When I heard the responsorial psalm this past Sunday, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs,” I struggled with it. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like God answers all our needs. Sometimes it feels like He’s not feeding us. If you've ever felt that way, this post is for you.
I have doubts about God’s promises like anyone else. I know others feel the same way. We have longings, hungers, and desires that go unfilled. We carry burdens on our back that seem like they’re going to take us under. There are plenty of people living in either spiritual poverty, emotional poverty, or physical poverty.
Really God? You feed us? Are You sure about that? I see all this poverty in my midst...how can this be?
That Sunday, I had a moment of crying to God, “You aren’t giving me what I need!” On that particular day, I really just wanted a human hug and there were none to be found. To which He replied in the depths of my heart, “Yes I am, child, if you would only listen.”
He eventually stopped my tears, told me to take a walk with Him, and gave me a slew of love songs on Pandora that once again opened me up to His heart and opened me up to the love I wasn’t seeing. He knows how to speak to my heart: through song. But no, He didn't give me a hug. He didn't deliver in the way I wanted Him to.
The Christian life is very hard, and frankly gets infinitely harder, the deeper you go (the secret that no one tells you!). We’re left wanting and feeling forsaken sometimes - abandoned to our unmet desires and needs. We’re left without comfort and consolation at times when we need it most.
I have a need that is unfilled in my life right now. It’s a hard burden, and God’s said “no” to my wishes, pleading, and crying over and over again. He’s said “no” so many times that I know it’s not what He’s chosen for me. I don't know why, but He does. I'm sure it's for my good in the long run.
We live in a Christian culture and an age of the “prosperity gospel” which tells us that God will give us everything we desire and prosper us. Having been on the spiritual path for many years now, my faith experience and Franciscan vocation doesn’t tell me that.
It tells me that God will give me what will sanctify and purify me, and what is in accord with His will, which is more often directly opposed to my will. God will humble me, strip me of my attachments, break down my “lesser loves” (idols), make me grow in love of Him and my neighbor, put me in uncomfortable situations to stretch me, and encourage me to live a penitential life -- to deny myself what I want for what is better for me.
In fact, EVERY single call I have received from God thus far in my life has not been something that I initially desired, but something God desired for me. It’s only by sheer obedience, growth in my love for God, and many nudges over time that I accepted those calls, because I didn’t want them at first. He eventually changed my desires and equipped me to answer the call.
I confided in a young priest regarding this struggle with my needs and God not filling them. He told me that he too felt “needy” at times and that God shows His love to us in ways we don’t expect. That’s been a tough truth for me to reconcile, but I remember his words and honesty during moments where I think that God isn’t providing. I believe it’s core to understanding the meaning of this psalm and learning how God “feeds us” and answers our needs.
So, what do you do when you feel like God isn’t feeding you or answering your need? Recognize that He may be feeding and nourishing you in a different way than what you expect, and listen and watch closely for what He reveals as the “food” He’s giving to nourish you.