I’ve always had a sweet tooth. I love desserts of all kinds—especially ice cream. Sweet things are comfortable and sometimes comforting. And since I’m always craving them? Well, they always seem to hit the spot.
But in the last few years I’ve had to strengthen my immune system, which has meant drastically cutting back on sugar. And it’s funny what’s happened.
First, I realized sugar is in absolutely everything. I had no idea how many things I ate—things I thought were good and nourishing for me—that were loaded with sugar and slowly eating away at my overall health. Learning this fact made me all the more thankful for the second thing I noticed: The less sugar I ate, the less I craved it.
But my sweet tooth doesn’t stop with my physical cravings. It spills over into my spiritual life as well. In times of spiritual struggle, I’ve turned to sweet, seemingly true sayings to soothe my spiritual cravings.
I’ve leaned on Pinterest-worthy quotes about how I’m an overcomer who can do anything. In times of spiritual drought, I’ve listened to social-media influencers tell me I already have everything I need within myself. And in times of chaos, I’ve cherished well-intended words from friends reminding me that I’m already stronger than I could ever believe.
In these times of feeling stretched too thin, I’ve reached for sweets: delectable little reminders of how capable I am, how invincible I am, how much I can accomplish. They’re comfortable and comforting. And since I’m always craving them? Well, they always seem to hit the spot.
But these tasty mantras aren’t telling me the whole truth.
Sugary Substitutes for Truth
I’m not alone. Christians frequently exchange the nourishing truths of God’s Word for “sweeter” substitutes. Particularly when life wears us thin, we can lean on half-truths about our own resilience rather than on reminders of God’s sovereignty and sufficiency.
When I first set out to cut back on sugar, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. I craved sugar constantly. A nurse friend explained what was happening in my body. She told me that sugar lies, telling our bodies we have more energy than we actually do, making us feel as though we’ve eaten something more substantial than we actually have. And, slowly, sugar can turn us into addicts, always looking for that soothing treat to get us through to the next craving.
The same can be said of the spiritual substitutes I’ve been feeding myself. Like sugar, these sweet-sounding inspirational quotes lie to me.
They tell me I’m strong, but do nothing to remind me of God’s true strength (Isa. 41:10). They tell me I’m capable, but neglect to tell me God is the source of all things (James 1:17). They tell me I’m enough, but fail to remind me that he is the eternal “I AM” (Ex. 3:14). They tell me I can do more than I really can. They lure me into thinking they offer lasting nourishment, only to leave me exhausted, defeated, and looking for my next fix.
Learn to Crave Truth
Cutting sugar out of my diet has taught (and retaught) my body how to crave true nourishment. Through small, daily choices, I’m training my body to be satisfied with leafy greens from my friend’s garden and to crave the acidity of a vine-ripened tomato. And thankfully, the more I feed on true nourishment, the more I crave the good stuff.
The more I feed on true nourishment, the more I crave the good stuff.
Weaning ourselves off nutrient-light spirituality is tough work, but as we make the daily choice to delight in the unchanging character of God, we teach ourselves to crave that which will truly satisfy. When we feel weak and choose to feast on the Word, we’re formed into people who reach for his work in our weakness and who rely on his Spirit in our want.
So let’s resolve to feed ourselves from a more sustaining source. Let’s stop feeding ourselves spiritual garbage that doesn’t sustain. Let’s stop telling ourselves we’re strong enough and brave enough and good enough to do what we, in our human limitations, can’t do. Let’s embrace the reality of who we are and who our God is. We are consistently weak; it’s God who must show up and show off.
And as we do, we’ll find what I found with sugar: sweet nonsense is in absolutely everything. But as we learn to identify it and cut it out, we’ll crave it less. As we remind ourselves of the truths of God’s character, we’ll start to crave the rich truths of God’s Word. And as we feed on that daily bread, we’ll teach ourselves to crave what eternally satisfies—the Bread of Life himself.