“No matter what, make room in your heart to love every believer. And show hospitality to strangers, for they may be angels from God showing up as your guests.” – Hebrews 13:1-3 (TPT)
Confession time. I’m a foodie. Simply put, I adore good food. Whether savoring, preparing, experimenting, or serving, I find joy in every aspect. I’m also an emotional eater. I’m in recovery, but I still struggle at times. And as this year’s holidays approached, I found that old, familiar feeling creeping back into my psyche. See, I’d recently learned of my oldest nephew’s passing. Understandably, it left a hollow feeling in my heart—a void I used to fill with food. But with the holidays coming, I sensed God calling me to make room (Hebrews 13:1-3 TPT). This inner tension left me wondering: How do you make room when you feel empty?
In the midst of holiday festivities and the empty spaces that grief can leave behind, the message from Hebrews 13:1-3 takes on profound significance. Here are three ways God uses food and hospitality as a path to wholeness and fulfillment, even during times of grief and emptiness.
The Empowerment Found in Famines
The inclination to fill my emptiness with food reminded me of a Bible word study I conducted on famines. During this study, I discovered that God used famines as a means to capture Israel’s attention in response to their disobedience and to guide them back to Him (Leviticus 26:16, 19-20).
While I don’t believe God allowed my nephew’s death as a punishment or due to any wrongdoing on my part (John 9:1-3), I do see a parallel between the vacancy in my heart due to my nephew’s untimely death and the physical vacancy left in our stomachs by famines. In both instances, God desires for us to turn to Him with any emptiness He allows in our lives.
In times of emotional emptiness, though, it’s natural to seek comfort or distraction. For many, including myself, food has been a go-to source of solace. However, true fulfillment can only come from God and His love (Psalm 63:3,5). It’s through God’s love for us that we’re empowered to love others and show them hospitality (1 John 4:11-21).
By filling our empty spaces with God’s presence, we become equipped to extend love to others, fulfilling the command in Hebrews 13:1-3 to show hospitality, care, and love to all those we encounter. Our journey through emptiness becomes a pathway for God to empower us, enabling us to be vessels of His love and hospitality to those we meet on our life’s journey.
The Empathy Found in Fasts
Sometimes, when I feel the pang of emotional eating seeping into my life, I’ll fast to seek God’s strength to overcome the temptation to eat out of emotional hunger rather than physical hunger. As a form of creating spiritual emptiness, fasting also aligns us with God’s intention when He commanded fasting to cultivate compassionate hearts in us (Isaiah 58:6-7).
When we fast, we voluntarily empty ourselves of physical sustenance for a period to seek God’s strength. This self-imposed emptiness connects us with the idea that we all experience various forms of lack in our lives, whether it’s emotional, physical, or spiritual. Through fasting, we experience a tangible example of personal need, reinforcing the importance of empathy and caring for those who are in need.
The parallel drawn between the void experienced during fasting and the void of grief is poignant. Just as fasting deepens our capacity for empathy, grief—when processed with faith—can lead to a heightened sense of empathy. In both cases, whether fasting or grieving, we’re called to be God’s instruments in providing for others and showing them care.
My heightened empathy drove me to minister to those struggling to move forward after catastrophic events such as losing a job, home, or loved one. Thus, allowing the empathy we feel in response to our emptiness to motivate us to provide for others can be transformative. It can change your life and theirs.
The Enjoyment Found in Feasts
God also employs food in our lives as a means of celebration and remembrance. In the Old Testament, feasts were held in honor of God’s provision, deliverance, and blessings. Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a way to remember His sacrifice and celebrate our salvation (Luke 22:19-20). These feasts weren’t about indulgence but rather an opportunity for God to fill His people with His abundant goodness.
In the midst of grief, it can be easy to overlook the good things in life and lose sight of God’s blessings. However, feasting—especially during the holidays—reminds us of God’s faithfulness, even amid trials. Through the warmth of gatherings and the support of loved ones, God fills the emptiness of our hearts. This fulfillment and support align with the call in Hebrews 13:1-3 to demonstrate love and hospitality as we gather to address not only physical hunger but also the void within our souls.
I discovered that allowing myself to enjoy my family and friends during the holidays helped me heal from the loss of my husband in 2011. So, I anticipate that feasting with loved ones this year will have a similar effect. TThe joy of being surrounded by those who care for me and sharing moments of laughter and love serves as a powerful reminder of God’s goodness and mercy. It replenishes the emptiness I feel with His love and the love of those around me.
While grief and emotional emptiness may tempt you to fill yourself with food or other distractions, you’re called by God to make room in your heart for His love and use your experiences to show hospitality and care for others. God uses food as a tool to deepen your connection with Him and others, ultimately leading to healing and transformation.
So, this holiday season, make room in your heart for God’s love and extend that love to those around you. Choose to make room when you feel empty—not just physically at the dinner table, but also in your heart—for God and His blessings, and show hospitality to all those you encounter along the way. Remember, even in your struggles and emptiness, God can use you as vessels of His love and grace to bless others.