My eight-year-old daughter has an uncanny ability to hear a candy wrapper being opened while in any room in our house. Moments later she is standing beside me in the kitchen with a knowing grin on her face.
“Mom, are you taking your medicine again?”
I never used to think of myself as an emotional eater. Sure, I enjoy my favorites — especially chocolate — but I used to think I had reins on my appetite. Yet somewhere in the midst of exhaustion, stress, and raising four children, I found myself retreating to the cupboard when life felt overwhelming. When I wondered what I should do first on my lengthy to-do list, it just seemed like eating some chocolate chips would help put things in perspective. As humorous as our joke can seem, I’ve been convicted of where I’m looking for peace and satisfaction.
Recently I was talking with a friend about our similar battle with food. She remarked, “I just don’t seem to have the willpower.” But is it just willpower that will keep us from eating that second piece of chocolate cake? Or is it a lack of a desire for something greater than the taste of that next dessert?
What Do You Crave?
We all face different temptations in this life. For some of us, it will be the second bowl of ice cream. For others, it’s the temptation to devote an immense amount of time, energy, and money to toning our body for the sake of looking “beach ready” by summer. For others, it’s the addiction to approval that makes us compromise our Christian convictions, while leaving us feeling weary from slaving to meet everyone else’s expectations.
All of these temptations we face are counterfeit gods. They promise a false satisfaction in life through a flat stomach, or another delicious bite, or some kind of verbal affirmation. No indulgence leaves us feeling fulfilled, but only makes us crave more than what it can offer.
Weak and Sinful Pleasures
C.S. Lewis gives us an excellent illustration of our often weak and wimpy desires in his essay, “The Weight of Glory.”
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Our insatiable appetite to be satisfied and fulfilled in life points to the one person who can fill that hole.
Most of those in the crowds that followed Jesus did so for the wrong reasons. They were drawn to his miracles and his ability to provide food to fill their rumbling stomachs. Jesus rebukes them for having their focus on the wrong thing (John 6:26). “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27).
Five Ways to Want What’s Best
Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35). He is the only one who can fulfill the deepest hunger pangs of our hearts. Sheer willpower will eventually fail in our human attempt to fight sinful temptation. But looking to Jesus will provide daily nourishment, and lasting joy, when we choose to find our satisfaction in him.
When we love Jesus more than chocolate, we will win the battle with our temptations. But we must believe him when he says he can satisfy us infinitely more than an ice cream sundae. Consider five pieces of advice when you’re facing temptation in life.
1. Evaluate your desires.
Sin is born from our desires — it’s what happens when we let wrong desires mature to full term (James 1:14–15). Think about what’s consuming your thoughts, time, energy, and spending. Are the desires you have glorifying to God, or are they false gods in disguise that need to be unmasked? What are mud pies driving you each day instead of the holiday at sea?
2. Replace your idols with the one true God.
Final satisfaction is found in Jesus alone. He is the bread of life, the only one who sustains and nourishes us for each day of our lives. Carve out time to meditate on what he has revealed about himself in his word, and fill your mind with truth that will renew and change your perspective and desires (Romans 12:2).
3. Ask God to fill you with his joy and purpose.
Stop looking to food (or money or praise) to fill the God-shaped hole in your life. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
4. Find friends in the fight for joy.
Enlist fellow believers to hold you accountable in the battles you face. We’re not meant to be lone ranger Christians. Ask a trusted friend to pray for you and ask how you’re faring in your battle with temptation.
Also, to turn it around, commit yourself to pray and fight for joy for your friends. The world is filled with God’s good gifts that sin and Satan turn to drag us away from Jesus. When we fiercely fight for the holiness of our loved ones, we simultaneously remind ourselves of the intense war that we ourselves are in constantly. The battle is bigger than just “me and my sin.” Together, the church fights to make herself ready for the heavenly marriage (Revelation 19:7–8).
5. Trust God will provide a way of escape.
Memorizing this gem can be a weapon in your arsenal when the battle gets tough: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Our deepest hungers for food, love, fame, and material things can only be quenched by a stronger desire. Ask God to give you a hunger for him more than anything else, and trust that he will satisfy you far more than another piece of chocolate cake.