Revive Our Hearts Podcast

When Is it Wrong to Eat?

Leslie Basham: Elyse Fitzpatrick says there is nothing wrong with sitting down with a group of friends and having a nice meal. But first, ask yourself this question.

Elyse Fitzpatrick: If I’m doing something that I know is compromising my conscience, I know I shouldn’t do it, I don’t think I can do this without sinning but I do it anyway, then that is usually where we just throw in the towel and say, “Oh well, whatever, I’m just going to have whatever I want.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 8.

(Sound of slurping a drink) Umm, excuse me, that was good! You know, God gave us good things to eat like this milk shake, but we need to show self-control while enjoying what He’s given. When is it right to enjoy, and when is it wrong? We’re getting perspective on that all this week. Here is Nancy to get us started.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In her book Love to Eat, Hate to Eat, Elyse Fitzpatrick, who has been our guest on Revive Our Hearts for the past several days, quotes a counselee. I want to read that quote to you. I wonder if perhaps you have found yourself saying or thinking something very much like this.

Every morning I get up with a new resolve that today I’m going to do better with my eating. I pray that God will help me and sometimes I make it until dinner, but then I find myself eating whatever I want again. I know what I should and shouldn’t eat—what dieter doesn’t—but I find myself wanting to eat some certain thing and before I know it, it’s done.

Then I figure, why bother? I’ve blown it anyway, and I just go for it. The more I do this, the more discouraged I become. I just give up for a few days or even weeks, and then I start all over again. Why do I eat this way? I don’t want to, but I can’t seem to break out of this cycle. It seems that I really do love to eat and yet, I hate it.

Do you relate to that woman’s struggle? I have to say I could have written this. It could be my story so articulately expressed there. Elyse, thank you for writing the book, thank you for helping us think through these issues. Thank you for letting the Lord deal with these issues in a process in your own life so that you could become an instrument of grace and help in lives of women like myself. Talk to us about this woman who said, “Why do I eat this way? I don’t want to, but I can’t seem to break out of this cycle.”

James chapter 1 talks to us about why we do what we do. How does that help us understand these cravings and these seemingly irresistible desires that we deal with?

Elyse: James chapter 1 tells us that when we sin we do so because we have been carried away and enticed by our own lust. Then when lust conceives, it gives birth to sin and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death. (see vv. 14-15)

Nancy: Now, when we use the word lust, we think of that as some bad, sexual thing, but the word really has a broader meaning than that.

Elyse: Very much so. In the New Testament the word lust is actually the Greek word epithumeo, which means "strong desire." So in this struggle with eating the questions we need to ask ourselves are, “What is my desire here?" I find myself in this continual, habitual pattern. Part of it is just a habit of my body to feel a certain way at certain times of the day. For instance . . .

Nancy: . . . 3:00 chocolate.

Elyse: Right! That’s it. A lot of times we eat lunch and then our blood sugar drops around 3:00 or so, and so that is when we frequently find ourselves eating improperly. As a young person, I would get home from school (my mother worked so I was by myself) and I would eat six pieces of toast when I got home from school at 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s that little lull. So I know that physiologically with my body clock at a certain time of day I am going to be very tempted to do something—eat chocolate, have bread—those kinds of comfort foods. So I need to be aware of that. But in addition to this physical problem, physiological pattern, I also have desires.

You see, I have desires that say something like, “Cold, creamy ice cream would feel so good in my mouth right now.” God has been gracious to us. We can experience sweet and sour and salty, hot, cold, crunchy, smooth. There are all sorts of experiences that we can have as we eat. God did not have to give us taste buds, but He did that for pleasure. Pleasure is not wrong. So I can desire certain feelings or tastes, and that in itself is not wrong. It becomes sinful when the desire to have that taste is more important or overcomes my desire to please the Lord.

So why do I sin? I sin because I have desires. Sometimes it is just a desire to taste a certain thing. Other times it is a desire to do what I want, when I want it, without any reference to what God might have to say on the topic. You see, I think that is really where we get into trouble. It is where we become very enslaved, if you will. We want to be able to say, “When I want a Hershey bar, I ought to just be able to have it.”

Now, of course, in America because we have grocery stores, and we don’t just have grocery stores, we have super grocery stores that have every kind of food and taste experience you could possibly imagine. We think there is something wrong if we’re not able to go get what we want.

I think a lot of it is not just a desire for a certain taste, it’s not just that physiological low at 3:00 in the afternoon for instance, it is also this desire that says, “I ought to be able to have what I want, when I want it.”

Nancy: And really what the Bible calls greed.

Elyse: Yes! Absolutely. It is interesting in Numbers chapter 11, you’ve got this experience of the Children of Israel. They are thinking in Numbers chapter 11 about what was going on in Egypt, and you know how they talk about it? “Egypt was wonderful. We remember how wonderful Egypt was as we sat around the flesh pots (these pots of stew) and those wonderful leeks and garlic and onions.  Why did we ever leave that wonderful place?” Interesting, isn’t it?

Nancy: And now we’ve got this boring manna, same every day, no variety.

Elyse: See, that is appealing again to what Eve went through. It looks good. "All we have to look at is this manna." You can just hear them saying it. Not counting, of course, the fact that God is providing it for them, miraculously, every day. They don’t have to do a thing to get it. All they have to do is go out and gather it. Don’t tell me it didn’t taste good. God made it for them.

But you see again, there is this desire. "I want crunchy; I want hot; I want cold; I want salt." That kind of thing was going on. There are those desires. Then there is always the desire of, “No, I’m not really happy with manna right now. What I want is quail. I want quail, so give me meat to eat."

God said, “Alright, do you want meat? I’ll give you meat.”

And the Bible tells us that the people ate greedily. They ate with greed. They just fell upon the birds and ate them without cleaning them properly. They were greedy eaters.

Nancy: And interestingly, Psalm 106, which is recounting this story in Numbers, tells us what happened. I can just see myself and us in this description, verses 14 and 15. “In the desert they gave into their craving.” The New King James says, “They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness.” “They tested God in the desert.”

And here in verse 15 is where that leads: ”So He gave them what they asked for." He gave them their request. This is what I think is so tragic, and this is what we experience. “He sent leanness into their soul.” He sent a wasting disease among them, another translation says, "So they got what they craved," what they insisted upon having, what they said they couldn’t live without.

They got their way; they got their request; they got their greed fulfilled, but they ended up sick to their stomachs. In their heart, because it is a heart issue (desire is a heart issue, the greed is a heart issue), God says, “Okay, have it your way. Stuff yourself. Put Me to the test. Say you’re not satisfied with what I’ve provided, that it is not enough for you. But then you have to live with the shame, the guilt, the frustration, and the depression—all the things, the emotional and spiritual."

The downside of having fulfilled what we wanted and then feeling so miserable. Why? It’s not the food that made us sick— well, it may be that too! But deeper than that it is the fact that we said, “I have to have something more than what God has provided for my good. I won’t be satisfied with God’s provision. He is not enough. What He’s given to me to enjoy is not enough. I had to have that one tree, that one fruit off the one tree. God said I could have everything else, but I’ve got to have that one thing. I lust exceedingly. I have to have. I can’t live without." So you can have it, but you get leanness in your soul.

That is why the pathway to freedom, as Elyse has been helping us see, is identifying those heart issues, those cravings for what they are. Not just calling it compulsive eating, that is actually kind of a respectable term, because it is pretty widespread today—no pun intended. But calling it what the Scripture calls it, and that is: greed, excessive lust, gluttony, excessive focus upon food.

 Let me just remind us as Elyse has done in her book, this is not just overweight people who have these heart issues. You can be thin and be a glutton because your focus is on fulfilling your physical and sensual desires to excess. Craving, insisting upon something that God has said is beyond what you need and beyond His good provision for you.

I want to tell you a story while we’re being honest here, because it just happened recently. I was getting ready for this series. I don’t know if I was maybe more vulnerable because we were getting ready to record this series, but it was not actually all that unusual. I want you to help me think through what could and should I have done in this situation. This took place just a few days ago.

I was in a restaurant. I was meeting some friends there, but because of our schedules, I got there about thirty minutes before they did. So I went and saved a table. I had my Bible with me and pulled it out and began to read. I had just some really good time in the Scripture, reading the Word of God. Which, by the way,  Elyse you’ve helped us see in your book just the importance of spiritual disciplines of the Word and prayer. These are such a help and a protection in dealing with sin issues in our lives.

So I was sitting in a restaurant surrounded by food. I have to say that the whole time I was reading the Scripture, I was being very distracted by the thought of food. What I was going to eat, what we were going to eat. Then I started thinking, “Well, when these people get here, they’d probably be really happy if there were some appetizers ready on the table because they’ll be hungry.” It was a family. So just before I knew they were going to get there, I ordered a couple of these really wonderful, high-carb appetizers, and the appetizer got there before my friends did. I said, “Okay, I’m going to wait until they get here, not dig into this, just wait because they’ll be here in a few minutes.”

But they were late! I couldn’t wait. I’m sitting there, and they were piping hot, fresh, and something that I wouldn’t ordinarily eat. But it was right in front of me, and I just closed my Bible. I was drawn like a magnet into this blooming onion and dug into it. Well, a few minutes later my friends got there, and then we started to get served the rolls. Fresh, hot out of the oven, big, really good. I found myself (no pun intended) on a roll at that point, and it was all over. I was for the next thirty minutes eating as if I would never have a chance to eat again. I’d like to say it is the only time it’s ever happened, but it has happened repeatedly.

Then I find myself being dominated by my desires, by the lust for food. So I am in that situation . . . what can I do? What should I do? Help me when I realize that I’m starting to plunge, to plummet into this pattern again. What can I do on the spot, at that moment?

Elyse: Right. I think the first thing we need to do is we need to recognize that we’re going to fall into sin. And in doing that, you order the appetizer and you start eating. Instead of just saying, “Oh well, I’ve eaten; I’ve done this now. I may as well just enjoy myself."

Nancy: And eat everything in the restaurant.

Elyse: You can stop there. We tend to have . . . I’m not saying this about you personally, but we do tend to have this idea that if I can’t do this perfectly, this perfectionism, this self-righteousness, if I can’t handle this perfectly, then I’m just going to give up in despair and plunge into the sin whatever it may be—food for instance.  

What you could have done is a number of things. You could have said when you went into the restaurant, “I’m hungry right now. If I sit here and wait for my friends and they may be late, I might get in trouble with my food. I know that I’m hungry, so I’m going to order something small, and I’m going to eat that now. And that will be okay.” See, you don’t want to have standards set that are unreasonable. So you could have said, “I’m really hungry. I feel like I need to eat something. I’m going to eat something until they get here.” You could have done that.

You could have said, “Alright, we’re going to get appetizers, but I know my heart that if I am sitting in front of that onion thing, I’m going to eat the whole thing, so I’m not going to do it until they get here. Because it is not sinful for me to eat some of that if I like it. It is certainly not the most healthy thing for me to eat, but if this is something that I’m doing when I’m just being with friends and fellowshipping, then it is okay for me to do it. But I’m going to wait until they get here.”  And if they have to wait two or three minutes for it to come, then fine, they can do that.

The other thing is, you find yourself down the road with this and maybe you have discovered or realized, "Okay, I am in trouble. I am over eating now. Here comes my food, and I’m really over eating." You can stop at any point in that process. See, that is what we don’t do. We don’t do is stop in the process. We wait until we get to the end of the process when we’re sated, and we feel horrible and have guilt. Then we say, “Oh! God help me.” Why don’t we say, “God, help me” at the beginning of the process? When the stuff comes and you’re feeling really drawn toward it, right then is when we should say, “Father, please help me. I am being tempted.” It is my experience, and I know it is probably yours as well, that if I say, “Father, please help me . . ."

Nancy: Crying out to the Lord.

Elyse: “Help me not to be tempted by this right now,” that the Lord will help me in that time. Perhaps the people will come more quickly or the desire will dissipate. The Lord will do that.

Nancy: Bringing the Lord into that situation at that moment.

Elyse: Absolutely. But you see, there is usually in that some sort of feeling of, “If I can’t do this perfectly then just forget it. I’m not going to do it at all.” And just giving in then to the eating. Again, I want to make it really clear. I don’t think there is anything wrong with sitting down with a group of friends and having a nice meal. There is nothing wrong with that. But, again, we have to come back and ask ourselves the heart questions.

Am I just enjoying these people and we’re fellowshipping around food? Certainly Jesus did that even after the resurrection. He was making fish for his disciples. So that is an okay thing to do. It is not sinful. But if I’m doing something that I know is compromising my conscience, I know I shouldn’t do it, I don’t think I can do this without sinning, but I do it anyway, then that is usually where we just throw in the towel and say, “Oh well, whatever. I’m just going to have whatever I want.”

Nancy: And don’t you find in your heart that you have a sense of when you stepped over the line into gluttony?

Elyse: Yes, yes, yes absolutely. We need to ask the Lord to make our hearts very sensitive to that—when we have stepped over the line. “Lord, let me know when I’ve stepped over the line so that I can enjoy food.” Perhaps what I’m going to have is just a bite of something. I can enjoy it, but I don’t have to eat it all.

Nancy: I find that in those times of temptation too, that others in the body of Christ can be a real help. In fact, you talk about accountability partners. The Lord has been using in my own life an accountability partner. I live alone, so I eat alone at lot. There are times when I know it would be really helpful to first cry out to the Lord and then to make a phone call or even with friends at a table to say, “I need to stop,” and just step out into the light. To verbalize this is an issue, this is a struggle I’m going through right now. As soon as I say it, sometimes I find there is a release from the pressure and the temptation because I’ve humbled myself and said, “Help.”

Elyse: We succumb to temptation most frequently when we’re alone, when we’re away from the means of grace. One of the wonderful things the Lord has given us is other people in the body of Christ. So if you’re feeling like you are really struggling, you’re going to fall (you know you are), before you fall, pick up the phone and call somebody. Call your pastor, an accountability partner is really important and just say, “Please pray for me right now, I’m really struggling.” Then also have people in your life to whom you have given permission that they can ask you, “How are you doing?”’

Nancy: Don’t try and do it alone. We kid ourselves or we deceive ourselves into thinking,
“I’m the only one going through this. No one else would understand. This is really embarrassing.” And it is, but I think we’d be amazed. What did 1 Corinthians 10 say? “Every temptation that has overtaken you is common to man or to woman.” (see v. 13)

There are others. We’re all walking along being secret, being private, thinking nobody else understands us, nobody else experiences this when in fact they do. They need us, we need them to enter into this together and say, “We will exhort one another daily so that our hearts won’t become deceived by the deceitfulness of sin. We need each other.” I am finding that calling out to the Lord and then taking advantage of the people that God has put in my life to be part of this process with me is such a huge help in the midst of temptation.

I just want to say, by the way, how thankful I am after that episode for the mercy and the grace of Christ when I found myself in the Word the next morning still feeling very guilty, very frustrated but going back to the cross. Lord, I’ve been here before, a lot, but I need to live here at Your cross. Thank you that Your blood is sufficient. So by faith and by your grace, this is a battle I am not going to quit waging. I’m going to say engaged in the battle, not on my own strength, but with dependence upon your power.

Elyse, you’ve written in your book, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat, a list that I think is so helpful. We’re going to put it on our website ReviveOurHearts.com. You’ve provided 8-10 things. We’ve talked about several of them, but there are others on that list. Here are some practical things you can do. I’ve made a copy of this list, and I’m going to keep it with me and refer to it.

The whole book gives us ways to avoid getting into the position and to deal with the hard issues. But when you find yourself right there at the table or alone in front of the TV or whatever the moment is, pull out this list and begin to do what it says. Cry out to God, call your accountability partner, if possible go for a walk and move yourself away from the kitchen to another room. It's just some practical suggestions that I’m finding helpful and I think you will find helpful as well.

Leslie: And to read that list you can visit our website ReviveOurHearts.com. The list is from Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Love to Eat, Hate to Eat. We know that God can give you strength to make wise eating choices that glorify Him. This book can be a powerful part of that process. We’d like to send you Elyse’s book when you donate any amount to keep Revive Our Hearts on the air and on the web. So ask for Love to Eat, Hate to Eat when you call with your donation. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to support the ministry and request the book.

Well, is there some kind of food that you need every day in order to get going? Is there anything wrong with that? We’ll discuss it tomorrow. Please be here for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

Read More