I'd like to take a short break from posting from my biblical counseling studies (although I'm finding great value in the nouthetic courses I'm taking, and wish more counselors for eating disorders had this insight) in order to just share a bit from the heart. Many of you have read my testimony of deliverance (under the June 2009 archives), but our lives are an ongoing testimony to God's grace. The story simply doesn't stop there.
The ironic thing is that six years ago, when I had to desperately cry out to God for strength just to get through the day, I felt closer to Him than at any other time in my life. There were many tears and gut-wrenching moments of confession. I knew and believed the promise of Hebrews 11: "Never will I leave you nor forsake you" as if it were engraved on my broken heart. I clung to the promise implied in Luke 17:4 that Christ would forgive me seven times in the same day like a lifeline. I metaphorically clung to His hand as if my life depended upon it.
Because it did.
And then I got stronger. Discipline gave way to habit, and humility gave way to confidence. My eating issues now a shameful part of the past, the law of inertia took over...except there is no such thing as a "spiritual inertia". In the Christian walk, either you are moving forward, or you're moving backward. It is so easy to think, when you are stuck in a life-dominating sin, that if you can just get victory over this one area, you will be "a great Christian". Hah! My friends, there is no such thing. There is always something, subtle or overt, that you will have to be on guard against - because our hearts are deceitful. Once we begin to rest on our laurels and think we're strong, our fellowship with Christ will begin to suffer because we are trusting in ourselves (even though we may be unaware of it). It's all too easy to slip into this "distance" mode with Jesus, which is why we need to stay in the Word and try to seek Him daily.
Surveying the past six years as a whole, some of the lessons the Lord has taught me are as follows:
1.) Our need for the Cross is an ongoing reality. The power of the Cross breaks the bondage of an addiction; that is true. Knowing that Christ died for your and my sin of bulimia, forgives and cleanses us, and gave us the power to restore food to its proper, God honoring place is key to repenting and putting this sin behind us. What happens once this sin is beat, however? Do we not need the Cross quite so desperately as before? Umm...no. I'll warn you right now that the Cross is for our ongoing sanctification as much as for the "really big" sins like bulimia. Discouragement? Anger? Unforgiveness? Bitterness? Trust me; these are all sins you will have to face, LONG after you are free of bulimia. Keep going to the Cross.
2.) There may be seasons post-addiction where you are unfaithful. No, I'm not talking about a "relapse". In fact, I'm not even talking about food. I'm talking about regular life. If you repent, Christ will deliver and restore you from bulimis; that's a given. Eventualy, though, the euphoria will wear off. You'll be tempted to forget His great deliverance and even doubt His personal love for you. You will develop pride in myriad ways, and you will sin again - in different areas - and think "He doesn't like me". Anticipate it. Do not let pride get the best of you - as soon as you become aware of it, return to His feet and confess this lapse. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Abiding Means Trusting in Jesus' Love
4.) When you realize you have not been "abiding", turn back to Him! These seasons are bond to come, yet the answer is the same - return to Him with all your heart. God knows how prone we are to wander, and all of us have seasons where we forsake our First Love (Rev. 2:4). He calls us to return, and "do the things we did at first" - note, this does not mean "work harder"; it means return to that place of unabashed love and unreserved faith. Remember how it felt to be at His feet, falling deeper in love with Him. When I remember how strong those bonds of trust of were when He was setting me free from bulimia, it renews my hope that no matter where I am (spiritually), He is there. Lack of feelings don't mean you have fallen "out of love" with Christ and that's it - don't expect that euphoria to always be there, and don't base your relationship with God on emotions. Just as in a human marriage, that honeymoon phase is normal, but allow yourself to go on to a mature faith. It's not always fun or exciting, but is based on steadfast obedience.
Not to abide in Jesus' love would mean that we stop believing that we are loved by Jesus. We look at our circumstances....and we conclude that we are not loved by Jesus
anymore. That's the opposite of abiding in the love of Jesus. So abiding in His love means continuing to believe, moment by moment, that we are loved.
...So we conclude that abiding in Jesus -- in His love and in His Word -- is trusting that he really is loving us at every moment and that everything He has revealed about Himself and His work for us and our future with Him is true.Believing in Jesus as our living water means drinking the water -- savoring it and being satisfied with it. So it is with the sap that flows from the vine to the branch. We receive it, drink it, savor it, and satisfy our souls with it. This daily ever-renewed satisfaction in Jesus is the key to bearing fruit. This is what it means to abide in Jesus.