Responding to Feelings Biblically (Cravings and "Withdrawal")

It goes without saying that it is exceptionally difficult to overcome bulimic behavior and the out-of-control, obsessive thoughts that accompany binges and the pre-binge, planning stage. Unlike someone with an alcohol problem, whose "cravings" and strongest temptation to drink might be limited to Friday or Saturday nights, bulimia tends to cause entrenched thoughts about food and eating during nearly every waking moment.

Even after we've confessed this as sin and recognized Christ as the answer to overcoming the eating disorder, the feelings (of panic; of temptation; loss of control; guilt)are very real. How are we to respond to our feelings biblically in these situations?

First of all, even in the midst of temptation (to use food as "comfort" or tool to avoid pain), the Christian bulimic must remember what her goal should be. Her focus should not be on how she feels, but on pleasing God. Rather than using food as a drug to "stuff" those feelings and minimize them, the biblical goal is to provide victory (abstain from using food in an ungodly way) when feelings make it difficult. The "victory cry" of Romans 8:35 affirms that failure is not inevitable, even in difficult circumstances and intense temptation: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

Rather than focusing on our feelings (or obsessing over entries in a "food journal",) we need to remember that the most satisfying thing in life is not feeling good; better; or being able to consume unlimited supplies of food - knowing that only guilt and despair will follow the binge - but in pleasing God. (See 2 Corinthians 5:9 and James 1:25). Of course, knowing and meditating on these verses does not mean that the anxious thoughts and cravings will immediately be removed, but having an eternal perspective means the bulimic will not be controlled by them (1 Cor. 10:13; Galatians 5:16).

Also, someone who is accustomed to being "feelings-driven" can learn to turn her attention from her feelings to how she may best serve the Lord. Concentrate on serving your family and others (without putting yourself in the way of unnecessary temptations, such as baking for the church bake sale!). This is not a distraction tactic, it is a deliberate choice to obey the Lord's command to look not only to one's own interests (or feelings), but firstly to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).

The more we deliberately turn our attention from our feelings and cravings to how we may best please God, the less significant those feelings become (and consequently, the eating disordered-individual is no longer ruled by them.) Whether stuck in an eating disorder or any other habitual sin, shifting our focus from ourselves to God and learning to deal with emotions biblically is a necessary first step.

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