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Spiritual Malnutrition: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Many people today are satisfied with the milk of the Word – the easy-to-swallow parts that make them feel good. The spiritual nutrients we need to strengthen us and keep our thoughts in order is found in the meat of the Word of God. Those morsels of substance that take some chewing on before they can be digested. Writing to the Hebrews, Paul makes a parallel between physical and spiritual undernourishment and the resulting immaturity.

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-13, NIV)

The World Health Organization states that “Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.” [1] The many symptoms of starvation include lack of concentration, poor wound healing, and loss of muscle tone. [2] Spiritually, when God’s people are undernourished, many of these same areas are affected in mental, emotional, and spiritual manifestations. I cannot help but notice the similarities.

It seems obvious that not eating enough causes malnutrition, however, overeating can also lead to undernourishment if we are filling ourselves with the wrong influences. To prevent malnutrition, spiritual or otherwise, we must first identify the causes by acknowledging the symptoms. otherwise, we must first identify the causes by acknowledging the symptoms.

I am sure you can recall a time of sickness, maybe some stomach flu or virus, that made you unable to eat much more than chicken broth. You will remember as that broth gave you enough to keep you alive, as you began to recover, you were able to eat more. Soon you felt well enough to eat solids, and before too long, the sickness is just an unpleasant memory. If you feel you may be malnourished in spiritual qualities, it is okay to begin slow.

Ask the Lord to give you strength to take in a Psalm, or a chapter from John to get reacquainted with Christ. Build your resistance, treat what may be sick inside you. His living Word will strengthen you and your hunger for Jesus, the Bread of Life, will grow. As you trust, obey, and grow out of a spiritual McDiet kid’s meal, you will “give up childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV).


[1]“Malnutrition.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 15 Apr. 2020, [2]MacAulay, Katherine, and Katherine MacAulay. “What Are the Early Signs of Malnutrition?”,


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