Sadly, for many people around the world this is not the case. The World Food Programme estimates that 1 out of every 9 people in the world do not have enough food to live a healthy, active life. That’s 795 million hungry people! The numbers are staggering and often difficult to comprehend, especially if hunger is not an everyday part of your life.
After college, through an opportunity to travel around the world as a missionary, I came face to face with hunger. I will never forget the family I lived with in Africa. The husband and wife were Nigerian but felt drawn as missionaries to Botswana, where they care for orphans and preach the gospel to local tribes. During our trip, my team had a modest food budget. Each week we purchased groceries and stored them in the family’s kitchen. Slowly, we began to notice that some of our food was disappearing.
Finally, we were hit with a harsh reality: the family’s three young children were so hungry and so excited to see food in a normally empty refrigerator that they had been eating our groceries. Their parents didn’t make a lot of money, and sometimes the family went without a meal. I was amazed that we hadn’t noticed. The husband and wife never complained; instead, they talked about God. They used their time and talents to care for orphans, often feeding these children breakfast and lunch while they went without.
This family’s living faith pointed me to a deeper spiritual reality. Many times I had heard the scripture in which Jesus calls himself “the bread of life,” but I didn’t understand what he meant. About a year ago, I started exploring the spiritual discipline of fasting. I had attempted to fast before, usually from things such as social media and TV. This time, reading The Daniel Fast, I learned that in the Bible, fasting usually refers to food. I wanted to know how our relationship with God relates to food.
For two weeks I participated in the Daniel Fast and ate a very limited list of foods. The goal was to deny myself earthly things and to focus instead on spiritual things. Each day, during my hungriest moments, I spent time with God, praying and reading scripture, before I ate anything. As I did, Jesus’ words came alive to me: Just as our bodies crave and need food to function, God wants our spirits to crave and need Jesus, who offers himself as the strength and nourishment we need to live. I recognized that in my life, my physical needs are typically met, which creates the illusion that I am satisfied. Yet, as I denied myself the physical pleasure of food, even in a small way for a short period of time, I became more aware of my spiritual need for God. I was able to feel my own weakness and to ask God for strength; I had a physical reminder to pray for my hungry brothers and sisters around the world; and I began to look at food differently, not as something I was entitled to but as a true gift that could move me to go out and help others.
Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:35b, NIV). I hear this verse and immediately think of my friends in Botswana. I am thankful that as they serve God with their hands and feet, Jesus provides the strength to fill their hearts.
Katy Barclay lives in North Carolina, where she and her husband work for Young Life to share the Good News of Jesus with teenagers who don’t know him.
JUNE 24, 2017
NEXT DAY STRETCH
How could fasting from food draw you closer to God and grow your compassion for those who hunger? If you have a physical condition that prevents you from a food fast, consider other ways you might practice relying on God. Consider waking up earlier than normal to spend time with God before you eat breakfast or fasting from something else that will allow you to focus more wholly on your relationship with Jesus.