Spiritually starving: Eating, but never really full

Written by Amy Seiffert
Published on March 24, 2023

He was eating.

Three years ago, this was the thought I had every single time I looked at my oldest child. The son we’d cried and prayed for through infertile years and monthly personal funerals each time my period arrived. The son named after my husband’s late father, who had been killed in the line of duty in 1977 as a Cincinnati police officer. The son who made me a mother for the first time, as two other children followed beautifully behind on the trail he blazed.

The son I didn’t want to admit might be sick.

He was eleven now, and he was sleeping more and more during those summer days, but I thought it was just the heat. Heat zaps your energy, right? He would fall asleep in the morning, again in the afternoon, and once again after dinner. And that was after a full night’s sleep! Wasn’t he growing? I convinced myself his body was just working hard on stretching out his bones. Until he started shivering. If you know anything about Ohio in July, then you know you could fry an egg on the sidewalk and not think anything of it. But there, in the sweltering heat of summer, my once active and playful boy was shivering on a regular basis.

He eventually started spiking fevers, too. That wasn’t necessarily abnormal, was it? And then, his stomach started to hurt . . . often. The foods he loved and grew up eating were now causing him nothing but extreme pain and long periods in the bathroom. He started losing weight, and soon, people started noticing.

One too many neighbors started asking me how my son was doing. They mentioned he looked “not quite himself” and “kind of thin.” I brushed them off one by one, explaining that he was in a growth spurt like any healthy eleven-year-old boy would be. Kids shoot up quickly and look incredibly skinny in the process. Eventually, they fill back out. My son would fill back out. It was all part of the cycle of growth.

He was fine.

We were fine.

I was fine.

Except we weren’t fine. My husband and I started whispering as much to one another at night, staring at the ceiling as we lay in bed and wondering if something was really wrong with our son. If we only whispered it, maybe it wouldn’t be loud enough to make it real. But when I looked at my son each morning, shivering and wasting away, I knew it was, in fact, very real.

He was eating, yes, but he was also starving.

Like any fierce momma bear woken up to the reality that one of her cubs needs help, I did the only thing I knew to do: I threw myself on the floor of my bedroom and prayed. Well, to be more accurate, I wept. Then, I prayed. I prayed the desperate prayers of a mother unsure how to nourish her child.

I prayed for healing. I prayed for answers. I went so far as to pray for a tapeworm. I was pleading with God that whatever was stealing weight off of my son’s body was something we could solve quickly. As terrible as it may sound, a tapeworm was tangible. It was a temporary problem I thought we could solve, and that seemed better than something like Crohn’s disease or some other terrible illness or lifelong disorder.

I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know what was causing my son to waste away and struggle. I just knew that, before my very eyes, he was starving.

And it was time to figure out why.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. No, I don’t mean that maybe one of your children suddenly started starving without explanation. I mean that maybe, in one way or another, you’re starving, too. Truth be told, I think we all are. We’re consuming, we’re filling up, we’re taking in, but at the end of the day, our souls are still starving.

Every day we reach for the things that we believe will enrich our lives. We grab on to the things we think will nourish our souls. We take in what we think will ultimately fill us up. We feast on everything we possibly can, but we’re still coming up emotionally and spiritually malnourished.

We’re anxious.

We’re afraid.

We’re overwhelmed.

We’re exhausted.

We’re longing for more.

We’re eating, but we’re starving.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of what really nourishes, feeds, satisfies, and sustains. In other words, we’ve lost sight of God Himself—the loving Father who promises to feed us with an everlasting nourishment. Without even realizing it, we’ve become disconnected from the only source of real, lasting life we have. And because of that, without even realizing it, we’re starving.

We’ve been starving ever since the juice dripped down our wrist fresh from the forbidden fruit. Way back in the Garden, Eve had a conversation with the Snake that made her question God’s ability to satisfy and nourish her. When the Snake presented her with that shiny, beautiful fruit, he presented with it a question about the God who asked her not to eat it.

Did God really say you can’t eat from any tree?

And with that, she began to wonder.

What was it that God actually said?

Why can’t I eat from every tree?

Why would God deprive me of something so good for me?

Does He really love me?

Of course, I’m guessing at Eve’s inner dialogue, but it feels like a pretty good guess, as it sounds a lot like my own inner dialogue. I’m guessing maybe it sounds like yours, too. When we’re dissatisfied, hungry for more, missing out on substance because we’re feeding ourselves with what we think will give us meaning, we begin to question the truth of who God is and whether He can actually fill us up. We begin to question why it is we’re starving.

Friends, can I let you in on something I’ve learned along the way? Our starvation won’t cease until we take a good hard look at what we’re consuming and commit to making a change. That’s what we had to do for my son that summer. And it’s what we have to do now if we want to find lasting nourishment for our souls.

What if we took a look at what we actually believed about God and His ability to nourish us? What if we examined the kinds of practices we’ve developed to feed ourselves in an attempt to discover how they’re leaving us spiritually emaciated? What if we looked at our steady spiritual diets and considered some life-giving meal replacements instead? I want us to tap into the source of life that will satisfy and satiate our every hunger: God Himself.

I didn’t always know what was causing the starvation, but one thing I knew for certain: something needed to change. Just like my son needed a diet change to help his physical body, I needed a diet change to help my soul. I think we all do! 

Because, yes, we’re eating, but we’re also starving.

And now, it’s time to figure out why.

Adapted from Starved: Why We Need a Spiritual Diet Change to Move Us from Tired, Anxious, and Overwhelmed to Fulfilled, Whole, and Free by Amy Seiffert. Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.  All rights reserved.

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Amy Seiffert

Amy Seiffert is the author of Grace Looks Amazing on You and is on the teaching team at Brookside Church. She is an affiliate Cru staff member and a regular YouVersion Bible teacher. She loves to travel and speak (and try new foods on all her adventures!). Amy is married to her college sweetheart, Rob, and they live in Bowling Green, Ohio, with their three kids.

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