Cultivating my hunger for God
By Lilien Pahl, Pastor Equippers Flensburg
How are you starting this new year? – A new year with new resolutions, desires, and new goals?
I am someone who likes to realign, look back and set new goals at the beginning of a year.
Some say it’s nonsense because nothing actually changes with a new year.
I like it anyway. It’s powerful to look at your habits, pause, take a breath, recharge your batteries, and actively shape your life – because if I don’t, I often feel more like a spectator to my own life, which as a mother of three, pastor, and wife, between doing household chores and preparing sermons, can sometimes take on fast-paced dynamics.
So at the beginning of each year, I take time to seek God and set personal goals for the new year. In addition to perhaps common themes like “I want to exercise more” and “I want to eat better,” one particular theme is moving me at the moment.
A few months ago, I sat in a lecture where the phrase was uttered, “Jesus never responded to people who weren’t hungry.” I was moved by that sentence.
Am I hungry for Jesus? Am I hungry for His presence – to know Him better? Am I hungry for His Word and His life-changing power in my life?
I have honestly asked myself this question and looked around at my surroundings and noticed how “full” we all often are.
Our refrigerators are usually filled to the brim, our cell phones are next to our beds, ready to entertain us at any time. On Netflix alone, we could choose between 2,000 series and almost 4,000 movies last year, and everywhere we are bombarded with news that has been and still is quite challenging, especially in recent years.
We fill ourselves with stuff all day long – consciously or unconsciously. Some things are good and “nourish” us, some things are rather described as “junk food”. We are full, but not actually satiated. Then we lack good nutrients that we need for our immune system to function well and for us to have enough strength to cope with our everyday life.
This applies to our physical body, but also in a figurative sense to our mental and spiritual condition.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger again. Whoever believes in me will never thirst again.” (John 6:35) Jesus invites us to come to him with our hunger.
Hunger, however, is a negative feeling for most of us. When our body feels hungry, we actually want to satisfy it immediately.
Hunger is a term that has very different meanings. For example, hunger refers to a fierce, passionate desire for something. It is a desire to eat something specific (also called appetite), or it is perceived as a feeling in the stomach area caused by the need for food – we then have a desire to eat something or take something in.
We can experience “hunger” on three different levels. There is physical hunger, which is a desire for food. However, since we are made up of body, mind, and soul, these levels can also experience “hunger.” For example, our soul craves closeness, security and connection. Our spiritual being longs for connectedness with our Creator, our Father in Heaven.
Sometimes, however, we get so busy that we don’t even really notice the different needs of these levels. It’s almost as if we pour everything into a pot, stir it around a few times – and out comes a porridge of hunger that we numb and satiate with completely different things.
I have resolved to become more aware of my “hunger needs” and to feel inside myself what my mind, soul and body are really longing for.
The beauty is that we cannot be hungry for things that do not exist.
God wants to meet us. God wants to satisfy our hunger. He wants to be close to us and fill us with all the good He has in store for you and for me, that “He may satisfy the thirsty soul and fill the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
But perhaps you are asking yourself why we as Christians should be “hungry” for God in the first place?
Proverbs 12:28 says, “The way of the godly leads to life, but the way of the wicked leads to death.”
Living in union with your Creator will make you come alive and flourish.
We often hear the saying that we have a void in our heart that has the “shape of God” – that is, where only He fits in, nothing else.
I personally believe that this is so. I believe we have a void within us that only He can fill, that only He can satiate, that is only satisfied when He comes and takes His place within us. And not only when we say a prayer of surrender once in our life, but we invite Him into that heart place every day anew.
“Seek the nearness of God, and He will be near to you!” (James 4:8)
When we come to God with a longing and hungry heart, He promises to be near to us. It is an expression of our praise to God not to numb our spiritual hunger with Netflix, distractions, or other things that fill us, but to seek Him.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “but those who wait for the Lord gain new strength. They soar upward like eagles. They run swiftly without tiring. They walk and do not grow weary.” This happens, for example, when we run to the right source with our hunger and are also willing to wait for Him.
How can you and I cultivate our hunger for God in a very practical way in this new year!?
A first step can be to become aware of what we are actually hungering and thirsting for. Is it a physical hunger that we should perhaps meet with a little healthier food than we have been eating? Is my soul perhaps longing for friendship and connection?
…and then we should realize that we still have this other hunger that can only be satisfied with God.
All this is, in my opinion, a very wonderful journey to find again closer to God and also to oneself.
Perhaps you might join me in saying the following prayer:
“God, I need You in my life. I want to know You! Take the place in my heart that belongs to You. Teach me Your ways. Forgive me for so often seeking satiation and fulfillment in other places. I bring to You today my longing for You and Your presence in my life. Meet Thou with me!”
Lilien Pahl is a pastor and leads EQUIPPERS Church in Flensburg with her husband Simon. Together they have three wonderful daughters and a big heart for vibrant churches in the north.