What Hinders You?
If you struggle with over-eating, preoccupation with your weight and/or food, or a tendency to use food for emotional reasons, you probably realize very well that this is outside of God’s will for your life. You may even recognize that you are engaged in a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:12). You’ve read passages warning believers not to be “mastered by anything” but rather to “be self-controlled and alert” (1 Cor. 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8). And yet, as common as “food abuse” is, in the day-to-day we tend to think of it as a “common vice.” Unlike full-blown eating disorders, which are so clearly problematic that psychiatrists consider anorexia and bulimia “mental illnesses,” binge eating, emotional eating, and habitual eating fall under what author Jerry Bridges would term “respectable sins” because they are so prevalent in our society. This helps us rationalize these behaviors when temptation hits.
Is this your mindset? If so, know that you are not alone. It may help you to know that if you are bingeing or just eating out of habit, it is not a physical hunger you are trying to fill. Trying to “fill the void” with food is futile, so allow God to show you what it is you are seeking when you turn to it for satisfaction instead of to Him. Unless you see this temptation as a spiritual battle, you will not be prepared to fight it with the “shield of faith” and the “sword of the Spirit” (God’s Word).
Another hindrance to overcoming unhealthy eating habits is shame. Winston Smith, a CCEF counselor, recently wrote an excellent article on how shame over our sin keeps Christians from turning to the Cross – the very place we need to go! He writes,
“I’m sure Peter, like most of us, would rather figure out some way of cleaning himself. At least part of us would find prideful satisfaction in being able to take care of our own mess. But another sizeable part would like to avoid having another, especially Jesus, see our filth. And the thought of Jesus having to touch it . . . well, that makes us just want to say no.”There is something about mis-using food that makes us want to run and hide. Among eating disordered patients, anorexia is “the goal” they all want to attain. No one aspires to be bulimic. Why? We see it as more “shameful” – bulimia, like binge eating, represents a loss of self-control. And it is shameful – as is all other sin. When we believe the lie that one sin is more abhorrent to God than another, we deceive ourselves that we are not worthy of His grace (no one is, but He grants it because He is gracious). Hiding in the shadows not only delays and complicates repentance, it is an affront to God’s character. We dishonor Him when we ignore or doubt His mercy, which is new every morning (Lam. 3:23).
Whatever the depth of your struggle, there is grace when you fail. God is waiting for you to get up, seek Him, and continue walking with Him by faith. You may think you are a disappointment to God, but think about it: He is omniscient. He already knew you were going to do “that”, and has already dealt with your sin. The way out is to accept grace, and keep “pressing on.”