I have a bad habit of going grocery shopping while I’m hungry. Everything in the store is enticing, and an overabundance of food lands in my shopping cart. When I arrive home to put everything away, I mentally plan out when I will eat this, or how I will prepare that. My imagination runs away with me as I dream up new ways of preparing these delicious foods.
Then I eat something. The excitement wanes, and the routine of life takes over. As days pass by, some of the foods go stale, or they wilt, or they mold. I’m left with the frustrating chore of clearing out the fridge and the pantry, and ridding myself of all the things that were a good idea in the beginning, but have now come to ruin.
I was thinking about this all too common phenomena the other day, and God began a dialogue with me about it. I love moments like this. I can think about the most mundane things, and He takes the opportunity to strike up a conversation that completely turns the tables and offers me a new revelation. Our communication is rich with metaphors pulled from my own existence, and I relish these sessions with Him.
He asked me how often it is that I go through life hungry. Not necessarily in the physical sense, but spiritually. When I go and fellowship with other believers, am I going on an empty stomach?
I had to sit back and re-imagine my world. When I attend church, or Bible studies, or prayer meetings, what is my expectation?
If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit fault. I go to these functions not only hungry, but looking for food. I prepare myself to be fed, hoping to hear some new insight, or a fresh word from on high. The result is this. I go through and fill up my cart with a lot of unnecessary items. I take on every prayer request like it’s my own. I take on every burden that has been shared and assume that I can carry it for someone. I reach for everything spiritual in nature, and I put it in my cart, and I foolishly take it home with me.
“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”” Matthew 4:4 NIV
Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pray for one another or carry each others burdens when we are able. What I am saying is that if we go into an atmosphere with an empty stomach, we will pick up things that perhaps we were never intended to have. Our well meaning intentions can do more harm that good.
Have you ever found yourself overextended in the promises you’ve made? You said you would pray for your sister or help your brother in need, but at the end of the day you feel overwhelmed by the things you’ve loaded up on. You’ve filled your cart with things you don’t need.
So what’s the solution? It’s obvious. Eat first.
The word of God is our food. It’s the only thing that actually sustains us. Are you consuming His word every day before you have breakfast? This is really the most important meal of the day. If we don’t fill up now, we will succumb to desperate hunger later.
I absolutely believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe that He is in control every moment of every day. With or without my direct involvement in praying for someone, I know that God will take care of them. He takes care of me too! How could I come to a place of such arrogance to believe that if I don’t step in and do something that God won’t intervene?
Again, I’m not saying don’t pray for people. What I am saying is that if we fill up on the word of God before we do anything else in the day, we won’t fill up on everything else. In His sovereignty, God will direct us in who to pray for and who to help. Everything else can stay on the shelf, and not end up in our cart.Perhaps it’s intended for someone else’s cart! We can move forward confidently, knowing that we are shopping responsibly, and none of our efforts will ever go to waste.
Oh, and of course we can apply this principle to the physical realm again and actually eat real food before going shopping. Now, to go clean out the fridge…