We (Christians) often talk about desiring God’s Word and God’s will and God’s glory and God’s blessings and God’s work and bunch of other things of God, and all those are good things, the best things, actually. Yet frankly, wanting the things of God is meaningless without wanting God Himself.
So let’s talk about cultivating an appetite for God Himself because so often I’m too distracted to chase, not the things He does or says, but simply (yet not at all simply) Him, God, Yahweh.
Why crave God?
What’s the difference between yearning for the things of God and yearning for God Himself? Is there a difference?
They’re entangled, feeding into each other at different times, but they are not the same. God is a Person, not a thing, and the things of God are just that—things, not God. And the things of God do not satisfy the soul. They don’t fill up the cracks and crannies and canyons of the soul. They do not fill the soul to overflowing, to bursting; God does that. God satisfies and floods to the point of brimming and spilling over, and it is God, who crafted the soul, who can truly meet all its needs and longings. So that’s why we must go after an appetite for God—because in Him is the fullness of joy.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it just to be clear: you and I cannot make ourselves hungry for God. There’s nothing we can do on our own to work ourselves into a true, salivating, soul-rumbling hunger for God. As it is with all things, we must first ask God to open us up to it, ask Him to give us what we cannot get on our own: an appetite for Himself.
This is not a “step” to breeze over because of its plainness or elementary nature; without this, the rest falls to pieces. Appetite is not based solely on craving, but instead craving and simple need are knotted together, and out of that comes the hunger. Thus, recognizing the base need and bringing it before God in spirit and in truth is where this all begins. So don’t skip this part.
Second, I think we need to return to wonder. I’ve been in church since the womb, and I get quite comfortable with God, used to Him (or, at least, I’m used to my idea of Him). God can seem stale to me, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m hardly amazed by God, not because He isn’t amazing but because I’ve lost wonder.
Let’s take something that seems so simple, something I’ve sung since before I can remember, something I careen past unthinking, unfeeling every day: “Jesus loves me this I know.”
Take a moment and think. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. Consider who, what Jesus is—the image of the invisible God; the One by whom, for whom, and through whom the universe was created and is held together; the second person in the triune Godhead; the One so holy that it’s shouted back and forth in heaven and again and again and again, “Holy, holy, holy!”; the One who is so much beyond us, before us, that we can’t hope to express it. And this is a short, basic version.
Now, consider who you are, what you are—dust on a pale blue dot suspended in a universe wider and wilder than our minds can fathom. Now, not paying any attention to the things you and I have said and done, let’s go straight for the jugular: the things we think and feel. Varying degrees of indifference to God because He isn’t us. Varying degrees of disgust for others because they aren’t us. Not-really-varying-degrees of love for ourselves because we are us.
I’m an incredibly self-absorbed creature; so much of the time, I think of the world (and scarier yet—God) in relation to me, how I think things should be done, how it affects me, how other people make me feel, everyone else’s flaws, all my virtues. My world is me. My universe is me. (And remember, this is the short, blurry version because I can hardly bear to think about, much less write about, the seemingly endless, excruciatingly specific list of ugly things in me.)
Now, let’s put the two together. Jesus loves me. And since He’s the omniscient God, He knows all about that seemingly endless list of ugly things with more clarity than I can dream of and shudder to think of. And since He’s the Most Holy One, in my twisted, fallen, hideous state, I am an affront to Him, an offense to His awesome purity. Yet, He has decided to love me, has swept all that away, has given me His purity, His goodness, His righteousness, His holiness so that I might regain what was lost in Eden—the chance to come spotless before God and offer worship.
So that’s what I mean when I say that an appetite for God means recapturing wonder, and wonder is found in stillness and thinking. It’s been said that when you think about something for any lengthy bit of time, you can’t help but find wonder in it. So take time to wonder at and in God, to be broken and weeping at what you see in yourself and to be trembling and gasping at what you see of God. Seeing God with wonder, seeing Him as He really is, cuts open this profound need to see Him more. So we ask Him to graciously show us Himself, and then we take time to be wonderstruck.
Third, look for someone(s)—living or dead—whose appetite for God is/was worth emulating. And then emulate it.
For me, that’s the Psalmists (especially David), my brothers (Caleb and Luke), and A.W. Tozer. See what they’ve done (or are doing) that compels them to want God so badly, and do it yourself. For me, it’s been reading Scripture, talking with my brothers, watching my brothers in their lives, reading good books, reading the Psalms aloud, and hearty, honest prayer.
Lastly, we have to eradicate the things—anything—that dulls our appetite for God, remove anything else that would slake our hunger and thirst (because we’re always hungry and thirsty for something; it just varies on what we fill up on). Locate the junk food in your life and cut it out. This can really be anything. Some will be sin, the obvious ones to get the axe. Slander. Fits of anger. Pornography. Gluttony. Lying. Slothfulness. Whatever it is, it needs to go. And then there are the less obvious ones, the ones that aren’t wrong per ce, but they also aren’t helpful (the whole lawful vs. helpful business). If it’s not increasing your appetite for God, it’s curbing your craving for Him. Whatever it/they is/are, we have to ruthlessly cut it/them out.
The paradox of it all.
God fulfills us, yet we can never get enough of Him. A voraciously hungry soul is fed beyond all contentment, yet is never satisfied. It’s absurd, enigmatic, too puzzling for me to actually understand, but I’ve found it to be true myself. A. W. Tozer puts it like this: “To have found God and still pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.”
The end of the matter (or rather, the end of this post).
An appetite for God doesn’t come about overnight (much to my dismay), but when it comes, it comes in intense hunger pangs because once the living God reveals Himself to a craving soul, even just a sliver of who He is, all that can be done is to lurch after Him, gasping, searching, crying out “More!”.
“O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” – Psalm 63:1-2.
What do you think? Any suggestions to add for cultivating an appetite for God? Where is your appetite?
P.S. – the topic of this post was decided by the lovely people over on Twitter. Thanks for voting for your favorite topic, Twitter peeps! I could not decide for the life of me.