The following is a reprint of an article I wrote for SEEK. The original publication date is May 6, 2012. Part 2 will post next week.
Longing for Mr. Right, a teenage girl caves in to her boyfriend’s unrelenting requests. Recently demoted, a husband finds a pornographic website. Tired of her seemingly pointless life, a stay-at-home mom heads to bed. Defeated, a divorced man steps into the bar. Lonely, a single mother reaches into the freezer for the half-gallon of Rocky Road. Each desires to drown the sorrow. Each wishes to escape reality. Each believes there is more to life, but cannot bridge the gap between here and there.
A crowd gathered around Jesus longing for more. They, too, knew life without meaning wasn’t life at all. A spark of hope ignited as they watched Jesus distribute food to over 5000 hungry people. They witnessed a miracle. And they thought they had found it—the answer to their dilemmas, the solution to their problems—an unending supply of food for their stomachs and rest for their souls.
The next day the crowd tracked Jesus down. They sought Him not because of who He was, but for what He could provide. However, Jesus saw the shallowness of their journey. He knew their purpose—to obtain another meal, a quick fix. They wanted a tangible, albeit temporary, physical satisfaction—a full belly. But, they missed the point. Their focus was off. Instead of looking at Jesus, they only saw the food He provided.
Have you found yourself caught in a whirlwind of bad choices? Have you wallowed in self-pity and turmoil to the point of destruction? Are you seeking fulfillment in sex, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sleep or food? If so, you are not alone.
Many evenings, I found myself devouring another bowl of ice cream, hoping to satisfy the empty pit I felt. But instead the sensation still existed with guilt heaped on top. Just like the crowd, I turned my focus toward a temporary solution. And while food may relieve the pain momentarily, it will not feed the ultimate problem. The purpose of food is to sustain life and provide fuel for our bodies. But it will not fill the emptiness in our souls. It will not relieve the longing we have to be loved and accepted unconditionally. Jesus warned, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27)
When we recognize our worth and value cannot be found at the bottom of an ice cream container, at the end of a long nap, or in a closet full of clothes, we like David can cry, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)
And Jesus’ response to our cry? “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) Do not look at what Jesus can give you or do for you, but to Jesus Himself. As bread swells in our stomachs and relieves our hunger pangs, the Bread of Life seeps into our inner beings and seals our spiritual gaps. He speaks to our worries, doubts, and fears. When we allow these truths to cleanse our souls and wash away our aches and pains, we will find peace. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will encounter joy.
I can’t say I no longer seek comfort in the arms of a bowl of ice cream; however, as God draws me closer to Him, I slowly understand that His arms are far reaching and unending—His love covers all and triumphs over all. It is from this place, in His embrace, I can minister to others. It is from this place, enveloped in His grace and mercy, His life overflows from my heart to others. It is from this place, lavished with love, I can offer the Bread of Life to a hurting world.
Housekeeping: As you read this I am sailing on a Carnival cruise in the Western Caribbean, so do not be offended if I don’t respond to your comment in a timely manner.