Cycle of Failure - Will You Run FROM the Cross, or TO the Cross?


I have gotten away from eating as I should. I seem to be in the pit again, and don't know how to get started. I feel like an alcholic who has fallen off. The guilt is incredible, and weighing me down again of failing. How do I get back to God, and walk in forgiveness when I cant even forgive myself.

What am I doing that I can not walk in freedom in this. I know that you were healed in about 6 months. I keep sinning, but do not know how to stop, I have a few good days, then I blow it, and never get back up- at least not for a while.

I want to be free of this, but don't know how to begin again, once I 've failed, or been in a cycle of failure...

This letter is typical of many e-mails I receive from Christian ladies struggling with binge eating and bulimia. My response:

There is definitely a way out of this, but it sounds almost as if you have run out of hope! Don't!! Hey, about failure - I want to share with you one thing that I've learned...that failure that keeps you in defeat and makes you essentially run from God (rather than towards Him, as He continually says "Come to Me"), is that worldly sorry (remorse rather than repentance).

It's what Judas did! That hit me today when I was driving to work; Judas and Peter both betrayed Jesus. They both were ashamed and felt guilt weighing them down. So, what was the difference? Judas ran AWAY from Him; ultimately self-destructing out of shame and misery. If he had truly repented, he would have gone to Christ - while He was on the Cross, even - and confronted the full horror of his sin. He would have been forgiven, even then.

Now, contrast that with Peter. We really don't know the exact details or time of when Peter repented; but we know that he did because he's with the other Apostles Sunday morning (they were all hiding out together); he's there in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared to them, and obviously he had become "right with God" before John 21's beachside picnic, because he jumped right out of the boat to swim to Jesus (and of course Jesus reinstated him in a sense; the past was finally laid to rest).

Sure, what these guys did seems way more dramatic than your struggle with eating, but there's a principle to be applied there: don't let the guilt of your sin drive you further down into defeat, or away from Christ. Don't believe the lie that it's too late or futile to repent. That's pride, and it cost Judas his very soul. Be like Peter -- by no means perfect, but willing to humble himself before his best Friend and confess that he needed Him.

You don't need to "forgive yourself". Just confess and repent of this sin, and trust that God has forgiven and cleansed you - because He has promised to (1 John 1:9) and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Yes, it seems like you have all the right books, but any truth contained within them is not making its way down to your heart. It sounds from your note as if you are not spending much time renewing your mind in the Word, either...and subsequently your prayer life has suffered. I don't want to give you another book to read, but in Jay Adams' "Godliness Through Discipline" he explains biblically how we cannot expect to grow in sanctification without a measure of discipline. For a bulimic or habitual overeater in the process of transformation, that would include considering ahead of time (before you are in the middle of temptation) what you are going to eat, and how much. Prayerfully consider what your weaknesses are ("binge triggers"), and where and what circumstances are most likely to set you off.

Don't eliminate all carbohydrates, as that will cause cravings also, but avoid those sugary/fatty things that you are most likely to binge on. The One Who is in you is stronger than the one who is in the world...remember that prayer fortifies you, and being in Christ means that you are no longer a slave to sin. The only way to begin again is by repentance...it's not a one-time event. Tomorrow is a new day. Get out of that kitchen once you have finished a reasonable, healthy meal, and go spend time with God! That was a BIG factor in my breaking free - realizing where my idol was, and that Christ was far more beautiful than any temporary satisfaction that "idol" could offer.

Let me know how this week goes! Go back to God, humble yourself (again), and ask for His help. Establish an eating plan and prayer time, and stick to it. Discipline is key to growth (Proverbs 15:32).

In Him,


Encouraging Feedback from Group

Last week, I had the priviledge of speaking to a "Thin Within" group about my testimony, and I was able to share some insights about food addiction. I received the following e-mail from the facilitator, which really encouraged me:
Hi Marie,

Thank you so much for coming on Monday and sharing your testimony. You were amazingly calm, poised and clear! Your words were obviously well thought out and none of the awkwardness of the written word came through as you talked with us. :)

I would bet that your words will reach more than just those sitting in the room. I know I personally really appreciated what you had to say. A few things struck me in relation to my own struggle with food, sin, food filling the void, etc. 6 months ! In 6 months you were transformed through the renewing of your mind to a place of freedom from food. How many of us have struggled a lifetime? But freedom in Christ is really attainable. (I just quickly checked out the blogspot - your answer to "practically turning" from sin once confessed is excellent and applicable to the "typical" overeater.) Also, interesting is that this Thin Within session is laid out to be just short of 6 months! :)

The other thing that struck me was, in the end who cares what I weigh. If I am being obedient and turning to Christ every step of the way to freedom, then weight will come off and I will be where I will be. Up until now, I still had a goal - I would like to lose 20 pounds and then when I get there, assume I will work hard to maintain that goal. But I don't want that any more. I'm not opposed to knowing what I weigh and using that as part of my testimony, but I don't want a goal in terms of pounds. Freedom is such a better choice!

Thanks again,


Identifying Your Idols (NANC Conference 2010)

 Last week, I attended NANC's Annual Conference in LaFayette, Indiana. As many of you may know, NANC stands for the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors and is the certifying/supervisory organization for biblical counselors in the United States and about a dozen other countries. This conference was extremely edifying and useful to me for several reasons. I was able to meet and talk with Martha Peace, Dr. Mark Shaw, and Jocelyn Wallace - who have been extremely helpful in the process of publishing my book, and have offered endorsements. Secondly, the general session speakers, particularly Al Mohler (who I can only describe as "scary smart"), gave inspirational messages about counseling for the glory of God and helped me revive my own relationship with Christ. Lastly, and most germane to the reason for attending, several of the five workshops I attended directly dealt with counseling ladies with bulimia.

The first evening of the conference, I attended a session taught by Jocelyn Wallace, Executive Director at Vision of Hope - the long-term residential facility located on the campus of Faith Ministries (where the conference was being held - I later was able to tour the home). Jocelyn was and continues to be very helpful to me in writing "Redeemed from the Pit", and an interview she granted earlier this year provides much of the information on residential counseling for eating disordered ladies in chapter 9. Her workshop was entitled "Helping Addicts Learn to Identify Their Idols", and she opened with the bottom-line premise that each one of us needs to embrace: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Someone with a life-dominating sin ("addiction") such as bulimia has learned to use tools to acheive a counterfeit satisfaction or happiness, rather than seeking God as the source of her joy and peace. The eating disordered individual, as is the case with other addicts, will use different means to acheive her goal - to avoid pain/confrontation; not be miserable; to be thin at all costs. Jeremiah 2 describes these "broken cisterns" as hopeless and futile; but when trapped in the bondage of addiction, this idolatrous pursuit turns into the downward spiral described in Romans chapter1. As the "worship" of this idol progresses, sinful actions ==> become sinful habits ==> become life-dominating (see Romans 7:14-25).

As Jocelyn pointed out, basic discipleship is necessary until a counselee understands and grasps the basic premise of the Gospel. (See my review of Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Because He Loves Me"). Trying to change behavior is futile until she really trusts in Christ as her Savior and has become broken. Brokenness means giving up the fight (for her own idol); not trying to win or acheive satisfaction apart from God anymore; yeilding in submission and humility to God's will. Once she embraces her true purpose - to glorify God and seek her satisfaction in Him - she is then in a position to choose the path of righteousness (1 Peter 2:9; 12; Psalm 23:6). Jocelyn cited an analogy from the book "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" as useful for struggling counselees - the repentant bulimic (or other addict) is like the little lamb with the broken leg, being carried by the Good Shepherd. In her brokenness, she learns to trust the Good Shepherd and not leave His side. From this place of trust, she will learn to continue walking by His side, even blindfolded, with her hand in His.

Once the bulimic is able to begin examining the lies she believes, James 4:1-10 is useful to illustrate a simple progression: what I want in my heart ==> what I do; this controls how I feel. Repentance, defined as 'turning and walking in the opposite direction', means that one will no longer turn to idols anymore to serve one's self. God alone can be served froma  heart of joy and gratitude that is singular in purpose - to love and glorify God. Lies are replaced with the truth as the counselee researches what God says about the idols she realizes are present in her life. She is then taught how to build up walls of protection against temptation to return to that idol, and/or radical amputation of her access to the tools used to serve that idol.

For example, Stuart Scott described the following incident in his workshop, "Helping Counselees Mortify Sin in Their Lives". He and his wife were joint-counseling a young bulimic woman, who seemed to "talk a good talk". Something seemed a bit "off", and Scott's wife asked the young lady if they might go through her purse. Immediately uncomfortable, the counselee bristled but finally consented. Her purse was filled with laxatives, enemas and diet pills. "Radical amputation" (Matthew 5:30) in this case, of course, would include throwing away all of the "purge paraphanelia" one would use, as well as seeking accountability.

Throughout the counseling process, godly tools are introduced to take the place of wicked tools and the idols are compared to the One True God. Over and over, these idols are shown to be worthless.

Living each day to glorify God - with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength - is infinitely better than wallowing in the muck and mire of an eating disorder, ladies. Trust me: Jocelyn is right. These idols of self, thinness, avoidance of discomfort, vanity and attention are just not worth it. Do not forfeit true fellowship with Christ for the deceit of temporary, empty "satisfaction".