Do you ever have days where you just feel empty inside? It’s that unsettled feeling that makes us grumpy, irritable, moody, critical, and sometimes worse. Nothing is enough.
If you are like me, you find yourself roaming for something to fill you — whether it's an affirming relationship, or a sense of accomplishment from job well-done, or the ephemeral happiness of getting more stuff (a.k.a. "retail therapy").
Just like our stomachs regularly get hungry, so our souls regularly find themselves empty and in need of filling.
Biblical soul hunger
One important place where Jesus speaks to soul hunger is in John 6. The verse we know so well says it clearly. Jesus states:
“I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
The verbs in the original Greek that we translate as "the one who comes” and “the one who believes" are actually present active participles, which denotes continuous action. A second option for translation could be more like repetitive action. Thus, another (albeit more clunky) way to say it in English is "the one who comes to me (again and again)" and "the one who is believing in me (in this moment)" will find their souls neither hungry nor thirsty. For those who have already found salvation through faith in Christ — a spiritual union which is secure in his finished work — Jesus points us to where we can experience on a regular basis his "buffet of grace."
The repeated act of coming to Jesus with our souls’ longings brings us to the Source himself. The repeated act of believing in Jesus’ sufficiency is the means by which we take him in.
Jesus’ most difficult teaching came on the heels of this truth:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (. . .)
“I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides (abides, remains) in me, and I in him” (John 6:51, 53-56).
Jesus’ teaching was difficult, I believe, mostly because the original hearers were on the wrong side of the cross. But for those of us on this side of the cross, we can understand that Jesus’ words are from a spiritual perspective (John 6:63). We get his Life when we take in the truth of Jesus’ spiritual provision for us through his physical offering on the cross. As Jesus offered his body, so he provided spiritual reconciliation between people and God.
Anyone who believes in this provision — i.e. takes it into their soul by means of faith — has eternal life.
Are you eating lies?
From reading those verses above, it appears that we eat with our souls when we believe something to be true — whether it is actually true or actually false. Yes, our souls can eat lies.
What we believe to be true in our daily, moment-by-moment interactions shapes how we act and interact. If we believe lies, we act and speak in hurtful ways. If we believe truth, we act and speak in healing ways. For this reason, Jesus could say, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
Our matrix of belief about ourselves, our world, and God becomes the rippling source of influence on our emotions, our wills, and our behavior. As we turn our souls to the realities of Christ — taking it in by means of believing in their truthfulness — our emotions, our wills, and ultimately our actions are shaped by the influence of the Holy Spirit, who is himself the one who leads us into all truth (John 14:26).
But it all starts with our longings.
Is your soul hungry today? Bring it to Jesus. Believe that he is who he said he is (the Source of Life), that he did what he said he did (gave his life as a ransom for you), and he’ll do what he said he’ll do (give you filling and an experience of his Life).
He stands ready. Will you come to him?