Feeding Your Appetites: Taking Control of What’s Controlling You by Stephen Arterburn and Debra Cherry is based on the premise that most of our out-of-control desires are based on God-given appetites that are not wrong in themselves (food, sex, work, rest), but they can wreak havoc when they get out of balance. Even appetites for things that are wrong in themselves (gambling, drugs) can have a basis in a desire that’s not wrong.
Stephen discusses the nature, good purposes, and value of appetites God created within us. But “when pleasure becomes what we are searching for, we will soon learn that there is never enough to satisfy” (p. 33). “Our poor choices are rooted in self-indulgence and obsession with self-entitlement. We indulge to seek pleasure and avoid pain because we think we are entitled to it. The fleshly pleasure we seek is self-serving” (p. 35).
He discusses how change begins (seek forgiveness, stop make excuses, stop blaming others, stop believing falsehoods, and others), the many factors that influence us (including biology, culture, and a host of others), the ways Satan uses our desires against us to tempt us, ways to deal with or redirect our desires, and ways to cultivate a “divine appetite.” The last chapter on “The Surrendered Life” ties it all together in emphasizing that the only way to keep our appetites in their proper places is to walk surrendered to God every day. An appendix and study guide in the back help apply the truth personally.
Sprinkled throughout the book are case studies which are very helpful in fleshing out the principles Stephen is discussing. My only minor quibble with them is that they came in the middle of rather than at the end of sections. I don’t like having to either interrupt the section I am reading to read the case study or read on to finish the section I am in and then turn back to the case study when it could have easily been placed between sections. But, again, that is a relatively minor irritation.
A few quotes I found helpful:
[In Eden] Eve couldn’t overeat because her appetite for food would have been under control and submissive to her primary appetite to obey God” (p. 18).
When we have an out-of-control appetite for food, it signals that we have put that appetite above its rightful place as a necessary and God-given function (p. 18).
The question of how to satisfy our appetites becomes instead a call to seek to obey God in all circumstances and through all appetites and desires. That means making the necessary choices to satisfy our appetites in a manner that honors Him. When we do, true fulfillment is our reward (p. 25).
There were a few little points where I disagreed with his teaching, but not enough to get into long explanations. I will say that I disagreed with his concept of meditation, which he seemed to define as listening to God as opposed to talking to Him in prayer. Meditation is more of a ruminating, thinking over what He has said in His Word, not listening for Him to speak apart from His Word (see next to last paragraph here.)
Overall it’s a very good book. It covers some of the same ground as Taste For Truth by Barb Raveling except it expands to cover about every appetite you could think of whereas Barb’s book focuses on food. Barb’s style is much more direct, which I tend to prefer. I felt Stephen tended to over-explain or use too many words, but that may have been because I had just read many of the same principles in Barb’s book. This book might be especially helpful for a non-Christian or new Christian or a Christian who had not been taught very well along the way. But really, it can benefit anyone. I gleaned much good from it.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)