Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4)
When our bodies need energy, we know that we need to eat. So we eat a variety of foods, some better and some worse sources of energy (and bodily health, but more on that in my next post). Our body then digests these foods and converts them into energy and we can keep going. No food, no energy. No energy, no going on.
This physical phenomenon mirrors a spiritual reality. Our souls also run on a kind of energy, and so require a sort of food that they convert into that energy.
So what do our souls eat?
Before we answer that question, let’s first ask this: what is the energy that animates the soul? Answer: hope.
Our souls are hope machines. We consume hope every day. And when we run low on hope we start feeling discouraged, even desperate.
All the wonderful things that have happened to us in the past will not fuel our hope if our future looks bleak. We can be grateful for the past. But we must have hope for the future in order to keep going.
But what about faith? Isn’t faith what keeps us going? Well, yes, because you really can’t have hope without faith. They are inextricably linked. But faith is distinct from hope (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith is the confidence we have that our source of hope is trustworthy (Hebrews 11:1). Hope is the energy of the soul.
When we’re hopeful, the world is full of wonder and possibilities. We have drive and curiosity. We don’t want to waste our lives. We take on challenges and see adversity as something to be overcome.
But when we run low on hope, the world becomes a fearful, threatening place, full of chaotic futility. Hopelessness saps us of desire and drive. It robs us of interest and appetite. We just want to curl up and protect our souls.
Today, we call this experience depression. The Bible diagnoses it as hopelessness. Note the psalmist’s prescription for his depression:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:5)
Hope in God. Okay, so how do we do that? If our souls run on the energy of hope, then what do we feed our souls in order to hope in God? We feed them promises.
A promise is a pledge of a good or better future for us. God’s promises are what he pledges to be for us, do for us, and provide for us. That is what the writer of Psalm 43 is exhorting himself to do: remember and believe (eat) God’s promises. Here is a powerful example of a promise God uses to feed his saints:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
The Bible is a book of promises—a storehouse of soul food—as well as stories of God making and keeping promises.
But as we’ll read in the next post, God has provided a soul food, one particular source of hope, that will sustain his people eternally.
Note: John Piper’s Future Grace is the best explanation I’ve ever read on the future-orientation of faith and hope and how God uses this to make us holy.