Nov/Dec 2011

The Food Idol

GUT-CHECK

Want to determine whether or not food has become an idol in your life? Ask yourself these seven questions:

1. Do I spend a significant amount of time thinking about what I will eat?

2. Do I find myself frequently craving       certain foods?

3. Do I use food as a way of coping with stress?

4. Do I use food as a way of covering up emotional or relational pain?

5. Do I use food as a way of celebrating success?

6. Do I frequently overeat, even when I know I’ve had enough?

7. Do I frequently indulge in foods that I know are harmful?

If after answering these questions you discover that food has become a distraction to your relationship with God, turn to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to free you from idolatry and restore your relationship with Him. Memorize verses from His Word that will help you whenever you are faced with the temptation to turn to food for fulfillment. Try Joshua 24:15, Psalm 90:14, Isaiah 58:11 and 1 Corinthians 10:13. Also, consider asking a trusted Christian friend for help and accountability.

“Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world…everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.” – 1 John 2:15-16

This summer I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Haiti with a group from my church. While the trip was an outstanding time of ministry and connection with God, I did have one challenge: the food. It wasn’t even close to my normal diet!

After several days of defaulting to peanut butter and jelly as a way of filling my stomach, I selfishly found myself craving familiar foods that I was used to eating. Since our family eats primarily whole grains, lean meats and organic produce, I was almost dreaming about food, which is unusual for me as I rarely even think about it when I’m at home.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for thousands of men and women, especially in the United States. Food literally consumes the thoughts of those who have become accustomed to using it as a way of coping with stress, covering up emotional pain, or even celebrating (which they find ways of doing regularly).

If we’re honest, we have become “foodusers,” meaning we use it as a way of trying to fill a void, fix a problem or find pleasure. In these cases, food actually becomes an idol.

This problem isn’t new. In Philippians 3:18-19, the Apostle Paul addressed it by stating, “For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things…”

People tell me all the time that the primary reason they exercise is so they can eat whatever they want. They love food and view working out as permission to indulge. Unfortunately, when these folks give in to their cravings thinking they are satisfying their appetites, they find that their cravings aren’t satisfied but intensified. In the end, they cheat themselves by offsetting the health benefits of exercise with unhealthy eating habits.

Like all idols, food makes promises it can’t keep. It may be enjoyable at the moment, but it never provides lasting satisfaction.

When I got back from Haiti, I immediately tried to satisfy my hunger but found that the items I thought I couldn’t live without weren’t as good as I thought they’d be. They overpromised and under-delivered.

All idols—food or otherwise—do three things: distract us from God, drain our resources and drive our behavior. If food is an idol, our attention and actions will become aligned behind it. We’ll think about it often and spend a lot of time pursuing it and indulging in it. Ultimately, it gets expensive in terms of time, energy and money.

Food becomes an idol in our lives when we ask it to give us things that only God can give. If we expect it to provide a sense of belonging or heal relational pain, it will fail. If we want it to offer lasting pleasure, we will be dissatisfied within an hour. If we expect it to fix our problems, take away our loneliness or make us feel loved, we’ll always be disappointed. Only God can do those things, and idols distract us from our desire for Him, making us seek love from outside sources.

When we get disconnected from the Lord, we start searching for substitutes. And until we reconnect with Him and allow Him to fill our life with identity, security, love and acceptance, the only thing our little idols will do is temporarily fill us up and tear us down.

Thankfully there’s good news. All idols in our lives can be defeated when we reconnect with God, renew our walk with Him, and let Him begin to increasingly satisfy the longings of our heart. If we do that, all other substitutes, like food, will start to look a lot less attractive and satisfying. We’ll discover that only God can truly satisfy our deepest needs and desires.

The next time you find yourself craving food for something other than nourishment, consider whether or not it has taken on the form of a personal idol. While there are circumstances in which food can be enjoyed in celebration, it should never be something we use for fulfillment. That’s God’s role. He alone can satisfy our longings, and the best part is that He will if we let Him.

Live a fit life. C’mon, you can do this!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For nearly 20 years, Jimmy Page has been involved in various leadership roles in the medical fitness industry. As the former national director of FCA’s Health and Fitness Ministry, Page now serves as one of FCA’s 11 vice presidents of field ministry and is the co-author of the book WisdomWalks. He and his wife, Ivelisse, reside in Reistertown, Md., with their four children.

Medical Disclaimer: All information in this article is of a general nature and is furnished for your knowledge and understanding only. For serious health symptoms, always consult a physician or health professional.
 

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