My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!—
insatiable for your nourishing commands.
(Psalm 119:20 The Message)
Most of us have never really experienced starvation or intense hunger in the physical sense. Yes, we might have missed a meal or two, but the intensity of being "under-nourished" for weeks on end is something we rarely experience in most developed societies today. In fact, what we call "hunger" is simply a "reminder" from our brain that regular intake is required!
To be hungry means that we have a desire or craving for intake. To be starved takes it one notch up - it carries the idea of being on the verge of perishing from being under-nourished. The idea of being ravenous speaks of intensity - to be intensely eager to be satisfied. Now, let's break that down a little.
David lays out three different "states" of soul condition here. The first is the simple "niggling" within our mind, will, and emotions that we need some "intake" that is going to bring some satisfaction of a desire or craving. It is the first-line response of our inner being that says something is amiss, or needs attention. The second is the direct result of ignoring that "niggling" long enough, with such frequency, resulting in a severity of "soul-condition".
The third is suggestive of a condition that we don't come to very often, but when we do, there is a drive behind it that will not let up until there is satisfaction. Being ravenous "demands" satisfaction - it seeks until what is desired is found. I think God really honors all three "conditions" of the soul - hunger, starvation, and being ravenous.
He is probably a little discouraged with the times when we drift into a place of being malnourished. Yet, he meets us at the end of that road and provides the spiritual sustenance we need to get us back on track. I think he is most pleased when our response to him is of a ravenous nature! When there is an intensity in our seeking, he is honored greatly!
It is this state of being intensely focused on God's direction, his will, that brings him such delight. Yet, David lays out a fourth word to describe the "hunger" God honors - being insatiable. I think of this as a "bottomless pit" kind of hunger that we sometimes see when watching teenage boys! No matter how much they consume - there is a desire for more!
This type of hunger is voracious - devouring what God gives in order to "fill the pit" of hunger that exists when we are apart from him for any time at all. If you have ever been consistent in "giving up" something for a period of time, when you first begin to "take in" that food again, you sometimes feel like you cannot get enough. This is the condition of soul that David found himself in at various periods of his life - sinning against God, walking out of God's plan for him, then returning repentant and ravenous!
I daresay, we probably walk much the same way. Some days we do a very good job of staying connected to the source of our "nourishment" - others, we don't seem to notice how long it has been since we have "fed" on what really matters. One day down the road, we become so "starved" for intake from the one who cares for our souls. In that season of starvation, we often realize our greatest intensity of need.
Whether you are "feeding" your soul-hunger regularly by a consistent intake of God's presence, his Word, and his peace, or you are a little ravenous because of a prolonged season away from his leading - he stands ready to satisfy! Taste and see that the Lord is good!