Has it ever bothered you that you have to eat regularly? Would you like to be able to go without for longer – maybe get more done, not be interrupted, not have to think about what to eat and whether it’s good for you?
As much a foodie as I am, as much as I enjoy making good food (and eating it!), I get tired of having to think about it every day. There are days I wish we could go without and not suffer any consequence. It interrupts projects, capsizes moods, and reminds me of my need.
The daily-ness of hunger is humbling. And like all things humbling, once accepted it is a gift, but until then it’s bitter. I am a created being. I must eat. What I put in my body directly affects my well-being and my life.
This goes for the spirit too. What I put in my spirit directly affects my well-being and my life. My spirit has need of spiritual food. In a daily manner, if not more often. I used to feel guilty for needing to read the Bible and pray daily because after a day or two (sometimes less) my attitude would devolve, my focus would dim, and life again looked grim. Goodness, I’d been a Christian for decades, shouldn’t I be able to go longer, using my memory?!
No. I can’t. No matter how long we travel with Jesus, we still need to eat daily. As we mature, we still have to feed our bodies daily, that never changes. It is the same for the soul. So, as a general rule, we need to treat our spirits as we do our bodies by feeding them nourishing food regularly.
But there are times when we must endure a strict diet, or even a lack, in order for God to show his provision and power.
Take Elijah as an example.
1 Kings 18 and 19 records that Elijah had just stood up to the priests of Baal, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in a mighty spiritual battle that became very physical. The Israelites were suffering a devastating drought because they worshiped other gods. Elijah was the only prophet of God left, and he publicly challenged the king, queen, prophets of Baal (450 of them!), and Israelites to a showdown of sorts. They were to offer their sacrifice and call on Baal to ignite it, then he, alone, would do the same to his God.
It grew macabre as the priests stomped and called and cut themselves, hour after hour, but to no avail. Then Elijah additionally poured water all over his altar, bowed, and asked once that God show himself. Fire fell; the people bowed; the rain came; and Elijah ran faster than a chariot.
To carry out this call of God, Elijah had had to deny his body, even in its hungry state, and let the Spirit of God take care of him. In the intensity of the drama he was able to do this, but once alone, he doubted God’s care. It was as if he had faith enough to confront Ahab, to do this ludicrous, dangerous challenge, and to escape with his life, but then he couldn’t see how God would take care of him personally. Sure, God would glorify his name, he would startle the Israelites back to him, but would he take care of one lonely prophet? Death seemed the only option. He told God this, I daresay with anger and tears as he wrestled with his exhaustion, and then fell asleep.
Now, God focuses all his dramatic might into personal, loving care. In tenderness and power, God had an angel bake bread for him, rouse him enough to eat it, then told him to sleep some more. Some of the most treasured moments of a Christian’s life happen when we have followed God into battle in faith, suffered and depleted ourselves, and then receive Jesus’ care in deeply personal ways.
Maybe you are in a mighty faith fight, sure of God’s call and provision for the call, but secretly doubtful that He cares as much for you, the servant, as he does the outcome of this call. You have depleted yourself, given up much personally, and are now come to the end, only to find yourself empty, unsure, and wanting to hide. Take heart, God sees you hiding in your hunger, and he comes now to meet YOU, to feed YOU. Like Elijah, cry your desperation, be honest, then rest. And there, you will meet your God caring for you.