I have a major sweet tooth.
Not only do I love all things sugary, but I love treats of any kind–special somethings at special times. And they are usually food related.
I look forward to eating out at my favorite restaraunt. I enjoy baking warm cookies for game night. When we have an unexpected visitors, I search the shelves for something delicious I can pull out and feed them. And it seems like it is always unhealthy.
Lately, as I’ve been increasingly concerned about eating healthy, I’ve been really wishing I just naturally desired healthier foods. While I enjoy healthy things, I find that if an unhealthy alternative is in front of me, I will always choose the unhealthy.
I have always envied the people who view apples and natural peanut butter as a “snack.” I look with awe at people who are satisfied with a fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie as “dessert.” I have always just assumed this came naturally for them. And I wish my tastes craved the natural, good things as my treat. I have waited all my life for that magic moment when I would suddenly have an appetite and a natural longing for healthy food, and a distaste for unhealthy food.
And then it occurred to me.
That point will never come.
Because of sin in the world, we are naturally bent toward wanting what is wrong. Please understand, I am not saying that eating unhealthy food is inherently sinful; I am simply drawing a parallel. No one has to be taught to enjoy the taste of a cookie or some other sweet. But how many kids love spinach, or beans, or plain oatmeal? Not very many. I am finding that I have to discipline my taste buds to love what is good.
It occurs to me that the same is true in our spiritual lives. We need to develop a taste for righteousness. It does not come naturally. If we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us, and he gives us the desire for holy, righteous things, but if we quench him out, we are left to our own sinful flesh. If we fill our minds up with unspiritual, worldly things, there is little appetite for the holy.
In the same way, if I am full on junk food, I will obviously have no appetite for what is healthy. When I continuously indulge in unhealthy foods, I will not crave the good stuff.
I have been thinking about this a lot in relation to Lent. The point of Lent is to remove a desired item to practice self-denial and direct us towards Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ’All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” If you feel that an object, item, person, etc. is required in order to be content, then you are enslaved. What an awful thought! And we are so deceived to think that we are not enslaved–that we simply have to have this thing to be happy, and to give it up would be unbearable! But the very fact that the thought is unbearable reveals that our soul places to high a value on it, and that we are indeed enslaved. And we should not be enslaved to anything but Christ.
That is why fasting is so beneficial. We remove the item of temptation and choose to go without it. At the end of your fast, you realize that you don’t actually need that item as much as you thought you did. You realize you got along just fine without it, and in fact, you now have a liberty that you had not experienced before. And we now have real desires for the good things. They are not manufactured, but they are real! Denying our flesh enables us to develop affections for what is good and right.
But in our culture, we want everything the easy way. We want to simply naturally desire a life of studying and meditating on Scripture. We think that if we have to work at it, it must be hypocrisy or legalism. We just assume the really “Spiritual” and godly people were just born that way–not that they may have cultivated that in their hearts through much prayer and sacrifice. So we just go about our lives, unconsciously being filled up with all the things of the world, so that our appetite for righteousness is nearly nonexistent.
James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” This verse always convicts my heart, because I know the good things to eat, yet, if given the choice, I will always choose the bad thing to eat. If you set a brownie and a salad in front of me and I have to choose one, I will choose the brownie every time.
But if you remove the brownie and simply give me the salad, I love the salad. If the junk food is removed, I begin to desire the good food. I see that my heart longs for so many other ungodly things to satisfy it outside of simply food. In this period of Lent and examining myself, I find that much more sacrifice will be required in order to know God in the way in which I so long to know him. I want him to be my all in all, to fill me up so that I don’t want anything else.
But in order to have room for Him to fill me, I must get rid of all the other junk cluttering things up. I am so thankful for Lent…I will continue to spend this time searching my soul and praying to rid myself of all that is displeasing to God.
Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”