It took a lot of years for me to finally realize that cookies and chip dip weren’t to blame for the extra weight around my middle. Food wasn’t the culprit, but my unmanaged feelings were.
Whether I was anxious about my children’s safety, overwhelmed by my non-stop schedule, or feeling lonely because I lacked meaningful friends, those feelings collided, creating a deep, aching pit in my middle. I often felt empty inside and at times, nauseous. It was an awful feeling that I wanted to make go away as much as possible. My solution? Food. More specifically, I tried to soothe my uncomfortable feelings with comfort food. However, that hole in my heart and soul was like a bottomless pit so no amount of ice cream, pizza, or any other food could satisfy the emptiness within.
Not only did Jesus come to earth to show us what God was like, but He faced the full slate of human experiences that we struggle with today. In fact, Jesus provides a path to freedom for us when the emptiness inside screams for us to raid the refrigerator.
In Matthew 4, Jesus faced off against Satan after 40 days and 40 nights of fasting. According to our Western-eating patterns, that Jesus meant that fasted from 120 meals. Even as Jesus was fully God, He would have experienced the same kind of emotional or spiritual stress that pushes us into our kitchen pantries for a salty-this or creamy-that to soothe our hearts and minds.
When Satan shows up to tempt Jesus up in the wilderness, the very first tool of temptation he presented was a loaf of bread. In my imagination, I see Satan holding a platter of hot, yeasty bread under Jesus’ noses. As the melted butter drips from the side of the dish, Satan tempts Jesus to turn the stones around Him into loaves of bread. Satan wanted Jesus to use His divine nature to satisfy His human desires. However, Jesus surrenders His human desire to His divine nature.
In the face of tremendous stress, this is how Jesus responded to Satan’s challenge: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Even as Jesus experienced tremendous physical hunger, He recognized the greater spiritual need in His life, which was total dependence on God. There’s nothing wrong with food or enjoying food. However, we will starve spiritually if we expect food to satisfy our need for peace, love, hope, forgiveness, or healing. Only God can satisfy those deep needs!
Here’s a practical tip that you can use to help you test whether or not you’re attempting to use food to satisfy a spiritual need: Write out Matthew 4:4 on a notecard or post-it note and tape it to your favorite comfort food. The next time you reach for it, take a moment and evaluate whether or not you are truly hungry or if you need to put down the food and ask God to satisfy the spiritual hunger within.
PRAYER: God, only you can satisfy the deepest needs in my life. Help me to identify the deep hunger within and to bring those deep needs to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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