Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”
Our church is fasting this week. Together, we are hoping and praying for food that cannot be held or tasted with our mouths. We are eating spiritual things, things that nourish more than our bodies.
Fasting is one way to learn how to eat God’s will.
Life so often tastes bitter and painful. Words are spoken that we don’t understand. Circumstances can’t seem to be sorted out. Today, we hold out our hands and ask God to show us our part in it all. We taste the sweetness in all the bitter things.
Proverbs 27 promises us this: “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.”
To taste the sweetness in the bitter things, we must stay hungry. Hungry for God’s word, hungry for His presence, hungry to love a whole world full of people in need. In order to savor our great need for God we’ll have to look the pain of humanity square in the face.
In all honesty, I don’t like fasting. I like eating. I like tasting my coffee with hot buttered toast in the morning. I like peeling an orange and enjoying the fragrance of it before I eat it. I like eating the food we all know about, the kind that is easy to taste and know that it is good. I was dreading this week a bit, but now that we’re here, I feel only gratitude.
Jesus says there is a kind of food we eat by faithful obedience.
My daughter handed me a cookie this morning from the backseat of the car. I declined with a smile. I didn’t even want it. I am hiding in the hunger I feel. Sometimes the ache can be a refuge, because our need for help proves that God as bigger than the pain; it means He is better than we could have guessed.
I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I don’t want to be afraid of failing, of what could happen to the people I love, of not being enough for someone who needs me. I don’t want to worry about things I can’t control, to wonder if everything is actually going to be okay. I don’t want to let the voice of our culture drown out the promises of God in my life.
I want to eat the Love that can drive out all of the fear and worry.
I want to be gathered up in the great belonging that the gospel offers us, so I can know the depth of my belovedness to God.
In Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen wrote, “The world is evil only when you become its slave.” It is easy to be a slave to our appetites, to let the constant hunger for food, success, accomplishment, and comfort lure us away from trusting that all of those foods are toxic when consumed outside the will of God. Fasting reminds us that we can be hungry and be blessed, that the faithful saints mentioned in Hebrews 11, who died waiting for God to fulfill His promises, were not failures or crazy people.
They were simply hungry for something beyond this world. They weren’t looking to their circumstances for proof that God existed or that He loved them. They ate bitter days on earth because they could taste the sweetness of eternity as they walked with God.
I lift my empty plate and wish you well today, in all the places you hunger for more of God. May you know Him as a redeemer who never fails you, as bread that satisfies every kind of hunger, and as water that quenches the deepest thirsts of your soul.
The bitter things are sweet. The hunger is a blessing. To be needful is only the first step toward belonging in God, to God, and with God forever.
And ever and ever, Amen.