When was the last time you felt really hungry?
You probably didn’t think about what was happening in your body, but you certainly experienced the symptoms. Your brain, which monitors the hormone levels and nutrients in your bloodstream, recognized it was time for a refill. Your hypothalamus—your body’s control room—put out a general alert and started telling you eat. Your stomach felt empty, you started feeling pangs and might have heard some growling sounds. As your body worked hard to get your attention, you began thinking about food. You were motivated to fill the empty space in your abdomen. When you sat down to eat, you probably enjoyed your meal. In fact, your hunger added to your enjoyment. Especially if the food was nourishing, it probably tasted better, and felt more satisfying, than it would have if you had just finished off a bag of Doritos.
Hunger is a powerful force—one we often take for granted.
When was the last time you felt a gnawing hunger for Jesus?
Something made you aware of a different kind of pang—an emptiness in your spirit. Maybe you felt lonely, out of control, or far from God. Maybe you wondered whether you had any reason to keep on living. Maybe you suddenly recognized that what you had thought was a desire for something you saw on Amazon was actually spiritual restlessness. And when you experienced Jesus’ presence, felt his peace, or found encouragement in his Word, it was far sweeter than it would have been had you not felt the hunger of spiritual longing. Like physical hunger, spiritual hunger is a strong source of motivation—even though we don’t always recognize it for what it is.
Spiritual longing is also the foundation of true hope. The more closely you are in touch with your spiritual hunger, the more space you have in your life for hope. And the more you are blessed with the opportunity to understand that true hope is in Christ.
You may have thought hope was based in certainty, comfort, and convincing ourselves we have everything we need. But those who are certain, comfortable, and satisfied have no need for hope. Hope is based in the absence of what we need—and in our anticipation of receiving it.
In his letter to the Christians in ancient Rome, the apostle Paul is frank about our awkward position in this life, sometimes called the “now and not yet.” We have the blessings of God’s grace and Jesus’ redemption now, yet we wait for them to be fully visible. We wait for our true identity as children of God to be fully revealed. We wait to live in a world we were originally designed for—a world without the heartbreaking pall of sin’s curse. And while we wait, our spirits groan, along with all creation, and ache with hope for heaven:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:22-25).
That’s a good question. If we are satisfied with the life we have now, why hope for anything better? If we have received all we need, why long for something more? Anyone acutely aware of our current position cannot be satisfied with the life we have now. And anyone who is willing to admit to that lack of satisfaction has more room for hope.
You know the pain caused by mental illness, and you have heard its lies—spoken by a loved one or echoing in your own head. You probably have had moments when you have believed there is no hope. Perhaps you’ve thought God has abandoned you. Maybe you have suspected you have missed out on what he offers people he loves.
You haven’t missed anything. If you're not emotionally satisfied and mentally at peace, you are not coming up short in God's kingdom. You are in the same boat as everyone else—our lives don’t all look the same, but we are all groaning in longing for our true home. And if you recognize your hunger for Jesus, you are blessed. You are ready for true hope.
Let your hunger become the foundation for true hope in your life. It can lead you to realistic hope in what is to come. When you give a healthy kind of attention to your longings, you will enable yourself to stop expecting this world to give you answers it just doesn’t have. Your need for hope can encourage you to keep the door open to God’s work in you. Keep looking for hope in a solution beyond your own capabilities and only glimpsed in this life. Draw your hope not from yourself or your fellow travelers, but from its source, who is satisfied only by the work he has done, will do, and is doing in pursuit of his own purposes.
Amy Simpson is an author, speaker, and leadership coach who helps purposeful people make the most of their gifts and opportunities. Her newest book is Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World. Amy lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, two teenage girls, and two dogs. You can find her at AmySimpson.com.