A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
–Matthew 5:6 (KJV)
Recently, I went on a retreat. It was not a vacation.
I was depleted, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I did not know why I felt so drained. I am healthy. I’m overweight, but vibrant and strong. In my devotional quiet, I came to the awareness that my soul was empty. I had a clawing, soul hunger.
My thoughts were: How could my soul be empty? I have an active devotional life.
I would pray and listen to hear God speak. I knew that even though I was in the right space, personally and professionally, I was in a wrong place on the inside. God called me to explore my inner life.
The vacuous gaps in my soul confronted me. My unconscious tics and subconscious habits became visible to me. Then I became aware that some of my conscious behaviors were counterproductive to my spiritual growth.
I used to love Pringle’s Potato chips, until I found out that they were produced with Olestra. Olestra is a chemical compound that is used as a fat substitute that prevents absorption of fat and some nutrients during digestion. Some of my life habits were like Olestra, in that they prevented my soul from digesting the goodness and graces that God was granting, new every morning.
God confronted me that it was time to let go of some of my old pacifiers. I was led to a blog post written by Rachel Foy that listed “11 Signs of a Hungry Soul.” I was inspired to inventory the idols/vices that blocked or stole my spiritual fiber and left the hunger in my soul. Because drugs and alcohol were not vices that I embraced, I had to search a bit deeper in my core. It was there that I found 12 of my own.
My exercise in transparency below may be instructive and inspirational for you. If it drives you to reflect and create your own list then my writing and your reading will have been successful.
My "spiritual Olestra" included:
1. Insatiable appetites
2. Self-medicating behavior that soothed the soul pains of my childhood and youth.
3. Buying stuff that I could afford but didn’t need.
4. Overwhelmed and stuck
5. Pensive and irritable
6. Boredom with unwillingness and inability to be creative
7. Mindless TV watching and flights of fantasy
8. Emotional doldrums
9. Unrefreshing sleep
10. Inexplicable anxiety
11. Hollow expectations
12. Intentional isolation excused by natural introversion
The remedy to my “soul hunger” was discovered by addressing the list above with spiritual conviction. Shifting from one side of the continuum to the other was where I regained my stride and found my soul hunger could be satisfied and my spirituality reinvigorated.
If you are moved by my list then I advise you to make one of your own. Put the depleting behavior on the left side of a horizontal line. Ask yourself what the opposite or desired behavior would be. Place that on the right end of the horizontal line.
By creating that continuum, you can begin to visualize and quantify the journey to wholeness that you must now begin. Remember, soul hunger is not a sin. In fact, the texts above promise a blessing to those who admit, identify and share their hunger with God. He promises not to leave us famished and will give us the desires of our heart.
Evading the signs of soul hunger may lead to sin. Don’t settle for spiritual junk food or devotional fast food. Go to the God’s Table instead. After dining there, Psalm 23 in The Holy Bible assures us that goodness and mercy will follow you. Then, you will dwell in God's peace with inexplicable joy.
I think that is where Heaven on Earth is found. I’ll see you there.
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.
He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.