Hunger and the Depression
- Deborah Wuehler The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
- 2004 3 May
Ever been hungry? Really hungry? Not likely if you're a citizen of these United States and if you are younger than 70. Those who have lived through the 1930s or who are blessed to have lived longer than 70 years will tell you of a period of time known as The Great Depression. And, many of them can tell you, they knew hunger. They did whatever it took to get a meal, even if it meant a full day of back breaking labor just for a loaf of bread. They also learned plenty about having to "make do" with what they had and in the process learned ingenuity, resourcefulness, and frugality. Our present society of luxury could learn a lesson or two.
What was it like between the years of 1930-40? They were years of leanness; years of shortage; years of hunger; years of depression. Granted, different parts of the country were affected differently, but there were hard working people everywhere, grateful for whatever they had, and passing on to the next generation their never-give-up spirit and stick-to-it-iveness. Then came the war which brought with it jobs; jobs brought money; money brought food; food brought relief for the weary.
A war bond sold to the youngest child in Oceanside, California went to a brand new baby named Suzanne Myers in January 1944. That year brought with it hope for the jobless, and jobs for the hopeless. That little baby just turned sixty this year (and just happens to be my mother!) And, she just happens to be the most resourceful person I know. Although she bypassed the Great Depression, she was a by-product of the times, and she learned how to "make do." She can take anything and make something with it. For instance, she can take something as useless as an old shoulder pad and – voila – create cute crafty angel wings, or make her house look like a Victorian magazine cover with thrift store and yard sale junk. She learned from the people around her who had just come through one of the roughest times in our nation's history. Spoken and unspoken mottos among many at the time were, "If you have it, use it up." "If it's in the cupboard, eat it up." "Don't waste anything!" "Eat everything on your plate," or better yet, "CLEAN your plate!" Our present society of waste could learn a lesson or two.
As I studied food from the depression era, it varied from squirrel stew and canned dandelion weeds to poor man's bread. What I also found was that the less people had, the more creative they became. Food that didn't seem edible when they were full, became edible when they were hungry. If they didn't can everything that grew in the summer, they would go hungry in winter. It's the old storing-up idea, and it's a good idea at that. The book of Proverbs says that even the ants store up food for the winter. Most people don't even think about storing up – with maybe the exception of that Y2K scare we had a few years ago and that junk in the garage. We have everything we need for now – fast food, pre-packaged instant meals, and quick made-to-order-whatever-you-please.
Learning from History
We know the war came on the heels of the depression, but what preceded that time? For the sake of chronology, let's take a step back and look at what was going on before those depression years, the 1920s. What were the 1920's like? In my novice speculation, they were years of excess – free fancy – forget about God and His commands and live for today! As the book of Judges repeatedly says, "everyone did what seemed right in his own eyes." I see the same thing mirrored in our day – the same absence of following God's commands and worse yet, legal action for the mere acknowledgement of Him in our society. Man was not only hedonistic, man put his trust in man and what followed was a collapse of man's empires. Does that give us any clue as to what could transpire in the future as we continue to echo that philosophy?
What about right now in our homes and our homeschooling? Can we apply what we learn from history even here? Are we putting trust in our own seemingly good ideas, or in God's precepts? Is our own little empire on the verge of collapse as we fall into a spiritual type of depression? Has our Christian walk been up and down – similar to living it up in the 1920's and then into a depression like the 1930's?
Though the Great Depression created a never-give-up spirit, a "spiritual depression" creates just the opposite: apathy. The only benefit of going through a spiritual depression is that we finally realize the need for better food for our souls, and we come to the conclusion that we cannot build good character traits from "doing without." One of the marks of the Great Depression was the food eaten, whereas the mark of a spiritual depression is that the food that God has provided is not eaten. What have we been storing up and feeding our spirits?
Are your spiritual cupboards bare? Has your hunger for the Word disappeared? Let me tell you about my own spiritual malnutrition and my own depression era. That "first saved" period of my walk with Christ was when I ate of His Word and never seemed to be full. I always desired more and was full of life and vitality in the Lord. Then came a period of time where I let the busyness of being a wife, mother, and teacher stop me from reading my Bible regularly. I began to rely on others to feed me through sermons or Bible Studies. I lost my own hunger for the Word. Then, even what others taught began to become dull. Eventually, I became lethargic and went through a period of "spiritual depression." I would open my Bible only if I happened to remember to bring it to church on Sunday. If I got letters in the mail from Christian organizations I would quickly scan past the scriptures to get to the "meat" of the letter. I thought I already knew everything there was to know about favorite memory verses and didn't take a second look at them. And at church, I often sat thinking about other things during the sermon because I already knew what was being preached, or I had that "I've heard that before" mentality and could tell it better myself. I was easily frustrated, angry, and depressed. Does any of that sound familiar?
In my life, spiritual depression began with spiritual starvation. I had starved myself of God's Word to the point where I had lost all hunger for it. Sound strange? Let me explain with a physical example. A doctor went to another country to help where he could. One of the main things he saw was malnutrition and starvation. The patients who were farthest gone had lost all appetite for food, had no hunger pangs, and were very lethargic. They had to be forced to eat. After getting enough nutrition, they eventually regained their appetite, and then would naturally eat on their own. Our spiritual life can be like this as well. If we stop eating from the Word, we will lose our spiritual appetite and suffer spiritual starvation. So, how does desire for the Word return?
The Lord graciously opened my eyes to my starved condition through a series of trials and tribulations. And, though there was no desire for His Word, I "force fed" myself until real spiritual hunger returned. I read and studied the Bible. I studied the names of God, the character of God, and the grace of God, etc. There are treasures hidden in the Word of God worth digging out. If we search, we will always find something that meets our present need. 1 Peter 2:2 states it perfectly, "as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby." For newborns to live, they need milk, not grape juice or water or anything else. Likewise to live our life in whatever capacity the Lord has us, we need the Word. I find myself convicted when I have time to watch a video or read a book, but haven't spent time in the Word. We need to pray for God to fill us with hunger and thirst for His righteousness, and He promises that we will be filled. To be hungry and seeking, yet fully satisfied and filled with Him is a glorious paradox.
Proverbs 4:7 says, "Though it cost all that you have, get understanding." What is the cost? Have you given it all that you have? It could mean getting up earlier or staying up later. It could mean studying the Word at the kitchen table while the children are doing their math or writing assignments. It could mean prefacing your read-aloud time with a chapter of the Bible. Do whatever it takes to get wisdom and understanding, though it costs you time or inconvenience. Your spiritual life depends upon it! The example you set for your children's future nourishment depends upon it.
If you find your spiritual life is in a depression, or if you have no hunger pangs for His Word, don't feel guilty. Rather I have this advice: force feed yourself. Make a time and place everyday to eat from His Word even though you may not feel like it. Your spiritual hunger will return and you will be revived. Don't give up – keep eating until desire comes. And, the great depression in your heart, in your schooling efforts, in your life – will be lifted and your hunger satisfied in Him!
Copyright, 2004. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Deborah Wuehler is the Devotional and E-Newsletter Editor for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and resides in Roseville, California with her husband Richard and their six gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling and dark chocolate! If you would like to respond to this article, you may e-mail her at Devotions@TOSMag.com. Right now, 19 free gifts for homeschoolers! www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com