Some of you may have this topic down, but I know many who either don’t want to deal with the fact that unhealthy food is killing them slowly or others who are entirely too focused on what they just put in their mouth. Like all things, God never intended us to be trapped by anything in this world. Food seems to trap us in a state of fear, shame, self-hatred, and more than anything becomes an idol.
Some of you may have reflected well on this topic, but I know many who either (a) don’t want to deal with the fact that unhealthy food is killing them slowly or (b) are entirely too focused on what they just put in their mouth. Like all things, God never intended us to be trapped by anything in this world. Obsession with food can to trap us in a state of fear, shame, self-hatred, and quickly become an idol.
An idol is anything that sits on the throne of your life that is only reserved for Jesus. We can quickly shove him off and put on anything: entertainment, Facebook, money... our spouse. We can put food there too. We worship it. We can ruminate about it, plan our life around it, give it control over our mind and body. We can self-medicate with it, kneel down to the food god and ask that it comfort us and take away our pain, our internal suffering, or shame. If it masters us, we are a slave to it- giving into every craving as it whips us into submission. We can be addicted to its maltreatment, all the while suffer with fatigue, grogginess, obesity, and apathy. Yet for all of its promise to fulfill us, we may walk away ashamed. Ashamed of what we have allowed it to do to our life and to our body, and we hide. It can lead us to hide from our spouse under layers of added weight and clothing, afraid they will not like what we present to them. Perhaps even worse, we may hide from ourselves by staring at parts of our body in the mirror and rarely look into our own eyes.
The enemy so easily deceives, wearing the mask of food. So easily he can trigger us to desire food more than God, more than our spouse. Very quickly we forget how we are made free from bondage by Christ’s victory over death and sin, apathetically accept defeat in the battle of food and ourselves. When we are strong enough to win and make changes and see ourselves as worthy, the enemy is even deceptive by turning it into an obsession over healthier food and a new body. Why? Because all he has to do is keep our mind focused on self and he wins. If I am ashamed, I am misjudging the image of God. If I am prideful, I am putting myself on the throne reserved for God. So he dangles the easiest drug he can in front of our noses and for some of us it is our relationship with food. How do we find the balance God would have for us in our relationship with food?
1. Open our eyes: Read Ephesians 4:17-19.
Paul is detailing the process that leads indulging all types of sin. When a person hardens their heart it leads to ignorance, which leads to a lack of understanding and separation from God. This causes them to lose all sensitivity and give into sensuality by indulging in impurity, which breeds greed. Not just greed of money, but of anything that becomes a means of self-medicating (read: desensitizing). Sensuality is the unrestrained indulgence in the pleasure of one’s senses, being led by one’s senses. When food becomes a lustful indulgence, we are sinning against our body, our spouse, and God. Paul writes they have given into ignorance and deceit and like an infant thrown around by their desires. We must wake up to see the reality of our life and learn to take control of the thoughts that tempt us towards denial or justify obsession. Either way we are putting ourselves on the throne and sinning against God.
Paul begins the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans by reminding them to “offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” Later on in his letter to the Ephesians, he exhorts husbands and wives in their relationship by using the metaphor of a “unified body” working together and in other scripture says that they are “one flesh,” and concludes that “no one ever hated their own body, but [that] they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does for the church.” Basically, (1) care for your own body, and (2) assist your spouse in caring for their body, as a means of respecting and honoring your marriage. Talk with each other openly about times when you allow food or yourself to take over the throne of your life. Instead of beating yourself up about it, respond with conviction and action. Romans 8:1 says there is “no condemnation” and so shame is from us or the enemy... move forward!
2. Become a student. If you are weak in an area or unsure where to start, educate yourself. God may not miraculously heal you on an issue where he desires your involvement. This is evident throughout scripture. God uses the interaction of humans in his miracles. If you choose to remain in ignorance, He will eventually hand you over to the sin you desire. He cannot take away the junk in your pantry. Your inner craving will only change with the practice of sacrifice and self-discipline. Start with something small like a program, giving up processed foods, or learning from someone who found balance in their life. Scripture is full of examples of overcoming sin and the body’s desires and choosing to sacrifice self to God’s will. Romans talks of renewing your minds daily. James offered this to his community of Jewish elders who were challenged to move towards action: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Read what he says next in 1:23-25. What does he say will happen if he listens intently, does not ______ and does it? He will ______________.
3. Community. Breaking a food addiction is extremely difficult, because it isn’t something you can completely go without. Finding someone you can trust to walk with you through the process can give you the community willpower you need throughout. The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous can be a great place to start. Just replace “food”, “sugar”, or “me” with the word “alcohol” and you will be surprised at how relevant it can be for your life. The 12 Steps are really just salvation and community in an easy step by step process, but it is never successful without the help of others. Check out the 12 Steps aligned with scripture according to Celebrate Recovery, here.
4. He wants to help. Realize that God wants to help you balance this area in your life. Go to him and ask for help. Be proactive and ask that he help you decide what you most need when those thoughts intrude. He desires to join you in that moment. Beth Moore writes in her study on James, “When He who was, who is, and who is to come sees each of us, He sees who we were, who we are, and who we will become... God can change what people do. He can change behavioral patterns that have been in play for decades. He can change what we do to cope, to find comfort, to survive conflict, to count... Rahab had done a same old thing for years... and then she did something new. She believed God and acted on it.”
5. Finally, accept that when we have put our unhealthy habits on the throne, we are sinning against our spouse. Our body is not just our own. It is for them. It is not meant as something to withhold until we are in shape (most times we will never “get there” so we never really let them have access) or to only give our leftovers. When we withhold our body in shame, we are withholding who we are from our spouse. If we dismiss how we feel about our appearance and drown in shame when we discuss health, we limit our ability to hear how they care for us and the hurt that distance brings. If you enable your spouse’s unhealthy habits, you are a stumbling block, dishonestly passive and sabotaging their efforts to make changes. We should all regularly ask forgiveness from our spouse when shame/pride or preoccupation keeps our marriage from being what God intended: unified, vulnerable, safe, and selfless gifting to each other.
Now, What do you need to do first?