’t a cell in our bodies that is unaware of it, and we know the same way that we know the sun will rise each morning that the yearning will continue to yawn and stretch and grow. It won’t be satisfied until we’re fulfilled and content.
That’s when most of us realize we aren’t beginning our spiritual journey, we’ve been on it for a long time. But unlike before, the hunger is no longer subtle. Now we feel it, recognize it. We know what it is we’re seeking. We might not name it as spiritual hunger. More often than not, we address it as wanting our lives to have meaning. Wanting to do something, to be something. Our legacy…
Then comes the inevitable what. What do we want? What will give our lives meaning? What is it specifically that we need to do or to become to find the inner peace we’re seeking? What will it take for us to be content?
It’s rare for a person to know exactly what that something is, though it does happen. Now and then, we’ll meet someone who says, I’ve always wanted to do x or to be y. Most of us haven’t had that certainty. We’ve wanted to do or be many things, and we eventually find something that stirs us enough to stick with it and then we do that thing or embrace and become whatever it is that fuels that desire or interest in us.
We think that finally we’ve found our feet, our place in the world, and we settle into our niche. And for a time, we might be content. But the day inevitably comes when we feel a stirring. We need—not want, need—more. What more? Often we can’t answer that. But we know that something is missing. Something just isn’t doing it for us. We should be happy, content, joyful. We should love our lives, and yet…
Maybe we like our life—at least, most of the time. And we think that, for real life, most of the time is pretty good. Everyone we’ve ever known has ups and downs, and if we have more ups than downs, that’s success, isn’t it? A live being well-lived?
We wonder, work at convincing ourselves, and yet that nag of a stirring persists, keeps us aware that deep inside in a place we can’t point to, there’s an empty space. A tiny hollow. Oh, it’s just a little thing. We need to just not think about it. We ignore it, shove it away, or try nine hundred physical things to cure ourselves of it. We’re determined to be happy. Content. Fulfilled.
But the empty space stretches, yawns, and grows, and with little fanfare or even much notice, the tiny hollow morphs into a honeycomb with tons of hollows. We ask ourselves, won’t I ever figure out why I feel this way? Won’t I ever be at peace with myself?
We were warned that we would always face trials—they’re a natural occurrence and part of life. And a wise Apostle warned us to learn to be content wherever we are. That raises questions, doesn’t it? If we’re feeling all this inner turmoil—niggle to nag—how can we be content?
Well, maybe the answer is in why we’re spiritually hungry. Why we feel it, I mean.
Maybe spiritual hunger is to remind us (and to keep reminding us) that we have needs that go far beyond the physical, and those spiritual needs can’t be ignored any more so than physical ones can be ignored and us sustain life. There’s a huge difference between living and really living, and we know it. In one, we exist. In the other, we live life abundantly.
An abundant life doesn’t exist without inner peace. And to grow into inner peace—I do believe it’s a process of many steps, not a single step—we must satisfy our spiritual hunger.
How do we do that?
By mirroring what happens in the physical world. When hungry, we eat. When thirsty we drink. We nourish the physical body. So to satisfy spiritual hunger, we eat and drink spiritual food and water.
When that parallel becomes evident, we have an open door. Feed your soul and you’ll find your purpose. Seek your path and you’ll find it.
Whether you’ll take a direct flight or the scenic route depends on what you have and what’ll you need to fulfill your purpose.
We often consider pit stops or diversions unwanted irritants, but they are the means by which we gather the tools and knowledge and abilities—the wisdom—that we’re going to need to fulfill our purpose. We should embrace them instead.
That’s admittedly hard to do at times, but all that’s really required is a perspective shift.
We are not being interrupted. We are being instructed.
We are not being delayed. We’re gathering fuel that will propel us further faster. (You can’t drive a racecar if you haven’t yet learned to ride a bike, right?)
We are not being oppressed. We’re being prepared for progress.
And maybe spiritual hunger is God’s way of reminding us He’s waiting. Ready, willing and able to guide and direct, to instruct and assist. We feel spiritual hunger over and again throughout our lives because, as we grow in knowledge, ability, wisdom and our capabilities increase, we’re able to serve bigger purposes. All are significant. All are worthy. All are essential. Some just require more knowledge, more skills, and more insights than others.
Maybe seeds of discontent that intrude aren’t intended to rattle us or to make us discontent. They’re to signal us to the awakening of new beginnings. New seasons. New opportunities to gather what we need to be truly content.
And when we reflect, we see the spiritual-hunger harbinger might be an uncomfortable harbinger cueing us, but it is also a beacon summoning us nearer to fulfillment, if we’re wise enough to heed the call and embrace the journey.
That Apostle’s intent becomes clear, looking at His “be content wherever you are” from that perspective, and the wisdom of His message spans space, time and distance to aid us now. We should be content wherever we are. It’s all a part of our purpose journey…