Lord Jesus, you are good. You redeem even the darkest, dirtiest parts of our hearts. You are victorious, and you have proven your power over sin by defeating death. Thank you, thank you, thank you, that you care about us, Lord. Thank you that nothing is too small for you and nothing is too big. Thank you for the victory you've shown me in this area of my life. I confess that I am quick to think I've done everything on my own, but that could not be further from the truth. Victory comes from you alone. All glory be to you, Jesus. I admit that it is so difficult for me to talk about food and how I've both made it an idol and a demon in my life, when the truth that it is a good gift from you. You know that though you've provided for me and delivered me in countless ways in this area of my life, it continues to be something I must surrender to you regularly -- sometimes even numerous times throughout the day. Lord, I come before you humbly and ask that you would speak. There is no wisdom in me apart from you. I ask that you would make your truth plain to us about your good gifts and how we can enjoy them as a reflection of your goodness and who you are. I believe that you are the Maker of all things. I trust you, Lord, and ask that the Holy Spirit would fill me and write through me in this time. Amen.
Wellp ya'll where to begin? As women, it's hard enough for us to talk about the things we're struggling with such as loneliness and depression or perfectionism and performance, but rarely do any of us ever even want to admit to ourselves that we're struggling with body image issues and food. Particularly growing up in church, I remember thinking, "I always hear that we're fearfully and wonderfully made, so I guess girls who really love Jesus don't care at all about what they look like. I guess they just love the way the Lord made them and never feel insecure. So even though I feel insecure about my body all the time, I'm just never going to talk about it. No one can know. No one can know I am scared of food because of what it might do to my body. No one can know I look to food for comfort and security. That is repulsive. How could anyone ever love me in spite of those things?"
Wowza lemme tell ya, that is the ickiest thought process in the world because it is pushing darkness even deeper into the depths of the pit, but so often that is how we want to live. We are afraid to confess what we're struggling with because we think if other people find out, we will no longer be lovable or we'll lose all credibility with them. It is a horrible, awful lie from the pit of hell, but I will be the first one to admit, that is usually my first reaction when I'm struggling with something. I want to hide. I'm afraid. I want to pretend it isn't real. So I shut my mouth, put a smile on my face, and go about my days like everything is fine, when on the inside, my heart and mind feel as though they're slowly being destroyed. Maybe that's dramatic -- or maybe it's not.
I want ya'll to take a second and think about a few questions... Maybe spend time with the Lord processing through these things in prayer.
When was the first time you remember feeling
insecure about your body?
What were your exact thoughts?
Why do you think these things started filling your mind?
What did you do about it?
Have your insecurities ever really gone away?
How have you coped with your insecurities in the past?
How has your view of your body affected
your relationship with food?
Have you ever felt enslaved to food?
If so, what did/does that look like for you?
What do you think Jesus would say to you
about these things?
How might He want to meet you in this place?
If so, what did/does that look like for you?
What do you think Jesus would say to you
about these things?
How might He want to meet you in this place?
To spark your memories, venture with me back in time to first grade -- yep, first grade. I have this vivid memory of crying myself to sleep one night, which wasn't particularly a rarity, as I was always afraid to fall asleep back in the day (and even now sometimes too, admittedly). But this particular evening, it had nothing to do with my fears of dragons, small pox, malaria, death, fires, or bad guys. This particular evening, my heart was broken about my body -- particularly my calves, in fact.
My sweet momma came to check on me, and I distinctly remember asking her, "Do you think we could just cut off part of my calves?" I remember her shaking her head in shock, "Cait, what?! Why would you ever want to cut off part of your calves???"
"Well, Courtney and Jill's calves are so much smaller than mine... Theirs must be prettier than mine... But Mom, just think, it makes perfect sense... When you want something to be smaller, you just cut it, right?" Ahhh the simple minds of children...! "No, no, no, no, Cait!!!! That is not how it works!!! And your calves are beautiful!!!" I'm sure the conversation continued, but that is pretty much all that I remember. Looking back, I'm torn between loling and being filled with horror. At six years of age, my heart and mind were caught up in the comparison game.
It's funny actually because at that age usually bigger is better -- sack lunches, Barbie collections, backyards, playgrounds, etc. Why didn't that same view carry over to our bodies?! But my mind was sinful from the beginning, so I suppose it only makes sense that I had a distorted view of beauty. All that being said, I've struggled with insecurities about my body and difficulty with food off and on for just about as long as I can remember. I've found myself at every point on the spectrum from demonizing food and resenting and fearing its affects on my body to worshipping it and looking to food for comfort, refuge, and security. I've used food as a means to manipulate what my body looks like and also attempted to find fulfillment in sweet treats to satisfy the emotional emptiness that ultimately only God can provide.
Though I can even now be shocked at how deeply I can find myself feeling enslaved to food and body image, it shouldn't come as a surprise to us that as women we struggle with all things related to food. Throwback to the garden...
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.' But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."
This passage always amazes me because it reveals the fall of man and our struggle with sin so clearly. The serpent approached Eve and made her doubt the authority of both God's Word and His character. He lied to her, caused her to question the Lord, and deceived her into believing she knows what is best. "Does God really love me? Is He trying to withhold good from me? He doesn't want me to be wise. I can know what is best. If that is what I want, it must be best. I can be like God. Heck, I could probably do a better job than Him. I've lived for quite some time now. I'm basically all-knowing..."From beginning to end, the Bible nails the human condition over and over and over again.
We question the Lord, fall captive to lies, and choose to put our trust in created things rather than the good, perfect, holy, loving Creator himself. We choose the serpent over the Sovereign Lord. How? How do we fall captive death? What is the method of his madness? Satan uses many things to cause us to fall into sin. But at the beginning, he used doubt, pride, and food. He used food, ya'll, which is an incredible, blessed, glorious gift to man from God. But the serpent used it to cause Eve to reject God and assert herself as the authority over her life. Thus we should not be surprised that he likes to use it even now as a way to distract us and draw us away from our perfect Father in heaven.
How often do we see this in our own life? I know for myself, countless times I have chosen what is delightful to the eyes -- food, fame, the approval of others, skinny arms, money, dresses, alcohol, success -- over the Lord. We think, "I know that technically the Lord is supposed to satisfy me, but even if the He really can satisfy the deep needs of my heart, this _____ will be immediate. It's right before my very eyes. I can be satisfied instantly."
But the reality is that we're never fully satisfied. We're always left wanting more. Think about it. Have you ever had just one, really great cookie and said to yourself, "Wow. That was so satisfying. I never need another cookie as long as I live." Heck no!!!!! I know for me personally, I can't ever have one cookie without wanting another. I'm never satisfied. The truth is there is absolutely nothing wrong with cookies! I love cookies. Actually, I'm more of an ice cream girl, myself. But I have found in my own heart that often times I am looking for something more in food than it can actually give me. I'm looking for my emotional emptiness to be filled. Lindsay once told me that when we look to food to fill our hearts with comfort, we're looking to something that is broken to fix something that is broken. That statement is filled with so much truth and carries over to just about every area of our lives. Similarly when we refuse to eat certain things, so our bodies will look a certain way in order to fill our need for approval (from ourselves or others), we're looking to something that is broken to fix something that is broken.
Tim Chester, a writer and church-planter in the UK, has written some incredible articles on this topic, which the Lord has used to change my way of thinking about food and body image. Below is a little snippet from his book A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table.
"Before the fall, food was the way we expressed our obedience and trust in God. We obeyed God by eating from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At the fall, food was the way we expressed our disobedience and mistrust of God. It was an attempt to live life without God (expressed through taking forbidden food). We are embodied persons, and so sin affects our bodies. No sooner did Adam and Eve rebel against God than they felt ashamed of their bodies. Sin distorts all of our relationships, including our relationships with food. Here are four ways:
1. We use food for control instead of looking to God's greatness.
My Mexican friend Alejandro is horrified at the way Americans eat food on the move. We’re so busy trying to be in control that many of us treat food as fuel. As a result we strip food of its identity as a gift, its “gift-ness.” It becomes mere utility. We disregard its rich variety and amazing tastes. Denying that food is a gift allows us commune, and express gratitude is written out of our schedules so we can get on with achieving our own goals. We’re too busy proving ourselves or managing our lives without God to stop and express our dependence.
Food is meant to express our dependence on God, but we use food to express our independence from God. For my anorexic friend, food became a way of exercising control. In a scary world full of many things she couldn’t control, she could at least control what went in her mouth. But, as she herself put it, this practice quickly escalated and became out of control. Anorexia is for some a way to exercise self-sovereignty instead of trusting the sovereignty of God.
2. We use food for image instead of looking to God's glory.
Food became a means of salvation and deification now, just as it was in the garden of Eden. Satan tells Eve that she and Adam will become like God if they eat the forbidden fruit. Our concern for self-image is an attempt to be godlike. We want to be worshiped. We are concerned with our glory instead of living for God’s glory. We are controlled by the opinion of others instead of recognizing God as the glorious one whose opinion is the one that truly matters.
Today we still take the fruit—or deny ourselves the cake—to become godlike, people with bodies others will worship and serve. The tragic irony is that Adam and Eve were already like God, having been made in his image. But we attempt to remake ourselves through food into a form that others will worship.
3. We use food for identity instead of looking to God's grace.
For some food is aspirational. We use it to express the image or lifestyle to which we aspire. Organic and whole-food produce—these are the things that prove you’re enlightened and politically aware. Or maybe it’s steaks and burgers—they make you feel like a true man. Or maybe it’s pot roasts and home-baked apple pie like your grandmother made—they make you a traditional, all-American mom. Or maybe it’s cordon bleu and haute cuisine—they make you an urban and urbane sophisticate. Others manipulate food to prove themselves through their looks by obsessing about their calorie intake. We use or misuse food to form our identity instead of finding our identity in Christ. We use food to achieve identity instead of receiving it by grace.
The first thing that happens when Adam and Eve eat the fruit is that they feel shame (Genesis 3:7). Still today our attempts at self-salvation through food lead to shame. They generate body-image problems. Slimming programs can offer a kind of points-based religion. Salvation comes through being accepted by others, and a beautiful body is the means by which we save ourselves. Food is rated, so your progress toward salvation can be scored. Your life is assessed when you stand on the scales. Weight loss equals righteousness; weight gain equals condemnation.
4. We use food for refuge instead of looking to God's goodness.
We often use food as an escape instead of finding refuge in God. We self-medicate with food. We become priests bringing offerings of chocolate to ourselves. We find comfort in sugar, salt, and fat instead of the living God. The result is ill-health and weight gain. Some people then try to manage this through dieting, bulimia, or anorexia.
Life without God is an empty life, and we cannot fill that emptiness with food. We miss the opportunity to turn to God. We want to live by bread alone. We find true refuge in the comfort of God and true satisfaction in the goodness of God. Neither eating to live (food as fuel) nor living to eat (food as salvation) is right. We’re to eat to the glory of God and live to the glory of God. We're to gratefully receive food in all its wonderful variety as a gift from God as eating continues to express our dependence on him and our submission to his good reign."
Wow. That is so convicting to me every time I read it -- every single category. I have used controlling what I eat or don't eat to exercise sovereignty and control over my life, instead of trusting in God's goodness. I have sought glory for myself in what I look like and used food -- or lack thereof -- to manipulate my body into looking a certain way. I have used food for an escape instead of finding refuge in the Lord. What is the hope in all of this?
Our hope is always found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that God did not leave us alone to save ourselves nor sanctify ourselves.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." -Ephesians 2:4-10
God, in His rich mercy, love, and grace made a way for us to be forgiven of all of our sins and free from sin's power over our lives forever. Our Father made a way for us to be made right with Him again through Jesus. He sent His one and only son to live a perfect life on earth. Jesus never sinned, always trusted God, always glorified God. He never looked to the things of this world to satisfy Himself. He didn't need the things of this world because He was perfectly united with the Father, who filled Him with everything He needed for life. He lived the perfect life we never could and took on the punishment for our sins. He took on the punishment I deserve for my idolatry. He took upon Himself all of my pain, all of my guilt, all of my shame. He took on every morning I've stood on the scale and sought my value in the number -- not in the Lord. He took on every night I've attempted to numb my feelings of depression in a plate of cookies and a tub of ice cream. He took on my fears and my anxiety, my anger and my bitterness. He took them all upon Himself because He knew we would never be able to bear the weight of it all. He loves us that much. He died in our place, and three days afterward, He rose from death. He endured the cross, disregarding its shame, shamed death and even the enemy himself. For nothing can withstand the power of God. Jesus made a way for us to have a perfect relationship with God. He made a way for us to experience life in the way that God intended.
When by His grace, we place our faith in Jesus, He forgives us of all of our sins -- past, present, and future. He clothes us in His very righteousness. He adopts us into His family and commits to us forever and ever. He makes us His own. He gives us life and life abundantly. He gives us victory over sin. He gives us the Holy Spirit who comes to live inside our hearts and fill us with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He imparts to us His power and life. He keeps us. He sanctifies us, and He will be with us forever. Thus whatever we're facing, there is power in the name of Jesus. He hears. He sees. He cares. He is not disgusted with us. He love us. He enjoys us. He is so good that He delights in us. He does not only want to forgive us of our sins, but He wants to set us free from any and all sin in our lives. He wants to make us like Christ.
We can be completely honest before the Lord about where we are at and with what precisely we are struggling. He already knows, and His grace abounds to us in all trials. The most intimate moments in my relationship with God are always when I am completely honest with Him about what is going in my heart. He always receives us with love. He is so true to His character.
"We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also will live with Him. We know that death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." -Romans 6:6-11
Whether you're struggling with finding your value in what you look like or feeling like a slave to what you eat or don't eat, I want to encourage you to ask the Lord why it is you're finding yourself in that spot and how Christ can meet you there. For me, I know that when I'm seeking my value and worth in my appearance, I'm not believing that the Lord is a good maker. I'm not believing that God loves me so much that He would not only send His one and only Son for me, but He will also be with me and provide for me. By His grace, His standards are not my standards. Thank you, Jesus. He has made me lovable despite what the number on the scale says. He would love me whether I weighed 120 pounds or 200. He loves me whether or not I only eat salads or BigMacs and french fries. But likewise, He knows my heart. He knows my motives. Am I eating a certain way to add glory to myself? Or am I eating in a healthy manner to honor the Lord with the body He's given me? Am I delighting in food as the satisfaction of my soul? Or am I enjoying a good gift God has given me and is it causing me to worship the Giver?
The truth over our lives, by the grace of God is this, God has given us power over our choices. We have been blessed with both bodies and food. They are good gifts, but they are not meant to consume us. We were made for more than defeat. We were made to be united with the Lord and experience perfect unity and satisfaction in Him. We eat at least three times a day, am I right? Thus if the Lord has graciously allowed food and body image to be a part of our sanctification, at least three times throughout the day, God has set aside time for us to surrender ourselves wholly to Him, to ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to believe His truth over our feelings, to rely on Him for victory in our lives, and to trust Him to be our source of comfort and security.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with in your body." -1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." -2 Corinthians 12:9-10
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." -John 14:15-18