When we treat spiritual distress as though it is spiritual hunger, we do the worst possible thing: we feed it.
Think about all the spiritual things in our lives that pose as spiritual hunger: exhaustion, boredom, dissatisfaction, depression, despair, restlessness. We're all prone to one or more of these at some time or another. The question is: how do we respond?
For most of us, the answer seems simple. We just do more church-y things. We do more god-ly things. We do more spiritual things. We read the Bible more. We turn on more worship music. We attend more church services. We start attending more parachurch events - quilting clubs and crafting circles and game nights and what have you. We hang up motivational posters. We pull out all the jewelry that has the Cross on it and start wearing it everywhere. We change the wallpaper on our phones and computer screens. We download the Bible app and subscribe to the verse of the day.
All of these are great things, and they are excellent ways to feed our spiritual hunger.
But what if the problem isn't hunger at all?
Exhaustion isn't hunger. It's an ache, but it isn't hunger. It's a longing for rest - and is there anything in all that spiritual food that looks anything at all like rest? No. It looks like a lot more work, a lot more activity, a lot more on the schedule that we now have to try to juggle. Rest is not achieved by feeding exhaustion. Rest requires quite the opposite - a fast. It requires withholding some activity from yourself and entrusting it to God.
Boredom isn't hunger. It's an ache, but it isn't hunger. It's a yearning for purpose, for something meaningful. Is there anything in all that spiritual food that infuses meaning into your life? No. It's a thousand more things to do without ever addressing the question of why. Meaning is not achieved by the breadth of your life - by how much you do - but by the depth of your life - the very real, intimate, personal reason why you do it. And this can never be found by simply engaging in more godly things; it is found only in engaging with God Himself.
Dissatisfaction, depression, despair - these aren't hunger. They are aches, but not hunger. They are the echoes of hope that things might some day be different, that life might not always be the way that it seems to be. They are longings for life, and life abundant. Any of those spiritual "disciplines" bringing you life abundant? No. Only Jesus does that. Run to Him, and don't settle for anything less.
See, we're doing ourselves no favors by thinking these spiritual troubles are simple hunger. They rarely are. The more we feed them, the deeper we feel the ache in our lives because food will simply never do it. It can't. The answer to our troubles is so much more than church-y things. It's so much more than spiritual things. It's so much more than god-ly things.
It's God Himself.