Empty Shelf Challenge Book #4: “Made to Crave” by Lysa TerKeurst

I finished my 4th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst

I actually skimmed this book a few years ago and decided I needed to revisit it in this season, this time reading it thoroughly.

I’ve shared here before I struggle with overeating. It’s definitely been worse since the move. It began because I had less control over my food choices, and I became in the habit of both making less healthy choices and also using food to cope with my emotions.

Honestly, despite losing 60 pounds several years ago, I never really got out of the habit of overeating.

I began a “fast” 3 weeks ago with my church. It’s not a traditional “no food” fast, as my formerly near-anorexic body does not respond well to traditional fasting, nor do my emotions. Instead, I chose to follow the Whole30 plan. I hope to get my cravings under control and more importantly once again surrender my relationship with food to God – once again.

Another reason I chose to re-read this book was seeing Lysa TerKeurst speak at a conference several months ago. She was one of the best speakers I had ever seen. She’s a gifted teacher and communicator, and I wanted to hear more from her.

Made to Crave was a timely choice.

The premise of this book is that God created us to crave Him. Yet He is often the last place we run with our longing hearts. Lysa documents her own struggles with overeating and shares with the reader how she (or he) can too be free from the battle with food.

Lysa says this of her struggle: “These are not just little issues. These, for me, are sins – missing the mark of Your best for my life” (pg. 185).

This is something I’ve tried to explain to people. Despite the fact that I am not overweight, this is a real struggle – a struggle that hinders my relationship with God.

I’m comforted to know once again that people throughout the Bible struggled with food. The original sin of mankind occurred by biting into a shiny piece of fruit. The Israelites complained about bread from heaven, pining for the meat they ate while enslaved. Esau sold his birthright for some stew. Satan tempted Jesus with food.

I don’t want to be enslaved to food. God has something so much better for me.

“Everything is permissible for me’-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”-but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”-but God will destroy them both. 1 Corinthians 6:12-13a (NIV1984)

I wrote in Learning to Walk in Freedom, “So if secular TV or sharp cheddar cheese causes you to stumble, you might consider Jesus’ instructions to ‘cut it off and throw it away’ (Matthew 5:30).” (I really wanted to write “cut the cheese and throw it away,” but I restrained myself!). This is what I’m doing with the Whole30 – distancing myself from foods that I struggle to eat reasonably. And finishing up Made to Crave during this time of fasting is exactly what I needed.

really enjoyed this book. You should get a copy. Most libraries have it if buying it is not in the budget right now. As Lysa reminds us, “We must remember we hold a power greater than any craving we face.” Thank You, Jesus! If you are tired of obeying your cravings and desire to walk in obedience to God in your relationship with food, get this book.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Freedom Friday: Selling My Birthright

Driving to church on Sunday, I heard part of this sermon (Aug. 5th, 2012) based on these verses from Genesis 25:

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright. ”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

red lentils

This dramatic and fairly well-known story describes the dynamics between twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. It was a volitile situation even from the womb, the Bible describing how the babies “jostled each other” within Rebekah. Esau was born first, but, not to be outdone, Jacob came out grasping Esau’s heel.

Yet Esau was still the first born.

We don’t have that many parallels today in Western culture as it pertains to birthrights. In Jewish culture, the firstborn child was given certain rights, privileges and inheritance simply based on the fact that he was born first. It is in Genesis and the story of Jacob & Esau where the rights of the firstborn are first talked about.

As believers, we have all been adopted into God’s family, and we are all His favorites. As His children, there are certains rights and privileges that God has given to us, promises He says will be fulfilled if we follow and trust in Him, surrendering our entire lives over to His lordship.

As I listened to the sermon, I couldn’t help but think of my struggle with overeating.

Am I selling my birthright for a plate of food? I wrote a poem that was posted 2 days ago if you missed it.

Alicia Britt Chole dissects the temptation of Jesus in her book, anonymous. You can read a Biblical account here.

Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and was genuinely hungry. Satan tells Him to turn stones into bread.

What would be wrong with that? Eating is not a sin, after all. What would be the harm in having a bite of bread?

From anonymous, pg. 65:

I find it noteworthy that Satan did not suggest that Jesus run into town and steal some food – that would have been a blatant violation of God’s commendments. But eating? Food in itself is not sinful. And here is where Satan’s lures can be deceptive. This layer was not about what Jesus would eat as much as it was about when Jesus would eat. Would he obey Father God even when obedience meant delayed satisfaction of legitimate needs?

In the layer of appetite, we witness Satan’s skillful use of a most effective lure: immediate gratification.

Imagine where we’d all be if Jesus sold His birthright for a plate of food.

Your issue may not be with food. It may be with gossip, crass talk, pornography, stealing, or subtle lying. Those could all be considered “false foods.”

What are you selling your birthright for a plate of? What false food do you run to in order to try and satisfy legitimate needs in illegitimate ways?

It is not likely that Esau was literally going to die of hunger, as he dramatically stated. Yet he was genuinely hungry.

Often when I run to the cabinets, I too am genuinely hungry.

But my hunger is not for food.

I desire comfort, escape. I am tired, lonely, bored, in pain, and am looking for a way to forget, to flee those feelings.

My need is legitimate, but it cannot be meet with food. My need is for God, spiritual strength, companionship, laughter, joy, peace and rest.

Think for a minute.

Are we despising our birthright, as Esau did, because we choose to run to false food instead of Him?

Are we missing out on the fulfillment of God’s promises – His presence, His provision, our inheritance as His child – in favor of more immediate gratification?

Is the pay-off, the “reward” really worth it?

I sold my birthright for a plate of food.

I sold my birthright for a plate of food.

Wandering the pantry, the fridge, the cabinets.
Grazing for just the right thing, the one morsel to satisfy
The craving, the longing, the pain.

But the need was like a monster.
With every bite, the pit of desire grew.
Larger. Deeper. Wider.
Never full. Never satisfied.

I sold my birthright for a plate of food, and I wasn’t even hungry.

I sold my birthright for a pretty picture.
Faces on the screen, looking deep into my eyes,
But never really seeing me.

And I looked and I looked and I looked
Until it wasn’t fun anymore,
Yet I couldn’t turn away.

I sold my birthright for a pretty picture, and I wasn’t even seen.

I run everywhere else first.

The pain of longing comes and overwhelms,
Yet I take it on, allowing it to drown me.
Forgetting Your power, Your provision, Your presence are always there.

Then somehow, when my feet tire and my brain aches from trying to make sense,
I remember.
You are there.
Available, present, ever welcoming.

If I stop.
If I am still and hand the cravings to You.
They are too heavy to carry.
You say, Come. Rest. My burden is easy. My yoke is light.

Sitting with the pain,
Pushing away the longing,
Pressing our desires into Your heart,
None of this comes naturally.

How often I sell myself short,
Ignoring what You declared rightfully mine
In favor of something I deem gratifying.

I’m always wrong.
Still, You are true. Only You can satisfy.

Teach me, Lord, to welcome the uncomfortable,
To sit with the ache,
And rest in Your arms.

All that I have is yours, child, if you will just come to me.

I sold my birthright for a plate of food, and I wasn’t even hungry.

This poem is a response to a sermon I heard a portion of this past Sunday. I hope to share more about overeating and surrender in the coming Freedom Friday.

Freedom Friday: Own Your Choices

I sometimes see Christians act as if they are victims of their temptations. It’s as if when temptation comes, they have no other choice but to give in.

I see this in my own life. I struggle with overeating. There are times when I act as if I have no choice but to indiscriminately put food in my mouth.

I rationalize this. Oh, if only I struggled with something else, I tell myself. Something I didn’t have to deal with everyday, like an addiction. An addiction, I could handle that. If it were something besides food, I could avoid it entirely, but I still have to eat.

Sound familiar?

The past few months, as I have been pondering acting like a free person and obedience, I have been asking these questions:

What is my part? What is God’s part? Are there things for which I need to take responsibility?

Some of this was inspired by Michael Hyatt’s blog post Your Life is the Sum of Your Choices. Also, a friend sent me a poem that talked about his choices and which direction each choice led him in.

One phrase stuck with me from both these experiences: Own Your Choices.

As Christians, we are free. Period. We are slaves to Christ and Christ alone. I’ve been discussing this in the past month of Freedom Fridays as I’ve talked about the place of obedience and acting like a free person.

These experiences made me realize I needed to face up to the truth that I choose to overeat.

Taking responsibility for my choices puts the fault where it belongs: with me.

When I mess up, I ask God for forgiveness, but I no longer act as if I found myself under a huge pile of food and had no other choice but to eat my way out.

I also don’t use that mistake as an excuse to stuff myself silly for the rest of the day. I used to tell myself, I’ll start over again tomorrow with better choices. I’ll repent after I really indulge.

Taking responsibility for my choices has helped me make better ones.

I stop and ask myself, Is this choice really going to be helpful? Is it beneficial? Is it going to get me any closer to reaching my life goals?

One of my goals is to feel more freedom when it comes to my relationship with food. I have a lot more freedom than I did 10 years ago when I overcame anorexia, but I still have a ways to go. I no longer ever restrict my food intake, I have no forbidden foods in my life, but that is not an excuse to go overboard. One of my other goals is to continue to grow closer to God and know Him on a deeper level. Disobedience in the area of eating certainly doesn’t help me achieve that end.

I thought of the following verses as I was preparing for this blog post. Moses has just led the Israelites out of Egypt. They had been wandering in the desert for 40 years, and now they are nearing the Promised Land.

Moses will not be accompanying them in. I imagine his heart must be bursting out of his chest with a deep passion to see the Israelites succeed in the next 40 years.

Thus, he leaves them with numerous instructions for living and ends with the following. If this passage is familiar, I encourage you to pause, take a breath, and ask God to give you fresh ears & eyes before continuing.

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

“But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:15-20

These promises may have originally been for the Israelites, but we certainly have much to learn. Every day, we have the opportunity to choose life or death, blessings or curses. Whatever we choose, we can own those choices and take responsibility for the consequences, positive and negative, associated with those choices.

Is there an area of your life that feels out of your control? Would that change if you made better choices? Has God spoken to your heart over the course of this post? Has He brought something to mind for which you need to take responsibility?