Food is an important part of our daily lives. We need it to survive. I do most of the cooking in my home, which means I plan the meals, buy the ingredients, prepare the food, serve it, and finally, eat it. It takes time to do all these things, so food and all the tasks around it occupy my thoughts on a daily basis.
From the very beginning, God provided food in the Garden of Eden for man to eat. It was “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). The purpose of food is to nourish our bodies, but in addition to that, God made it pleasant. He wanted man to enjoy that which was good for him. God planted the garden and placed Adam there to keep it. God included in His creation one tree from which man was not to eat, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The serpent suggested to Eve that God had lied to them about that tree, and that He didn’t want them to eat from it because then they would become like God themselves, knowing good and evil. After this conversation, the forbidden tree looked pleasing to them and they ate from it. They disobeyed God with food. As a result, God cursed them, the serpent, and the earth. From then on, Adam would have to plant the crops himself instead of being God’s gardener in Eden. The earth would produce thorns—making his new lifestyle of farming tiring and difficult. Sin entered the world and everything changed.
Food was also used in good ways in the Bible, like offering food sacrifices to God as a form of acceptable worship. He also commanded His people to celebrate feasts several times a year, all of which were to praise God for His protection and provision, and food was a big part of these celebrations. Similar to our Thanksgiving feasts, the point was not to worship the food, but to worship the Giver of the food, the Lord God Himself.
However, sometimes the food was sacrificed to other gods in idol worship. This was not pleasing to God because He had commanded them to worship no other gods but Him. Today, we may not literally sacrifice animals and eat them as part of our worship, but I do think there are some ways we use food that do not please God.
Over the past year, I have experienced grief more deeply than ever before in my life. Two deaths in our family came so close together that I did not have time to process the first one before the second one happened, and the violent nature of the second one has made it difficult to process at all. I am so thankful to the Lord for surrounding us with His love and with friends who provided wonderful food for us during the days of crisis. They met our physical need for food, while showing us their love by their generosity and presence with us.
The potential pitfall with food and grief is this: we can look to food for comfort instead of looking to God. In my own struggles with grief, I did this. I turned to food. For a few minutes, I felt better. Sometimes I ate “comfort foods,” those foods that reminded me of another time in life, when things were happy and everyone was alive and well. Sometimes I ate sugary sweets that gave me a quick boost of energy to combat the emotional and physical exhaustion brought on by the grief. It made me feel better for a little while, but I always felt worse later. I felt guilty for eating too much or for eating the wrong kinds of foods. So not only was the relief short-lived, but the guilt and remorse that followed it completed negated any benefits derived from the food. Food cannot comfort us like God can.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, we learn that God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” When God comforts us, it is real comfort. No guilt, no remorse. In fact, we experience a pay-it-forward kind of comfort. He comforts us now so that we can use that comfort to comfort others! Food can never do that.
The underlying problem was a “heart” problem. When I looked to food for comfort instead of looking to God, it was a form of idolatry. My actions indicated that I thought food could do a better job than God could at comforting me, or that God needed me to help Him comfort me by eating all that food. Our actions always rat us out. Our actions reveal our hearts. You’ve heard the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” I said I trusted God to get us through this sorrow, and I thought I did…until He showed me that I was seeking something only He can give in a place I would never find it: the refrigerator.
There is a proper place for food and a right way to enjoy it, like in times of fellowship with other Christians. In Acts 2:42-47, the followers of Jesus broke bread together, but they were not devoted to the bread. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Let’s look to food for physical nourishment and devote ourselves to God for comfort and peace. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).