Are you hungry? Are you starved? We say things like, “I’m starving.” What do we really mean when we say that? I’m going to be so bold as to say food is the last thing we need, but God is always what we need.
When I say I’m starving, I really don’t mean I haven’t had a meal in days. Truth be told, most of the time I mean I am feeling some kind of emotion I don’t want to feel. I learned early on that food would momentarily fill any emotional need I had. Because I really can not turn off emotions, I feel something all the time.
When I can’t or don’t want to deal with whatever emotion I have, I push it down with food. I feed my emotions so they will be quiet and not bother me for a while.
The problem is, emotions always rise their heads again if I shove them to the background. The next time they scream louder and require more food to keep them quiet.
If you are someone who has a problem with food, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
As some of you know I’ve gone on a weight loss journey and have said good-bye for good to over 260 pounds. In the process I’ve also lost tons of emotional baggage and have begun learning how to navigate through my emotions.
It’s really not easy because I’ve spent a lifetime trying to make myself feel appropriate, whatever that is. A lot of emotional angst began in my childhood, at a time when I could not cognitively process what my emotions meant.
So an adult would say something and I would interpret it a way that the adult who said it was not intending. That set up an emotion of sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, fear or something else. And I would get stuck there. I interpreted it as if I just try harder to be perfect the adult won’t be angry with me. If I just stay out of the way and be quiet, they won’t be sad.
If I can just control everything around me and get good grades then people will like me and I won’t be lonely. It doesn’t matter that I’m eating so much because the fat will protect me. Whenever I’m frustrated I can just eat something and feel comfort from that feeling. And if I want to feel happy, of course, I will eat something sweet to make me feel like I felt on my birthday, Christmas or a big family party.
Role of parents
I had great parents, but they were concerned with health issues, money issues, life issues. There didn’t always have time stop and help me process my emotions. Parents aren’t mind readers. They don’t always know how their children take something they say.
One of the best things any parent can do is help children process their emotions, is to help them understand the role of God in their lives. He is protector, provider, setter of our identity, comforter, teacher, companion and the one we can tell anything to.
Understanding these things helps us understand that when we don’t know what to do, we need only go to God and He will take care of us or teach us what to do ourselves.
Hungry for God
This leads me back to being hungry. In the Beatitudes God says “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”1 What this says to me that when we focus on doing what God says and knowing His Word, our emotional tank will be full and we will have no need to go to sources that only mimic filling us.
If you are like me, I accepted what the church taught was living in unrighteousness. Things like drinking alcohol, premarital or extramarital sex, wild parties, drugs, cigarettes and most any other vices were things I have stayed away from throughout my life. The problem is, I followed the rules but I did not have a real concept of what righteousness is all about.
Righteousness or right living only comes when we hunger after God, when we want to know Him more than we want our next meal. When we long for His presence more than that food we crave.
The Message says it this way, “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”2
It’s putting Him first before we even think about what we want to eat. This has to be a cognitive behavior, something we have to train ourselves to think about. Our first response as an infant is to cry when we are hungry. We want milk.
The writer of Hebrews admonishes us not to continue to cry like babies for milk. “Someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”3
Trained to crave God
Notice he says we need training to recognize right and wrong or truth and lies. We have to learn how to crave God more than food. When I was extremely overweight, I was living in the lie that I needed certain foods to keep me from being angry, frustrated, depressed. I needed these foods to be joyful and feel satisfied. I needed these foods to be … righteous.
This is simply a lie. Having emotions does not mean you are non righteous. And foods should not be used to control our emotions. Admitting to God that we are feeling a certain emotion and asking Him to show us what it means and how to get through to the truth is the correct way to use our emotions for our benefit.
Emotions can be good
God gave us emotions. They make us feel joy, love, peace. They allow us to forgive, accept, give compassion, have patience and faith, administer goodness and kindness. And the proper emotion can help us control our desires as we submit to Christ’s control.
Emotions help us go forward, but only when they are submitted to God.
So let me ask you again, are you hungry? Are you starving? What are you hungry for? What are you starving for?
Let me suggest the next time you feel you HAVE to eat something, you ask God, what am I really feeling? Can you help me understand what’s going on? What is the root of these feelings?
When you are tempted to eat and you know it’s not time to eat and you really are not physically hungry, put on some worship music, pray, read the Bible, journal. Begin to get in touch with who you are and what you are really feeling.
More importantly ask Him for a deep craving to draw ever closer to Him. You can never get too much of God.
“When God fulfills your longing, sweetness fills your soul.”4
1 Matthew 5:6 NIV
2 Matthew 5:6 MSG
3 Hebrews 5:13-14 NLT
4 Proverbs 13:19 TPT
Teresa Shields Parker is an author, speaker and coach. Her book Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds is the #1 Christian weight loss memoir on Amazon. She shares transparently and openly about the challenges of losing an extreme amount of weight. Sweet Grace Study Guide gives practical tips on weight loss.
Her new book, Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation, published Dec. 2014, shares the stories of 17 individuals on the weight loss journey and includes much information from Teresa. Downloadable pdfs of all books are available under the products tab.
Sweet Change Weight Loss Coaching and Accountability Group provides support, encouragement, weekly videos, action steps and an online group for those wanting to be intentional about their weight loss efforts.
To request Teresa to speak at your event, please contact her here.