BLESSED ARE THE HUNGRY
Written by Doug Ponder on October 15, 2015
Hungry for More
One of the ways of understanding what’s wrong with the world is to analyze what’s wrong with our desires. We want things we can’t have, so we complain (Phil. 2:14), or we covet (Ex. 20:17) or we argue (Jas. 4:1), or we even hurt others and ourselves (Jas. 4:2).
The problem isn’t that we have desires in the first place (good luck telling yourself not to want things). The problem is that we have a deep desire for God without recognizing that desire for what it is. “God has put eternity into man’s heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11).
When we marry the love of our life, when we land that big promotion or buy that dream home, we find the happiness of these moments slip like sand through our fingers. They don’t deliver the lasting satisfaction that we thought they would. That is because moments like those are only appetizers. They are not the main course. Our souls are hungry for God, and when we fail to recognize this hunger we go on settling for things-other-than-God with their pleasures that fade faster than cotton candy and leave us feeling twice as empty.
A Hunger for God
This soul-hunger is not the problem. When our stomachs growl, it’s because we need food. The real issue isn’t the growling stomach but the empty belly. And the solution is simple: Fill it with food. In the same way, our souls ache for God because we were made for him. As with physical hunger, the aching is not the problem. It’s ur separation from God that’s the real source of trouble. Again, the solution is similar: Fill your soul with him. Feast on the glory of God’s goodness to you.
The alternative results in continued frustration, emptiness, and an inability to satisfy those deep longings that remain even after you get what you want. In short, there is no lasting joy, no real satisfaction apart from a restoration of fellowship with God. That is why the author C.S. Lewis wrote these words in his famous book, Mere Christianity:
“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could… invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol [gas], and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
Like a car runs on gas, like a fish lives in the water, and like a stomach yearns for food, we were made to “run” on God—which means we were made to delight in him, to trust in him, to receive all his graces with gratitude, to honor him, to draw our strength from him, and to acknowledge him in all that we do.
The loss of that kind of God-centered life came through sin, which bends us inward upon ourselves. Thus selfishness proves both wrong and bad. Selfishness is wrong because we were made to worship God, not something that God made. But selfishness is also bad because it can never satisfy. It doesn’t “work” because it looks to the self to deliver what only God can give.
Changing What You Crave
It’s important to recognize what sin does: sin doesn’t remove our hunger; sin changes our appetite, training the taste buds of our souls to crave cotton candy instead of the Bread of Life.
To use biblical language, sin makes us idolaters. We don’t stop worshipping. We just go through life worshipping the wrong things (something in creation instead of the Creator himself). Instead of leading to joy, however, this false worship only brings misery and frustration and denial of all kinds. We will never find lasting happiness apart from God because there is no such thing, as C.S. Lewis reminded us.
The solution is found in looking to the One who worshipped God perfectly, loving him with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus did that, and he did so in your place so that you could be forgiven and set free to worship the God your soul was made for. “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).
This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied” (Luke 6:21). He knew what he would accomplish for sinners, and he knew that everyone who recognized their hunger for what it is would one day be satisfied by the God who “fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). To worship that Jesus means recognizing who he is, what he’s done for you, and responding with gratitude and honor (Rom. 1:21). It means building your life on Jesus (Matt. 7:24) by taking him at his word and standing on his promises by faith. Worshipping Jesus simply means treating him like what he already is: a treasure of surpassing worth, your Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. He is the lover of your soul, and you will always be hungry until you are filled with him.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder