I know what it is to be hungry.
It’s gnawing. It’s all-consuming. And it’s unrelenting.
My hunger for food was never satisfied. No matter how much I ate, it was always there. Eating away at me. Driving me to further and further extremes in an attempt to quiet it. To gain a moment of peace from it’s constant, angry demands.
Since feeding it only made it grow, I tried starving it. And for a while, it would leave me alone – for the most part. But it hadn’t given up. It was biding its time, waiting for a moment of weakness to put tempting thoughts in my mind. Knowing that eventually, I would have to eat again. And that those seeds of thought it had planted in me would ensure that when that time came, the hunger would once more be in control.
I know what hunger is. It was my constant companion – my slave-driver – for 18 years. And it drove me insane.
But there is a different kind of hunger. One that, according to Jesus, is a blessing, instead of a curse.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.Matthew 5:6
They shall be satisfied. Not something I’m used to.
What does that feel like? There’s a quality in that word, satisfied, that draws me. But it’s also a bit of a foreign concept. I’m not sure I really know what it means.
Food that Doesn’t Satisfy
I know about food that doesn’t satisfy. That never satisfies. For much of my life, this is what I consumed.
If you have a food addiction, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Processed. Chemical-laden. Composed mainly of highly addictive substances, manufactured and combined in the exact combinations calculated to hit our brains’ pleasure centres with as much force as possible – and keep us hooked for life. Oh, I tried to quit them. I dreamed of a better world in which I grew all my own vegetables and baked my own bread. I became a vegetarian. I learned to make homemade soup (hello, bouillon cubes full of MSG – oh, poor, naive, younger me). But the counterfeit foods always drew me back. Without fail. I couldn’t get away from them.
These foods never say “enough”. They only say “more”. They remind me of a verse that’s always stuck out to me:
The leech has two daughters: Give and Give.Proverbs 30:15
Food was a leech for me. Sucking away my life while constantly demanding I give it more. Always more. My life was consumed with it. Even while running away from it, I was thinking about it. Soon, I was seeking after it, devouring it, hiding it. Pause. Repeat.
Can food ever really satisfy?
Food that Does Satisfy
Have you ever eaten liver? Maybe this is a bad example. I don’t particularly like liver. But I went through a phase where I was determined to start eating the most nutrient dense foods I could get my hands on – and liver was on the list. And for the first time in my life, I could only eat a few bites of something. I mean, something that didn’t taste repulsive to me. It wasn’t really enjoyable, but it wasn’t bad, and I was enthusiastic about this experiment. But I only got through about half of what was on my plate. My stomach just said “enough”.
I was stunned. It was like I’d found a secret weapon against my own body. It had finally given in. Surrendered. For the time being, anyway, it was begging me to NOT eat more.
Of course, somehow, after finishing the leftovers later in the week, and maybe cooking it once more the week after, liver quietly fell out of my diet.
I didn’t try liver again for a long time. Though I’d found something technically satisfying, and that I liked the idea of eating, my brain convinced me to give it up. Because it wasn’t fun. It filled me up, but it was supremely boring. So I rejected something that was good for me, in favour of fake food that, while unsatisfying, was exciting. I chased that high, knowing how terrible it was. I couldn’t help myself.
I didn’t stop trying, though. A few months after the liver experiment, I found a food that drew me to it in a way that no food ever had: raw milk.
Who knew our regular milk was cooked? Pasteurized, technically, which is just cooking on low heat for a long time. Some day, I’ll write about what led me to this discovery. Suffice it to say, it changed my life.
I remember the 1st time I drank fresh, grass-fed, unpasteurized milk. As sure as I was about the science, as far as I’d come to procure this product, I could not have anticipated the effect it would have on me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I almost cried. There was something in that milk that met a very deep physical need in me. Something that my body had been crying out for. And if my addicted brain was trying to tell me to turn away from this liquid gold the way it had with liver, I couldn’t hear it over the joy I was feeling.
At this point in my life, I was at my heaviest weight ever. Soon after adding raw milk into my diet, I dropped 10 pounds. Without trying. I didn’t need that weight loss to convince me, but it was a confirmation of what I already knew: that this stuff was good for me. I drank that milk regularly for 7 or 8 years – until I moved to northern Ontario and away from the farm that lovingly and passionately provided it, just a few weeks ago. And I loved every drop.
But it wasn’t a miracle cure for my food addiction. The milk provided some relief. I can trace a gradual lessening of the extremes of my eating disorder to the day I found it, and through all my ups & downs, I never regained that final 10 pounds. But I was still very much a food addict.
Ultimately, I think the satisfaction that comes from food – even the best food – only goes so far. My body needed something in that milk, yes. But it couldn’t satisfy my soul. That was what sent me searching – always searching – for that something else, something more. And because I’m a food addict, that search continually led me to things that did the exact opposite of satisfy.
There’s a pattern you may have noticed, a way of distinguishing the satisfying food from the unsatisfying: the closer it is to its natural state, the more likely a food is to satisfy.
I believe there’s a reason for this. God made a world full of things we can eat, and he knows what he’s doing. Now, that doesn’t mean we walk around eating raw potatoes. Some foods need to be cooked, or otherwise processed in order to make them edible or digestible. But generally, the more we tamper with our food, the less healthy – and the less satisfying – it becomes.
Perhaps the perfect example of satisfying food is the stuff that came directly from God: the manna in the desert. From the descriptions, it sounds delightful. And the Israelites lived on it for 40 years. But even the bread from heaven, while physically sustaining, wasn’t enough.
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.”John 6:48
They died. Food can satisfy, but only temporarily. It doesn’t sustain indefinitely. It fills us for a while – some foods longer than others – until we have to eat again. And eventually, food is no longer enough to keep us going. Our bodies slowly deteriorate, and eventually, we die.
That’s why we need more than just food. If all we hunger for is that, we’re ultimately doomed. We need to hunger for something better: for righteousness. And, by extension, the giver of that righteousness: Jesus.
Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.John 6:27
But what if we don’t have a hunger for this righteousness? Hunger comes naturally, right? We all hunger for food. We’re born hungry. One of our first instincts is to eat. Hunger is not something we control, so we shouldn’t be held responsible for it.
But we know that’s not entirely true.
Yes, as babies, our hunger is instinctual. And that lasts into early childhood. Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, but left to their own devices – with adequate nutritious choices – they will generally eat a well-rounded diet that provides them with all the nutrients they need. They may eat only cheese one day. They may seem to eat almost nothing the next. It usually balances out in the end.
But we all know that doesn’t last. Depending on what we’re fed, and what’s available to us, our hunger changes. A baby will chow down on unsweetened blueberries like it’s the best thing he’s ever tasted. But offer that to a 5-year-old who’s used to ice cream, and chances are, it’ll be unappetizing. The kid who’s main vegetable intake comes from French fries will, unsurprisingly, be unenthusiastic about cauliflower.
Or take us. If you’re on BLE, you know your tastes can change. What tasted bland at first – like plain cooked broccoli with salt – may now set your mouth watering. As we wean off the sugar and the chemicals, we become sensitized again to the flavours of real, wholesome food.
And just like that, we can nourish a hunger for righteousness. I believe it’s something we’re born with, just like physical hunger. But as we go through this life, we can become desensitized to our need for righteousness by the more exciting world of pleasure – the same way our taste buds become dull, unresponsive to anything but the stimulation of wild and exciting foods.
So, if if we’ve lost our hunger for righteousness, how do we get it back?
Again, I think the parallels with BLE hold true, here. How do we get back our hunger for good food? We stop eating the fake food, and we start eating the good food. We might not like it, at first. We might have to choke it down. But we do it. And we turn away from the sugar & flour. We organize our lives in a way that helps us stay away from it. We join support groups. We purge our kitchens or keep it out of sight. We don’t let ourselves indulge in it, even in our thoughts.
Of course, before we do any of that, we have to experience an inner change. We have to want it. Something – whether it’s taking the Food Freedom Quiz and seeing what our problem is for the 1st time, or seeing someone we know transform in front of our eyes – convinces us that the way we’ve been eating is slowly killing us, and that there’s a better way to live.
It’s the same with righteousness. First, we have to recognize our need for it. We have to see where our sin is leading us. And make a conscious decision to turn away from it, and pursue something better.
And then, we have to do it. One step at a time. We get support from other Christians: at church, prayer meetings and Bible studies; and we hold ourselves accountable to them. We get rid of things in our lives that tempt us off the straight & narrow. We read our Bibles – just like every serious BLEer reads SPT’s book front to back – more than once – and watches weekly vlogs.
And just like each BLE meal slowly transforms our minds and our taste buds, each time we resist temptation and instead follow God’s commands, our consciences become a little more tender. Our hunger and thirst for more righteousness become stronger. Our love for our saviour grows deeper.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!Psalm 34:8
But does this hunger for righteousness help those with food addiction? Can a hunger for righteousness ever really replace the unquenchable hunger for food?
Changing What You Hunger For
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”John 6:35
I’ve lately begun a new mental practice in an effort to get rid of some food fantasies I’ve been having.
When an image of some delectable substance pops into my head, I pray: God, help me to love you more than food.
It’s a prayer I’ve prayed many times, in the past. Through tears and pain – both physical and spiritual. But never before so regularly. It was reserved for crises, rather than everyday temptations. Should I have been surprised when it was less than effective, at that point? I’ve finally come to the realization that I need to change my thoughts before I act on them.
And it’s working.
It’s become automatic. Even when I don’t necessarily want it to be. Cause guess what – my brain likes thinking about food. A lot. It doesn’t really appreciate being interrupted by a picture of my Saviour dying for the sins that I’m currently contemplating. Sticking to this plan is not fun. But it’s effective.
The plain truth is, righteousness will never be exciting in the same way that a chocolate binge is. If I’m going to pursue God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength, I have to give that up. And it’s hard. But what I get in return is so much better.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.Isaiah 55:2
I have to see that. The goodness of it. The richness of it. The joy that I can experience in it. So much more than I know, or can even imagine. I need to fix my eyes on that promise, and ignore the more tempting, and easily available, offerings in the world all around me.
I need to hunger for him. And believe that he is waiting and willing to bless me for it.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.Isaiah 55:7