Apparently over a quarter of the students at my kids’ school are absent this week due to the invasion of influenza. We, too, have succumbed. And along with it our appetites have disappeared.
Sometimes our spiritual appetite disappears too. Praying, reading the Bible, going to church feels like eating dry crackers without water. Guilt sets in, further alienating us from living water. Like when we are physically sick, we’d rather go lie on the couch watching TV.
What do you do when your appetite for God is near-gone?
First, stop trying to evade it or to increase your efforts to feign hunger. Accept it, face it, and sit with it. It will be uncomfortable, but you need to know what is causing the loss of appetite. Its remedy depends on it. Then ask yourself these questions:
- Are you exhausted? Have you been taking care of yourself? Relationships require energy, even your relationship with God. Fatigue and exhaustion can be great spiritual appetite suppressants. If this is you, give yourself grace and ask for the Lord’s help to rest. If the exhaustion is due to your choices and commitments, admit and confess them, then listen for His guidance on what to keep and what to get rid of. If the exhaustion is not of your making, then let your exhaustion lead your appetite with the prayer: “Lord, may my desire for rest draw me to You, the true resting place for my soul. Fill me with your rest, and as you replenish me, show me who You are. Thank you for your gift of rest and care.”
- Are you busy? Is there something that you are allowing to take center stage in your life? Something that is demanding lots of your mental energy? Something distracting and all-consuming? It could be a good endeavor, it could be a temptation, it could be an overwhelming circumstance of life. Whichever it is, allow Jesus to walk on the stage and direct you regarding it. He may say to cleanly turn away from it (as in the case of temptation), he may say to allow him to control it (as in the case of overwhelming circumstances), he may say something else. The key is to let him enter it, let him speak to you about it. Then you can discern whether you’ve been stuffing your appetite with a substitute, or you’ve simply been ignoring your hunger.
- Is it that you are bored? Maybe you have been following the same Bible reading plan, going to the same church service, doing the same things, and it has become too comfortable. In this case, change things up. Change the time of day you regularly pray, or take a walk, or read a different translation of the Bible (I especially like using The Message or the The Passion Translation for their more modern language). Try a different way to serve: volunteer for kids ministry or serve in a food pantry. Try practicing meditative prayer or lectio divina. Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home is especially helpful for learning what these and other prayer forms are and then employing them in your life. I am looking forward to reading Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson which also converses on just such topics. Like reaching a plateau with your exercise routine because your muscles have gotten too used to it, your spiritual routine needs to change too. We need to stretch and challenge ourselves in new ways. When you change a workout regimen, you also change your appetite through new stimulation.
How did you recognize that you weren’t hungry for God and what did you do about it? Do you have any resources you recommend? Please share in the comment section below this post, I’d love to hear from you!