Hope is to our soul what energy is to our body. Just like our bodies must have energy to keep going, our souls must have hope to keep going.
When our body needs energy, we eat food. But when our soul needs hope, what do we feed it? Promises.
Why do we feed our soul promises? Because promises have to do with our future, and hope is something we only feel about the future — about ten minutes from now, or ten months, or ten thousand years.
We’re never hopeful about the past. We can be grateful for the past. The past can inspire or even guarantee a hopeful future for us. But all the wonderful things that have happened to us in the past will not fuel our hope if our future looks bleak.
However, if our future is promising, our soul will be hopeful even if our present is miserable, because hope is what keeps the soul going.
So, we “eat” promises, which our soul digests (believes) and converts to hope.
Toxic Soul Food
When feeding the body, there is “healthy food” and there is “junk food.” Both will, in the short run, produce energy. But healthy food provides the right kinds of energy, enhances the operation of the body’s complex systems, strengthens its resilience against disease, and increases its durability and longevity. Junk food, on the other hand, has essentially the opposite effect in all these areas, and contributes to the breaking down of the body over time.
Similarly, there are “healthy promises” and “junk promises.” Both will, in the short run, produce hope. But healthy promises provide the right kind of hope and promote health throughout the complexities of the human soul. Junk promises prove ultimately toxic and lead to soul-death.
Both physical and spiritual nutrition are important, because we always become what we eat. We must take greater care, though, in what we feed our souls, because so much more is at stake.
The world and the devil are very aware that we feed our souls promises, which is why, like junk food, junk promises are everywhere. They are heavily marketed (notice every temptation to sin is a promise of some kind of happiness), attractively packaged, tasty (though not truly rich), convenient, and have a particular allure when you’re running low on hope. They deliver a fast buzz of false hope and ruin your appetite for truly healthy promises.
But junk promises always disappoint because their buzz is followed by a hope-plunge into guilt, shame, and emptiness. They never deliver the happiness they promise because our souls are designed for a far better hope. And yet, junk promises can be addicting, because our hope-plunge can send us back seeking another fast, false buzz.
“Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). Our souls are designed to be nourished by God’s “precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:4).
But these promises are not mere human words; they are living and active (Hebrews 4:12), proceeding directly from the living Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:1). He is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13) and “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
What could possibly give more hope to our sinful souls than Jesus’s promises to forgive all of our sins completely, to remove all of the Father’s judgment and wrath against us, to always be with us (Matthew 28:20), and to give us eternal life in God’s presence with full joy and pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11)? Only in him do we find “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This is why Jesus called himself the bread of life (John 6:35). The past grace of his death and resurrection guarantee a never-ending stream of hope-giving future grace for us extending into eternity. To eat these promises is to eat this living bread and live forever (John 6:51).
And Jesus has made the Bible the storehouse of nourishing, living soul food for his saints. It is stocked full of promises, and he invites us to come eat our fill for free (Isaiah 55:1)!
You Can Change
This living soul food is more vital to our ultimate health than bodily food. But learning to eat well for the sake of our body’s well-being has valuable lessons for eating well for our soul’s well-being. And one of those valuable lessons is that our taste preferences can be changed.
Our tastes are conditioned by habits and wrong ways of thinking about food. Like eating healthy food, eating healthy promises requires more work to plan — new habits of discipline that aren’t as convenient and entertaining as junk promises. And if we’ve become conditioned to heavily processed, sugary, empty-carb promises, artificially engineered to be addictive, we may find the taste and texture of true food less enjoyable at first.
But these habit and taste preferences will change as we stick with it and increasingly experience the benefits of substantial, hope-sustaining and deepening benefits.
The only way to break a habit of eating junk food promises is cultivating a taste for rich, nourishing, long-lasting, deeply satisfying, and true promises. It takes eating real food to develop the taste for real food. We must be patient. Old tastes do not diminish and new tastes are not acquired overnight. We might find it helpful to change some bodily food habits at the same time, and let that experience illustrate the spiritual reality. But as we press in, God will meet us and help us “taste and see” that he is good (Psalm 34:8).
“The God of hope” wants us to feast on his promises and be filled “with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).