I often ask myself this question when I start to find my mind and heart wondering away from God. “How hungry am I for God?” We can’t change the fact that we live in an ever increasingly fast paced world. Our enemy the devil has devised every possible way to get our hearts and minds to be focused on anything but God. However, in the midst of these distractions, what ultimately helps us keep focused on God, while empowering us with the ability to filter out all the other noise, is our hunger for Him.
The normal state of every follower of Jesus, is to be thirsty and hungry for God. Being created in His image, we all have a natural appetite for God built into us. In a world filled with so many different ‘flavours’, our appetite for God may typically be dulled. This appetite can be awakened! The Psalmist in Psalm 42 really captured the kind of hunger we ought to have in verses 1 and 2: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (NKJV).”
What a beautiful description of the kind of longing and hunger we ought to have for God! Perhaps for many of us, this was the kind of hunger which came naturally when we first gave our life to Christ. I know it was like that for me. The early years as a believer are what one could call the ‘honeymoon years’. I was truly hungry for God. Much of my time was spent seeking Him through personal time of worship and prayer. I could spend hours at a time just worshiping and praying, not realising how much time had passed.
While the state of my passionate pursuit of God should have remained that way, sadly it didn’t. Over the next decade, the pressures of the corporate world, and the responsibilities of marriage and kids had zapped my focus away from my pursuit of God. My eyes had turned groundward instead of heavenward. I was constantly assessing my situation, instead of focusing on Jesus. I found myself no longer hungry for God, because I was feeding on my discontent, fear and anxiety.
I would consider these to have been my years in the wilderness. There are times when God chooses to take us through these difficult and dry periods to help us realise how empty we become without Him. The truth is, God has a banquet prepared for us – a feast of His presence! But as long as we are satisfied with something else, it would be impossible to have an appetite for what God has prepared for us.
In my case, being someone who was driven by achievements, God had to show me that without a desperation for Him, it would be impossible for me to remain hungry for God. Yes there would be moments where I may have ‘found my way back’ to His table, but it never lasted long. There came a point when I felt so hypocritical that I even stopped going to church for a period of time.
This desperation can only come when we first realise that only God can satisfy us. No matter what other things we choose to pursue or substitute Him with, it can only bring passing pleasure. This is why in (1 John 2:15-17) the Bible tells us… “Do not love the world or the things in the world…For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever”
I like the way Pastor John Piper in his book “A Hunger for God” put it when he described the reason we struggle to have this kind of desperation for God – “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
It wasn’t until I realised the only way I was going to awaken my hunger and desperation for God, was by substituting every pursuit of mine with a crazy pursuit of God – did I start experiencing breakthroughs. This however certainly didn’t come easily. It can be likened to Jacob’s account of wrestling with God (Gen 32:22-32). Jacob refused to let go until the Lord blessed Him. Similarly I told the Lord that I would not let go until something changed in me! Until a new hunger and desperation formed, leaving me passionately in love with Jesus!
The first couple of weeks was a struggle. I recall days when I just didn’t feel like engaging with the Lord, but I persisted. I continued crying out to God saying “Lord I know there is so much more than this. I want more of you in my life. Would you please show yourself to me and touch me”. Every night for weeks I spent hours simply crying out to the Lord for a fresh touch, simply worshiping and waiting upon Him.
A few weeks into my ‘wrestling’ with God, I received my first breakthrough. As I was worshiping and crying out to Him, there was a sudden strong sense of His love and glory that just came over me and I found myself sobbing. I knew at that point something had happened. In the weeks and months to come, my appetite and hunger for the Lord seemed to have been heightened. My sense of His presence with me was ever so real.
It was at that point the reality of the verse in Heb 11:6 which says “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” hit home. Our God is someone who longs to be sought after and promises that if we seek Him with all our heart and soul, we will find Him (Deut 4:29)!
My walk with Jesus has never been the same since! I’m not saying that everything in life has been smooth sailing. I’m not saying that I don’t ever find myself distracted or starting to wander away.
Here’s what really happens – When we start recognising our utter dependence and need for God and begin to desire Him, our yearning motivates us to continue pursuing Him regardless of distractions or curve balls the devil may throw at us. As we then get to know Him and experience His presence on a greater degree, our desire is satisfied as God fills us, albeit momentarily – because the more we come to know Him, the more fascinated we are, and the hungrier we become in our pursuit of God!
It is my prayer that as you read this sharing from my heart, may it stir up a deep desire and longing deep within your souls to start seeking God like never before! As we get to know our God better, as we start to see and experience His goodness, more of His amazing love and grace, His beauty and perfection and holiness, may we too reach a point like Paul and echo his words in Phil 3:8 “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ”.