Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food
by Lysa TerKeurst
Made to Crave If you could personify craving based on your experience of it, what form might it take? Would it be like the little orange monster or would it take a different shape? Describe what your craving looks like and how it behaves. If you could sit down and have a conversation with this imaginary craving, what do you think it might say to you? What questions would you want to ask it? How do you imagine it might respond?
By Lysa TerKeurst
What’s Really Going On Here?
Recently, a weight loss company came up with a brilliant advertising campaign. Maybe you’ve seen some of their ads. A little orange monster chases a woman around, tempting and taunting her with foods that obviously aren’t a part of her healthy eating plan. The ads perfectly capture what it feels like to be harassed by cravings all day long.
While I’ve never seen this orange monster chasing me, I’ve felt its presence. My resolve feels strong until the next time I get hungry. And unhealthy choices are always so convenient. They are packaged and preserved and sing of salty and sugary highs tailor made for a hungry stomach. You don’t find fresh fruits and veggies conveniently located in a nearby vending machine. So, I give in to that bag of chips or a candy bar because I am so hungry and it will only be for this time. These empty calories do nothing but taste good in the moment and then set me up for more unhealthy choices just a short time later.
We crave what we eat. So, the cycle continues day after day. Hunger pang after hunger pang. Craving after craving. The orange monster is there reminding me of all the delicious choices that would satisfy in ways healthy choices never would.
So, while the orange monster is a great way to visualize cravings, the ads fall short in their promise to really help a woman. The weight loss company’s theory is to teach what foods are more filling and encourage consumption of those. But does that really help overcome cravings?
For me, it does not. The answer will never be found in only learning to modify my choices. Choosing better foods is certainly a part of this journey. However, simply telling me to eat healthier foods that will help me feel full longer doesn’t address the heart of the matter. I can feel full after a meal and still crave chocolate pie for dessert. Just feeling full isn’t the answer to sticking with a healthy eating plan.
If feeling full were the answer, then gastric bypass surgery should be 100 percent successful. This surgery shrinks the size of a person’s stomach, thus shrinking the amount of food necessary to give them a full feeling. However, one study showed the failure rate for patients who were followed for at least ten years was 20.4 percent for morbidly obese patients and 34.9 percent for super obese patients.1 Even a significant number of those whose lives are at stake — and who have drastic surgery to help them — can’t always stop their cravings by simply feeling full.
So, what’s really going on here?
I believe God made us to crave. Now before you think this is some sort of cruel joke by God, let me assure you that the object of our craving was never supposed to be food or other things people find themselves consumed by, such as sex or money or chasing after significance.
Think about the definition of the word craving. How would you define it? Dictionary.com defines craving as something you long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for.2 Now consider this expression of craving: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, event faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1 – 2). Yes, we were made to crave — long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for — God. Only God. But Satan wants to do everything possible to replace our craving for God with something else. Here’s what the Bible says about this: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15 – 16).
The passage details three ways Satan tries to lure us away from loving God:
• The cravings of the sinful man
• The lust of his eyes
• The boasting of what he has or does
Let’s define these things. According to the commentary in my Life Application Study Bible (NIV), the cravings of the sinful man are misplaced physical desires — issues with our food or sex outside of marriage. In other words trying to get our physical needs met outside the will of God. The lust of the eyes is being enamored by material things. The New Living Translation actually equates the lust of the eyes as “a craving for everything we see.” And lastly, the boasting of what one has or does describes the actions of someone chasing what she thinks will make her feel significant.
Cravings = trying to get our physical desires met outside the will of God
Lust of eyes = trying to get our material desires met outside the will of God
Boasting = trying to get our need for significance met outside the will of God
Remember in the introduction when we briefly talked about Eve? She was lured by the serpent into eating the forbidden fruit. As I was studying this story I realized how intentionally Satan chooses his tactics. He knows where we are weak. He desires to lure us away from God. And he knows what works . . . the cravings of the sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has or does.
Satan used all three tactics with Eve. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food [cravings of the sinful man] and pleasing to the eye [lust of the eyes], and also desirable for gaining wisdom [boasting of what she has or does], she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6). Eve was tempted in precisely the same three ways the 1 John passage warns us not to be lured away from loving God.
But it doesn’t stop there. Look at how Jesus was tempted:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1 – 11)
Again, the pattern of temptation is the same:
Cravings: Satan appealed to Jesus’ physical cravings for food.
Lust of the eyes: The devil promised Jesus entire kingdoms if He would bow down to the god of materialism.
Boasting: The enemy enticed Jesus to prove His significance by forcing God to command angels to save Him.
But here’s the significant difference between Eve and Jesus. Eve was saturated in the object of her desire. Jesus was saturated in God’s truth.
I obviously wasn’t in the garden with Eve, but based on three phrases from Genesis 3:6, I can only infer she never took her eyes off the fruit as she: saw that the food was good, pleasing to the eye, and desirable. She didn’t walk away and give herself time to really consider her choice. She didn’t consult Adam. She didn’t consider the truth of what God had clearly instructed. She didn’t talk to God. She focused only on the object of her obsession.
Remember what I said at the beginning of this chapter . . . we crave what we eat. If I make healthy choices over a period of time, it seems to reprogram my taste buds. The more veggies and fruit I eat, the more veggies and fruit I crave. However, if I eat brownies and chips, I crave brownies and chips in the worst kind of way. Eve craved what she focused on. We consume what we think about. And what we think about can consume us if we’re not careful.
Jesus sets a beautiful example of breaking this vicious cycle of being consumed by cravings. It’s even more powerful when we understand that Jesus, unlike Eve, was in a completely deprived state. Eve was in a garden of paradise with her every need provided for. Jesus had been in a desert, fasting for forty days. I can’t imagine a more deprived state. And yet, He held strong and set a powerful example of how to escape the vicious grip of temptation. He quoted God’s Word. And so can we. When we feel deprived and frustrated and consumed with wanting unhealthy choices, we too can rely on God’s Word to help us.
With each temptation, Jesus, without hesitation, quoted Scripture that refuted Satan’s temptation. Truth is powerful. The more saturated we are with truth, the more powerful we’ll be in resisting our temptations. And the more we’ll naturally direct our cravings where they should be directed — to the Author of all truth.
Cravings. Are they a curse or a blessing? The answer to that depends on what we’re craving. And what we’re craving will always depend on whatever we’re consuming . . . the object of our desire or God and His truth.
In the next chapter we’ll talk about how to practically consume God’s truth in a way that truly satisfies. For now, consider what it means to the success of your journey to quote Scripture in the midst of a craving attack. One of the most meaningful Scriptures I used in this process is “ ‘Everything is permissible’ — but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23). We’ll talk about this Scripture more in a later chapter, but I quoted it over and over to remind myself that I could have that brownie or those chips, but they wouldn’t benefit me in any way. That thought empowered me to make a beneficial choice rather than wallowing in being deprived of an unhealthy choice. For other helpful Scriptures, check out the section starting on page 195. Make a point to write out meaningful verses for this journey and quote them aloud each time the orange monster tries to talk you into tarrying with him a while.
I know it’s a battle, sister. But we aren’t rendered powerless. The more saturated we are with God’s truth, the more powerfully resis- tant we become. Stick with me here — this isn’t a plastic Christian answer. It’s one that will change our lives if we let it.
1. One weight loss company personifies craving as a little orange monster that chases us around, tempting us to eat unhealthy foods. Take a moment to reflect on your own experience of craving, recently and over time.
2. How do you respond to the idea that God made us to crave (page 20)? Have you ever pursued a craving — a longing, passion, or desire — that made a positive contribution to your life? What do you think distinguishes that kind of craving from the craving that leads you to eat in unhealthy ways?
3. If it’s true that we are made to crave, how might it change the way you understand your cravings? Do you believe there could be any benefits to listening to your cravings rather than trying to silence them? If so, what might those benefits be? If not, why not?
4. The Bible describes three ways Satan tries to lure us away from loving God: cravings, lust of the eyes, and boasting (1 John 2:15 – 16). Lysa explains how Satan used these tactics with both Eve and Jesus (pages 22 – 23). Using the list below, think back over the last twenty-four hours or the last few days to see if you recognize how you may have been tempted in similar ways.
Cravings: meeting physical desires outside the will of God. In what ways were you tempted by desires for things such as food, alcohol, drugs, or sex?
Lust of the eyes: meeting material desires outside the will of God. In what ways were you tempted by desires for material things — clothing, financial portfolio, appliances, vacation plans, cosmetics, home décor, electronics, etc.?
Boasting: meeting needs for significance outside the will of God. In what ways were you tempted by desires to prop up your significance — perhaps by name dropping, exaggerating, feigning humility or other virtues, doing something just because you knew it would been observed by others, etc.?
Of the three kinds of temptations, which is the most difficult for you to resist? Which is the easiest to resist? Why?
-5. Jesus quotes the truth of Scripture to defeat temptation (page 22). Have you ever used Scripture in this way? What was the result? How do you feel about the idea of using this approach to address your unhealthy eating patterns?