Recently, I was talking with Martha Peace about my ministry to you ladies with eating disorders, and my upcoming book "Redeemed from the Pit". She has been (and continues to be) an invaluable source of help to me, and one of her suggestions was that I set up a "Frequently Asked Questions" page here on my blog...so as to avoid giving the same information over and over...and over again to ladies who send me e-mails.
I have noticed that many people read my blog, and receive an average of about 10 e-mails per week...but realtively few of you leave comments. That is absolutely fine; I understand the shame and embarrassment that you may feel, and your hesitation to leave a commentg on a public site. To try and best serve you, I will attempt to answer biblically some of the most common questions I receive on this page. If you are wondering about something, chances are someone else is, too!
By all means, if you have a question and you don't see it addressed here, leave a comment or e-mail me at marie4thtimemom[at]yahoo.com.
Do you know of any good, Christian inpatient clinics I could go to? I've been bulimic for ages!
Answer: Yes, Vision of Hope in LaFayette Indiana, which is part of Faith Baptist Ministries. This is the only residential facility, to my knowledge, which ministers to young women with life-dominating issues through a Scriptural lens. All of VoH's ministry staff are trained, certified biblical counselors, and the program (which generally runs about a year in length, I believe), focuses on renewing the mind with God's Word in order to bring about the behavior that will glorify God.
Keep in mind, however, that VoH is not a medical facility and does not accept counselees who are medically fragile. If your life is in danger, you may need an inpatient center with round-the-clock medical staff or hospitalization. VoH focuses on the long-term spiritual discipleship which must take place in order to overcome a life-dominating sin and live to please God. The program is free, although there is an age limit and there may be a waiting list.
I do not endorse so-called "Christian" inpatient centers which promote a secular worldview (needs-based psychology; self-esteem gospel) or charismatic doctrine/"deliverance ministries". The latter, while billing themselves as Evangelical, are dangerously unbiblical and end up hurting people spiritually. (For an in-depth look at what the Bible says about cessation of the sign gifts, see "Signs and Wonders in the Last Days" by Jay Adams, "Charismatic Chaos" by John Macarthur, or "Counterfeit Miracles" by B.B. Warfield).
I've been bulimic for so long. I want to turn to God, but I'm afraid...how can I pray about this, after I've already repented? Help!
One of the things we have to learn is that we've allowed food to consume a part of our lives it was never intended to (it's an idol, in the way alcohol is an idol to the drunkard). We need God's help to restore food to it's proper place in our lives.
When I made the decision that I was going to repent of this sin, I literally had to pray (silently) my way through every meal. Before, during and after. I prayed that God would guide me how much to eat and give me the self-control I needed, and then walk with me through the temptation afterwards not to purge it. (The hardest temptation was when I was mad at myself, or my husband was annoyed with me over something -- I'd have that irrational desire to purge b/c I didn't "deserve" to have food in my stomach). BUT I FOUGHT IT, by turning to God and who I am as His daughter, and held on.
Learning to renew your mind with His Word is crucial. You need to be intentional about reading the Bible and letting it speak to you - every day. The Scriptures are where we see God revealed through the Person of Christ. The disciplines of Scripture and prayer are the two biggest weapons in your arsenal.
Are you a counselor? What kind of counseling? What are your credentials?
I am a biblical counselor (also known as 'nouthetic') currently training under the Institute for Nouthetic Studies for Level I NANC certification. NANC, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, is the regulatory and supervisory organization for biblical counseling (in addition to CCEF), and each newly-certified NANC counselor must undergo a minimum of 50 supervised hours of counseling under a NANC Fellow in addition to instructional training and observation. The coursework which I am doing with INS is much more in-depth than the basic, minimum NANC training: it consists of 185 lecture hours covering 15 courses in counseling issues. Each course has several texts.
I am not a psychologist, although I have studied both clinical and biopsychology in college (before beginning my own intensive research in the fields of addiction treatment and eating disorders). The premise of true biblical counseling is that the Bible contains the full counsel of God, and is fully sufficient to address all matters of soul care. 2 Peter 1:3 states that "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness", so we do not need to seek after theories or "the wisdom of man" to bring about God-honoring changes in our lives.
The goal of biblical counseling is to help one another "be conformed to the image of Christ" (Romans 8:29). We do this by allowing God to transform and renew our minds with His Word (Romans 12:2) and seeking to actively obey Him: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." The motive is love:
"Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)
"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11)
I know this is a really basic question, but once you saw your eating disorder as a sin and repented and died to self so Christ can live in you, how then did you actions change, did it happen all at once or was it still a process over time?
Well, first of all, to really understand what repentance is and how to implement biblical change (of the heart, which affects our actions), we have to realize that AS we confess something as sin (agree with God), concurrently our actions will change. Yes, it's a process in the sense we are NOT perfected overnight (sanctification is progressive), but neither are we honoring God if we sit back, take a passive role in our sanctification, and expect Him to mysteriously change us. There is an interplay between God's sovereign power (the Holy Spirit convicts and encourages the believer towards holiness) and our responsibility (we must actively work against sin in our lives). The two go together.
Let me give you an illustration of how this might look in the life of someone struggling with the sin of drunkenness. This was, in fact, a sin in my own life, which I turned away from at the same time as bulimia. Since alcohol is a more "black and white" issue than food addiction, it might help to clarify the principle.
If a Christian is enslaved to alcohol, the Holy Spirit convicts him that he is in sin. He does this through the Word of God, and impresses that drunkeness is disobedience to Him. The Christian agrees with God, gets on his knees, and begs God to grant him repentance. His sin is forgiven, Christ has paid it in full! Weak though He is, the Christian wants to honor God by his actions, and so he resolves to stop drinking. This is true repentance; he does not try to rationalize his drinking or strike bargains with God: 'I'll drink in moderation; I'll only have one on Friday nights.' He recognizes that he, personally, has become enslaved by this particular "lust of the flesh" and must forsake it.
Now, when he gets up off his knees, what must he do?
The next evening comes. He is tempted to drink. Does he say to himself, "Well, I'm the same man I was last night (true) with the same desire for a whiskey (also true). Since I still have this temptation, I may as well give in to it....clearly, Christ hasn't changed my heart yet. When He does, I'll just "yield" to Him and let Him have His way....but since I'm still weak, I'll just go have a drink. Anyway, I'm 'powerless' over this addiction. I cannot resist, so I'll just 'let go and let God'. When HE wants me to stop drinking, HE'll deliver me supernaturally!"
If this is the believer's understanding of repentance and he gives in to his temptation, goes down to the bar and gets drunk, he's going to wake up even more miserable than the day before. Plus, his faith in God and His power to save and sanctify will be even further eroded -- because He was not walking by the Spirit and determining in his heart to obey Christ's clear command.
What should he have done (besides pray and seek forgiveness)? Well, obviously he must not have any alcohol in the house. Leaving himself a constant temptation will make obedience harder. He, like all believers, "is called to holiness, and created in Christ Jesus to do good works" (Eph. 2:10). Secondly, he ought to identify those places and times of temptation to drink excessively, and plan to avoid them. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," (James 4:7). As he begins each day, he should "put on the full armor of God so that he can take his stand against the devil's schemes," (Eph. 6:11; emphasis mine). Putting on that spiritual armor starts as he reads the Bible, prays and asks God to renew his mind, but it doesn't stop there. How does he "take a stand against the devil's schemes" (temptation to sin by getting drunk)? By actively resisting it.
In John 14:15 and 14:21, the Lord Jesus Christ affirms that if we truly love Him, our actions will show it. Now, love for God is not defined by actions, (in other words, you could do 'good' things, but not necessarily love the Lord), but if our devotion to God is sincere, that will affect the way we act. If my kids love me, they will obey me. If our Christian repenting of drunkeness truly loves the Lord, he will obey Him - by making those tough lifestyle changes. Besides 'cutting off' the alcohol, it would be wise for him to tell a Christian brother of his struggle and commitment to sobriety ("confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed"; James 5:16). Accountabilty is often an important part of repenting from a life-dominating sin. By extension, seeking biblical counsel from an appropriate counselor or pastor may also be a part, but again, the counselor cannot change the individual. Doing the hard work of biblical change comes out of a pure desire for holiness, and is something that each person individually must walk out.
How, then, do we apply this to eating disorders?
Well, we certainly don't have to whomp up any warm, loving feelings towards God in order to desire to repent. He has graciously granted us conviction, and in His kindness is leading us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The change in heart attitude towards the sin of anorexia or bulimia should, ideally, go hand-in-hand with changes in behavior. This is true repentance, and although a child of God may fall many times, there is going to be an overall tendency of change and more healthful behavior (whether resisting the urge to binge or faithfully eating and digesting meals) as one walks in obedience.
The process might look like this:
1.) Conviction ==> hatred of sin
2.) Prayerful determination to forsake it (end cycle of binge/purge; stop starving one's self) (Phil. 3:19)
3.) Renewal of mind (rejection of idolatry/obsession with food) WHILE re-establishing healthy eating habits (Romans 12:2; 1 Cor. 6:19)
Naturally, one must faithfully stay in the Word (prayerfully read the Bible daily) to truly be transformed and have the mind of Christ; the verses I cited above are only examples and are by no means the final word or "magic verse" that will combat eating disorders!
True, biblical submission entails a very real and active committment to DO the things we know are pleasing to God -- whether it be throw away drug paraphanelia, avoid the bar, eat a nutritious meal, or abstain from a fat and sugar-laden binge. We turn TO Him in the moment of temptation, asking for His supernatural strength and to give us a holy hatred for our sin; but we simultaneously turn FROM the sinful behavior as an act of the will.
When I was still struggling with the temptation of bulimia, not only did I avoid going into Dunkin Donuts or McDonald's; I'd catch myself as soon as the thoughts of planning my next binge entered my mind (2 Cor. 10:5) and reject it. Before eating (remember, eating disorders are harder to overcome than other addictions because we MUST eat to live); I would plan what, realistically, I ought to eat for nourishment and how much. Seeking the Holy Spirit's help, I would then discipline myself to stick to that plan, so that I would not spiral into "binge mode". See? Thoughts, prayer and action all go together. You cannot isolate repentance from obedience.
Many Christians have a skewed view of sanctification, thinking that if they just "yield" or "submit" to Christ, He will automatically change them. Of course, we should be living lives of surrender and constantly be yielded to His will - that is the picture of joyful obedience - but it is by no means a passive process. We must take an active role in our sanctification and practice discipline (1 Cor. 9) if we are to bring about changes that are pleasing to God. See "Godliness Through Discipline" by Jay Adams for a more thorough discussion of what this looks like when the rubber hits the road. Praise God for His Spirit within you, Who "works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13)!
"To repent is not to stay in the pig trough and carry on indulging in sin." -- Pastor Kevin Williams
For an excellent discussion of what biblical repentance is and isn't, listen to Williams' sermon "A Biblical Definition of Repentance".