Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

Dec 06, 2023 by Colleen C Orchanian

You may have heard that saying, feed a cold, starve a fever. Or maybe you heard it the other way around. Either way, the idea is that there are some things you feed and other things you starve in order to stay physically healthy. When it comes to our spiritual health, we also have things we should starve and other things that we should feed. In a broad sense, we starve anything that comes from or leads us to the enemy and feed anything that comes from or draws us to God.

For example, what thoughts do we feed and what do we starve? Some thoughts are good and holy; others are not.

When I have a critical thought about another person, I can feed it or starve it. Feeding it would lead me down a path of cataloging all the mistakes and hurts from the person – all their flaws. If you are a business manager and need to make a decision about whether to fire someone, cataloging their flaws is important in your decision making. In personal relationships, it's not so important, and can even be detrimental. I might get to the point where I can't see anything positive because I am so blinded by the negative.

I might have a thought about a stranger I see in the store. They need help. I can starve that thought and let someone else help, or I can feed that thought and engage them in conversation. I might have a thought about someone at church who talks a lot. They must be lonely. If I starve that thought, I might think someone else should listen to them, not me. If I feed the thought, my heart will reach out to them and I will be the one to listen.

Curiosity might be something we should starve, or we hear a rumor about a friend and want all the juicy details. We read online about a scandal with a famous person and we want to know more. It's like rubbernecking at the scene of an accident. We want to see the people who are injured. Paul warned about this in 1 Timothy and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. He said to mind your own affairs, don't be busybodies or gossips. We must starve those curiosities.

Sometimes we need to starve our emotions: Years ago I was riding motorcycles with a group of people. Dave, one of the other riders, passed me in a curve. I was very angry! I remember consciously thinking, hold on to your anger. Do not calm down. Keep that anger until you stop so you can give him a piece of your mind. I was feeding my anger when I should have been starving it. It is much better to deal with a bad situation when you aren't angry. I know I looked like a fool when I got off that bike and began yelling at Dave.

We often feed our fears. We live in worry about the future. So often Jesus said, Do not be afraid. Perfect love casts out fear. We should starve our fears, praying that God will help us by removing whatever fears are stealing our peace and joy.

Some people feed their regrets. They live in the past, sorrowful about their sins, even those that have been forgiven. They think, If only… They imagine what could have been. God wants us to starve our regrets and to receive His mercy.

Too often we feed our wounds. Bodybuilders get big muscles with strength training. The muscles tear and the body repairs the damage by fusing the fibers, which increases the mass and size of the muscles. So strength training deliberately damages the muscle and it gets repaired by growing bigger. In the same way, when we feed our wounds, they can get irritated and grow bigger. They are not being healed. Feeding the wound would mean we are dwelling on the pain without seeking healing. Then we live as victims. God is the Divine Healer and wants us to starve the time we waste in reliving past hurts and bring those hurts to him for healing.

We should feed our desire to serve without being gluttons. What I mean is that sometimes people get so busy serving God that they don't have time to spend with God, in prayer with God. There will always be needs in the world that we can help with. We can discern which of those good things God has called us to, and let go of the others.

We always want to feed our desire for knowledge of God. We can never exhaust our understanding of who God is; it is beyond our intellectual capacity. But we can always know more, and we should feed that by reading the Bible. It's the story of salvation history – the story of The Word. St. Jerome, who translated the Bible from the original languages into Latin, once said, Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. Ignorance is starvation, so feed your desire for knowledge of God.

We always want to feed our prayer time. That is our lifeline. That is our source of all strength. It is tempting to give up prayer time when life is busy, but prayer should be our first priority. How do you feed your prayer time? You take time each day to talk with God. If you're a stay-at-home mom with demanding little ones, you might have only 10 minutes after everyone falls asleep or you pray while feeding the baby. That's okay. But if you can take more, do it. Prayer is essential, and so we feed that need.

Sometimes, in order to feed our prayer time, we have to starve our diversions: social media, television, politics, games, the news. It's important to know what's going on in the world, so the news is good. But listening to the news for hours on end when there is nothing new is a waste of time, time that can be spent in prayer. The same goes for social media or online games. These are things we can starve. Some good questions to ask about the diversion are: Is there good in it? Is it drawing me closer to God? Is it helping me serve God? How I answer those questions will determine what, if anything, needs to be starved.

In our lives, we make choices. What do we feed? What do we starve? Ultimately, our goal is spiritual growth, union with God, service to God, and finally, eternal life with Him. So feed the colds in your life and starve the fevers. Let God bring you good spiritual health.

Questions for prayer:

  1. What are the things in your life that you want to feed more in the future? How might that impact your spiritual health.
  2. What are the things in your life that you want to starve? How might that impact your spiritual health?