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“So they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.” Psalm 78:29
Sometimes we have everything we need and yet, we are still hungry. See if this situation sounds familiar to you. You’ve come home from grocery shopping. You bought enough food for you and your family to last at least two weeks. After you finish putting everything away in the fridge you realize that you want to eat a little something. You open the refrigerator, look through all the shelves and decide, wait for it, there’s nothing to eat.
Or have you had this experience. You have no plans for the day. You have nothing to do. No one is around. You are bored. Then you find yourself staring in the cupboards wanting something, anything, and nothing is appealing.
Wanting, unrelated to needing, must be one of the most challenging situations any human can face. We are not sure what we want, why we want it, where to get it, even if we need it. We go to the mall, we shop on line, we peruse websites because we want, something.
If you are spending time watching television, perusing social media or playing free apps on your phone. Note that there are entire industries with hefty marketing budgets all waiting for you. The ads are designed to convince you that you must want, need, must have, this thing that you did not even know existed 30 minutes before you saw their ad. All this wanting, something is fed by our society and it is designed to feed our dissatisfaction amp up our wanting until we can no longer recognize real need.
The Israelites struggled with wanting, we struggle with wanting, our children, and I daresay our grandchildren will struggle with wanting, that unknown something. Here’s the thing. Many of us have come to understand that this wanting is spiritual hunger in disguise. Our souls need spiritual nourishment. So, what are we to do?
Today’s lessons provide us with a recipe for addressing this wanting. We learn what we need to feed our souls. In the Old Testament lesson the Israelites are complaining. Instead of celebrating their freedom, they complain bitterly because when they were enslaved they knew they would be fed every day. It might not be much, however even one meal meant they could count on something being provided. There was a certainty to life on which they could depend. Now they are in the wilderness roaming around and nothing is certain. They are not sure from day to day if they will eat or how much. Fear has taken hold of them and they are complaining because they are afraid, afraid they will be hungry. They want certainty and their leader tells them instead to trust in God. They are promised that each day they will receive what they need. they will have enough. This is how to feed one’s soul. Stay in today. Believe that God will provide. Trust in the knowledge that we will be cared for and receive what we need when we need it. We may want certainty however, God knows that faith in God is what we truly crave.
The Psalm gives us the next part of the recipe for dealing with spiritual hunger. Whatever God provides for us will be enough, exactly enough, to meet the day’s needs. Our spirits will be satisfied once we understand that God knows what we desire in our hearts, and whatever we are given will be enough. Now I do not think that it means that God will always give us what we ask for or give us what we demand. The psalm seems to be saying that God understands the longing in our souls and knows how to best meet that need.
The epistle, suggests that spiritual hunger, can be fed by helping one another. Be of service. Work to advance the kingdom of God. Use the gifts God has given to us to do the work that God calls us to do, in the way God wants it done. The letter suggests that we should grow up and contribute to the greater good. Mindless wanting might be okay when we are children however, it is not helpful if we want to grow in Christ. When we serve one another, we benefit as well because service provides meaning for our lives. We are doing our part to enhance God’s creation.
Finally, the Gospel pulls it all together. When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and who believes in me will never be thirsty.” He asks us to focus on what he is offering to us. If spiritual hunger, wanting, is causing us to search for something, then Jesus is what we need. If we want to know how to live a life that is meaningful? Jesus is our guide. His was a life of service, he lived simply and in community. He traveled light. Jesus was not weighted down by material things. He took time to commune with God. He lived a day at a time and practiced self-care. Uncertain about the future? We can ask Jesus to help us to stay focused on what is important and help us to set priorities and prayerfully plan. If we are afraid that our needs will not be met? We turn to Jesus and remember that no one who ever encountered him left without being healed or made whole.
Honestly, for some of us, this last piece can be quite a challenge. We want to trust, we want to believe, we halfheartedly say, “the Lord will provide.” However, like the Israelites, there might be a part of us that says, “Yes, the Lord will provide however just in case God is busy, I will have a little stash.” I will save some manna for tomorrow just in case. We want certainty. We want to know that while we may not have much, we will have something. It’s okay. Jesus knows we are works in progress. Jesus knows we are often preoccupied with physical needs when we really ought to think about spiritual sustenance. When Jesus invites us to put our faith in him, he is inviting us to satisfy our hungry hearts and slake our thirsty souls, forever. He will wait for us. And when we accept his invitation, our wanting will cease. We will have enough. We will feed on him and as the song says, “he will raise us up, he will raise us up, he will raise us up on the last day. (Song – I am the Bread of Life). With that in mind we can be truly grateful, and gratitude can cure our spiritual hunger.