Beware of Soothing Words that Don't Line up with God's!

Psycho-babble and the Bible Don't Mix.
Many of today’s popular Bible teachers equate sinful patterns with not loving one’s self enough, or having shaky self-esteem. In one recent women’s Bible study, the following “conditions” were listed as being rooted in insecurity: jealousy; envy; promiscuity; manipulation; and unbelief. By contrast, the Bible uses the term “sin” for each of these tendencies and links them to pride.

Scripture warns repeatedly against a prideful spirit – the fruits of pride are innumerable and poisonous. Insidious forms of pride fuel both anorexia and bulimia. As a Christian anorexic or bulimic, the guilt and shame you feel over your behavior is instinctive. Even if you are unaware that your weight (and/or food) have become idols, you carry a general realization that you are doing something wrong. No one needs to tell you that your eating disorder is not within God’s will for your life, regardless of how you may have attempted to privately justify it. The Holy Spirit will only let you get away with that for so long. Still, it cannot be emphasized enough that His conviction of rebellion against God is merciful, not condemning. The correct response is to repent of this idol and turn away from the behavior, ultimately being freed from guilt and shame. God will help you and subsequently renew your mind. Sometimes, however, Christian counselors will inadvertently short-circuit the Holy Spirit’s work by telling the client she is carrying “false guilt” or suggesting that spiritual conditions are “diseases”.

In “The Zippered Heart: Healing for the Secrets We Hide Inside,” Christian psychologist and Women of Faith author Marilyn Meberg writes about a bulimic pastor’s wife who hid her secret from those around her, finally seeking inpatient treatment at a Christian facility.

“One of the biggest changes in Becky’s thinking was to realize that she didn’t deserve to wear the shame banner. Her depression had an environmental root; it was not a sin and it was not her fault. Her challenge was to face her issues and be healed from them. Her bulimia was not a sin either. It was one of the many expressions of all the childhood pain she had never resolved. At Remuda that process of understanding and healing began.” (Emphasis mine).

While I appreciate the compassion and loving concern that Meberg brings into her counseling, I believe she is doing women a grave disservice by telling them their bulimia is not a sin (elsewhere in the book she denies that masturbation is always sinful). God extends grace to us, as we must to each other. The erring brother (or sister) must be restored gently, (Galatians 6:1), but she must be restored. A Christian unable to stop destroying the tissues of her God-given body by self-starvation or purging needs a renewed mind, not soothing words.

When I first read the above-paragraph in 2001, I was shocked. Still stuck in the bondage of bulimia myself and despairing of ever overcoming it, these words were exactly what my itching ears wanted to hear. Unfortunately, they were not what I needed to hear – I needed hope that I could repent and be forgiven. I needed to know that I could confess my bulimia as sin, fully repent of it, and walk away clean and forgiven. Although I had tried before, I needed to know that I could try again – and that God would grant me the gift of true repentance. I knew that as sweet and sincere a Christian as Ms. Meberg may be, on this issue she was off base. I began reading the Bible again.

How Ms. Meberg knew that the woman’s depression “had an environmental root” escapes me. As a born-again believer, she must have known her bulimia was a sin (hence the “shame banner”); therefore, is it not logical to conclude she was depressed over her inability to overcome this sin? The way to be free from this shame is by turning away from sin and to Christ. There are no shortcuts around it – as long as we choose to stay in our sin, we will be carrying this sense of shame. Unfortunately, in their zeal to make Christians “feel good” about themselves, some counselors re-name sinful behaviors “issues” and talk about “understanding” and “healing” rather than repentance. God is clear in His Word: if we repent, He will heal us Himself (Isaiah 53:4; 2 Chronicles 7:14). As Charles Spurgeon put it, until we have felt the noose of sin around our necks, we will not weep with joy when Christ cuts the rope.

True repentance is a gift, and yields lasting freedom and joy. Praise God for His mercy and long-suffering character!


  1. Marie,
    I have never struggled with bulimia or anorexia, but what I think you've done here with your blog is so awesome. I go to the University of Florida, and there are so many college girls here who have deep, inner pain. Some girls I know from Campus Crusade for Christ have a history with eating disorders and are still scarred from it today.

    When Paul advises older women to teach what is good to younger women in Titus 2:3-4, it is great to see God working in your life in the same way. I will definitely tell some of the friends that I have to come here for encouragement. Talk to you soon, Marie. God bless.

    - Brooklyn

  2. Hi Brooklyn,

    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, college can be the time when eating disorders (and other addictive behaviors, for that matter) hurt the most - young women are far away from family, their church, and whatever support they might have had. You know, I came to faith in Christ myself through Campus Crusade for Christ! Syracuse University in 1990. I attended a small group and made many friends through CCC, but I was too ashamed to tell anyone, even these Christians about my bulimia. It was very alienating.

    I talk about that in my testimony and go into some depth in my book, which should be out next year. I often wonder what would have happened if I had confessed it to the woman discipling me, and sough Christian counsel. Would I have repented? Would the next decade of my life have been different? I don't know. But I DO know that God restores, and He redeems the past. And so now I write, and share that message of renewal with women who love God, but struggle with food addiction. It CAN be overcome, in His strength.

    God bless you! :)


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