Beyond Freedom from Food Addiction - Living for the Glory of God (Part 1 of 3)

I blogged the following series for Barb Winters last week, and she posted Part 1 over at her blog, "Food Lies We Believe and the Truth that Sets us Free" a few days ago. (Link to Part 1 is here). Here is the introductory entry, on having the right goal and priority in our hearts as we turn away from addiction:

Beyond Freedom from Food Addiction – Living for the Glory of God (Part 1 of 3)

In December 2003, God impressed the words “Live up to what you’ve already attained!” (Philippians 3:16) very strongly on my heart. At the time, He was granting me repentance from a long-standing eating disorder, and, as any Christian stuck in life-dominating sin would be, I was thoroughly miserable. That misery began to change to hope as I pondered the implication of that verse: what have I already attained? In context, Paul is talking about the believer’s secure position by knowing Christ. Since we are free from the Law, he reasons, we have now only to “press on to take hold of” what Christ has already attained for us: the “righteousness that comes from God” (v. 9). Although I had been a Christian for 13 years, I now began pondering what my position in Christ actually meant, practically speaking. Although I was not acting “righteous”, slowly I began to see that because of my union with Him, I was not, in reality, a slave to sin. My salvation already secured, God had declared me a member of His family and a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). Now, He was encouraging me to act like it. Live up to what you already are, I told myself, because of Christ. He made it possible.

One of the lies we are prone to believe, whether we struggle with “food addiction” or another sin, is that we cannot change. The habit has enslaved us, we believe; it is impossible to change on our own. (And indeed it is, apart from the Holy Spirit). It becomes all too easy to forget that we are no longer slaves to sin, and that God calls and equips us to become in practice what we already are in standing before Him.

Let’s examine our true purpose in life; some obstacles as we strive to overcome our love-hate relationship with food; and finally, how to deal with these snares biblically.

What Is Your Goal?

Recently, an old friend of mine stated that Weight Watchers is helping her with her life goal: changing her relationship with food. This is a worthy endeavor, and we know that we need to restore food to its appropriate, life-giving place in our lives. For those of us who are in Christ, however, this must never be our primary goal. Our purpose in life is to love, worship and bring glory to God. Three times in the book of Ephesians, Paul exhorted us to “live to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Whenever another all-consuming purpose takes center stage in our hearts, (even if it’s a good thing), it’s called an “idol.”

I have seen this reversal of priorities repeatedly when counseling eating disordered women. During the years I was enslaved to bulimia, I was guilty of it myself. I desperately wanted to be free of the food-obsession that plagued my every waking moment, and devised countless tactics and diets in attempt to stave off the behavior. At the same time, however, I was terrified of gaining weight. Overcoming bulimia, without gaining weight, had become my idol. My “practical theology” was messed up – fitting into size 2 jeans was more important to me than my relationship with Christ. Needless to say, my “relationship with food” never changed – because my focus was misplaced.

We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). When we do that, He brings the conviction and encouragement needed to re-order every area of our lives, including unhealthy eating patterns. Does your happiness and joy in Christ depend on how much you weigh? If so, you are focusing on the wrong “relationship.” If pleasing and honoring God is our goal (rather than losing weight or thinking less about food), we find ourselves less tempted to use the food as a counterfeit comfort and we experience victory in this area (however gradually it may come). When counseling bulimic women, I notice many of them want to keep a food journal. I discourage this practice, as I don’t feel it is helpful and puts too much attention on the food itself (although for anorexic patients, a record of food intake may be necessary for nutritionists or physicians). My counsel (and experience) is that spending that time in the Word of God or a Bible study is far more helpful than keeping a food journal. Our gaze needs to be directed upward to the Cross, rather than inward on self.

In Christian weight loss circles or recovery groups, much is made of the reference to eating and drinking in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” However, to fixate solely on those two activities and to build a “program” around them is to miss Paul’s point. The emphasis is on “whatever” you do – it should all be done with the end goal of glorifying God (making His Name known and exalting Him by living in joyful obedience). Fixing individual areas of our life that give us problems must never be our primary goal. Living a life that is pleasing to God, out of sheer gratitude for the grace He has lavished on us, should be our desire.

Marie Notcheva is a Christian author from Massachusetts, who is working towards certification as a biblical counselor. Her book, "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage or Eating Disorders" will be published by Calvary Press later this year. Her work has appeared in The Guardian Modern Reformation, Baystate Parent, and several other publications. She blogs at http://redeemedfromthepit.blogspot.com//.

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