The Heart of Overindulgence

I love chocolate. I mean, really, really love it. As a child, I remember going to Mackinac Island in northern Michigan for vacation. Mackinac is famous for its horse-drawn carriages (no cars are allowed on the island), bicycles that people ride around the perimeter of the island, and homemade fudge. A highlight of our trip each summer was walking into one of the many fudge shops and watching the workers spread the gooey chocolate out on a marble slab, shaping and forming it into the perfect fudge block. Samples abounded with as many varieties as you can imagine—peanut butter chocolate, mint chocolate, cherry chocolate, just to name a few. 

My two siblings and I always got to pick our own kind and carry it home in a white souvenir box. It was a contest to see who could make it last the longest (I always lost). My sister even went so far as to lick her entire block of fudge in front of me to keep me from secretly sampling it. She knew me well. 

I still enjoy fudge. But at times I’ve also found myself rummaging desperately through the cupboards searching for even a hint of the stalest, cheapest chocolate—completely different than the rich, homemade fudge from Mackinac. When there seems to be more work than hours in the day—the laundry pile is a mile high or the writing deadline is looming or the kids’ schedules are leaving me exhausted—chocolate seems like a good remedy. I take my feelings to the nearest bag of chocolate chips. And I’m not satisfied with just a few: I keep needing one more handful until I realize that I’m not even enjoying the chocolate anymore. It’s simply become a means of relieving stress by putting something sweet in my mouth. 

Maybe you can relate. 

Overeating: A Matter of the Heart

Overindulging in food is something that a lot of us struggle with. It can be an occasional thing that only rears its head when we’re stressed, sad, or bored, or it can be a regular and life-defining issue. For some, it affects our weight and can therefore alter our self-esteem and sense of confidence. 

By the way, it’s definitely possible to be a thin glutton! We can’t assume that all thin people never overindulge with food, just like we can’t assume all overweight people battle gluttony. Some people’s weight is affected by the medication they take or a physical disability that prevents them from exercising. There are multiple reasons why a person’s body is shaped the way it is. 

For all of us, overindulgence can actually stop us from really enjoying and appreciating the food we have in front of us—you’re not concentrating on that cool, sweet sensation of ice cream on your tongue because you’re already thinking about the next scoop. It can also make our relationship with food complicated and guilt-filled, so that we swing back and forth between crash diets and overeating. 

An additional danger of becoming overly reliant on food is that it can pull us away from the God who gave it to us. You may not have thought of it this way, but overeating is not just a physical challenge—it’s a matter of the heart. If we’re only looking to ease our sorrows through a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream, we’ve likely turned food into an idol. Anything we turn to first, apart from God, has the propensity to be idol worship. The experience of gratefully tasting the goodness of God through each mouthful of food is replaced by a cheap thrill of getting as much as you can as fast as you can. 

Food for Fickle Followers

To find freedom from our heart issues, we need to reorient ourselves toward God. And our desire for food can actually help us to do so. How? Well, the fact that we need to keep refilling our bodies with nutrients is a reminder of our spiritual need. The Bible compares our need for God to a hunger for food or a thirst for water (e.g. Psalm 42:1–2). So, the rumble in our stomach can actively point us to the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). 

After all, Jesus doesn’t just provide food for his fickle followers. He himself is our food:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35 ESV). 

Jesus is the source of our true satisfaction. He promises to quench the thirst of the God-shaped hole inside each one of us. Food is good, but it is not the main thing we need. The Lord Jesus is. We need to remember this if we are to respond well to our cravings for more. Jesus himself is the sustenance we need for each day. Our endless pursuit of things on earth will fade away, and only what’s done for the kingdom will last.

After the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Jesus knew that the crowds were following to watch him create more sourdough and focaccia at the drop of a hat. We read in John 6 that they wanted their physical needs met. They wanted to see more miracles. They wanted more, even though they didn’t necessarily need it! But Jesus exhorts them to incline their hearts toward heaven instead. 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 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. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:26–27 ESV

True Satisfaction

The next time you find yourself reaching for another helping or searching the cupboards for something sweet, can you pause and ask yourself what it is you’re really after? Is it pleasure, comfort, reward, or just a distraction? Can you pray and ask God to provide for your needs first, before you turn to food? Can you thank God for the food he has given you, and savor the goodness of Jesus as you eat? Can you ask for his help in focusing on the food that endures to eternal life, instead of food that perishes? 

Friend, even when we’ve blown it, even when our best efforts have failed, we can rejoice in the truth that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Jesus died for our past, present, and future sins. We don’t need to walk around with a cloud of guilt over our heads. Instead, we can remember that his mercies are new every morning—or as I’ve heard it said, his mercies are new with every meal. 

Trust that the Lord is for you and not against you, and lean into his merciful, gracious arms to receive forgiveness. And when you’re tempted to overindulge, bank on the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13—that no temptation has overtaken you which nobody else has experienced before. God is faithful, He knows your heart, and He will provide help to escape sinful desires. 

When the good gift of food threatens to become too important in our lives, let’s remind ourselves of the gracious and generous call of God:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55:1–2 ESV

Our Creator God is the one who can satisfy us, far more than the tastiest pasta or the sweetest wine. God’s invitation turns us away from the fading pleasures of the earth and reminds us that he is the richest gift—one we can savor and enjoy all the days of our lives. 

This article has been adapted from Beautiful Freedom: How the Bible Shapes Your View of Appearance, Food, and Fitness by Stacy Reaoch.

Want to hear more from Stacy on this topic? You’re in luck! She was a guest on the Grounded videocast yesterday. Catch the playback on YouTube or at

About the Author

Stacy Reaoch

Stacy Reaoch

Stacy Reaoch is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mother of four who resides in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the author of Wilderness Wanderings and the co-author of Making Room for Her. Stacy is passionate about helping women apply gospel truth … read more …

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