Conclusion of the 3-Part series I wrote for Barb Winters' blog, "Food: Lies We Believe and Truth that Sets Us Free".
This is Part 3 in a series by guest blogger Marie Notcheva. To read Part 1 click here. To read Part 2 click here.
What is the Antidote?
Overcoming food-related struggles and obsessive thinking about food, weight and appearance is notoriously difficult. Nevertheless, full and permanent victory is possible, and it all begins by being “brainwashed.” Surprised? No, Scripture doesn’t send us to a hypnotist to deal with sin; rather, we are instructed to“be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). This is an ongoing, life-long process which all begins with saturating ourselves in the Word of God. As we study and meditate on what God’s thoughts, desires and priorities are, gradually we internalize them and they become our own. If your mind is “set on the things above” (Col. 3:2), it will be preoccupied less and less with food. When we learn to live with an eternal perspective, the “drugs” and other means we use to gain pleasure fade in importance. Addictions are broken only when we begin to truly see the all-surpassing beauty and magnificence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Simply put, Jesus must become more beautiful, more satisfying, more desirable and more fulfilling than our addiction. As C.S. Lewis put it, we are too easily satisfied – making mud pies in a slum when a “holiday” at the seaside awaits.
Repentance is a continual lifestyle. Whether our “pet sin” is adultery or food addiction, humbling ourselves at the foot of the Cross is not a one-time deal – we need His grace daily in order to “press on” and “put on” holiness. This cycle of confession of sin, repentance, receiving mercy, allowing God to change us with His grace, and gradually being transformed into the likeness of His Son is what theologians call “progressive sanctification”. While we’ll never be perfect this side of eternity, we can certainly experience significant victory over “pet sins”.
Far from being the final word, repentance is just the first step in our journey out of the pit of food addiction. Discipline and perseverance are the two qualities God wants to cultivate in us, and constitute what biblical counseling pioneer Jay Adams calls “the secret of godliness”. “Train yourselves to be godly,” Paul warns in 1 Timothy 4:7. “But wait a minute,” you might ask. “Isn’t this ‘works-righteousness’?” Actually, no. While God completely forgives and washes us clean the moment we turn to Christ (justification), He then equips us and develops fruit in our lives so that we may obey and serve Him (sanctification).
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and discipline is a necessary part of our growth as believers. Without it, we run out of steam and learn to live by our feelings. When fighting food-related issues, this can be deadly! Eating is something we all do every day (which is perhaps why eating disorders seem more difficult to many than other addictions), and so we must constantly be on our guard. We do this by hiding the Word of God in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) and yielding to the Spirit (Romans 8:5). Discipline is something we train ourselves to do, whether we feel like it or not. If we are not consistently in His Word, which is our life-line, we will find ourselves slipping.
Lastly, don’t be tempted to think that victory over an area of besetting sin in your life will be easy, or come immediately. This is where many give up. They expect God to wave a magic wand over them, in effect, and take away all temptation. He has left temptation there for a reason – to build your character, and grow you into the person He wants you to be, even through your weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Perseverance in your walk with Christ is so crucial. If you feel you fail and have turned back to the food again, it is vital that you get back up and shake it off. The Apostle Peter, a man who experienced the exhilarating highs of spiritual victory and the devastating lows of failure, wrote this on the importance of persevering: “For this very reason, [God’s promise of godliness] make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
As you continue to draw near to God by studying His Word, worshiping Him, and fellowshiping with other Christians, He will purify your desires, goals and cravings. You will find your deepest satisfaction comes from communion with Him, and although you will still stumble at times, you will be able to come back with confidence more readily because of His grace. The change in your “relationship” with food will be to demote it permanantly to a back-seat role in your life. However, this is only a fringe benefit to the only relationship that matters – the one you have with Christ. When living to please and glorify Him becomes your driving life’s passion, all other lesser goals will fall into their rightful place. The end result? A maturing, dynamic faith and a testimony of victory over vice.