Psalm 6:1-3 was the cry of my heart during a time in my life when I struggled with an eating disorder: “O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?”
When I was young, I rarely thought about my weight or what I looked like. I was active, involved in sports, had a fast metabolism, and enjoyed food without thinking about what I ate. As I entered my high school years, I noticed other people counting calories, limiting what they ate, and cutting out unhealthy foods. Although these can be healthy choices, for me they were not. My decision to start restricting what I ate had bad consequences, and I very quickly developed unhealthy eating habits.
For me it became a daily cycle of starving myself for long periods of time, and then when I decided to eat, I could not stop. I would binge eat for hours on end until my body was filled up with so much food that I wanted to crawl out of my skin. In college, I remember going on runs at 2 a.m. just so I could work some of the food out of my body. I would go to bed feeling defeated and make resolutions to eat healthier the next day. I prayed all the time, asking the Lord to rescue me from this pit that I was in. I felt like I was in the depths. It was all-consuming and I was tired from the daily battle.
I know many of us struggle with food and body image. Some of you currently have eating disorders in varying degrees and forms. Maybe like me, you find your thought life revolving around these things. The grace of God, over time, helped me to change, and God’s grace can help you too.
Through reading God’s Word, I began to see the idol I was worshipping. I had believed the lie that if I was thin and ate right, then I would be happy. John 6:27 says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you”. Later Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Slowly, I began to get up in the morning with a new purpose. I stopped laboring after something that perishes and sought after something that endures! Before my feet hit the floor, I would remind myself to shift my gaze and see that the source of my joy was in sitting at Jesus’ feet, where my sins were washed clean. On my worst day of eating, when the number on the scale was rising, I would look to the cross. The more I drew near to Jesus, the smaller my idol became. I had to surrender it to him.
These days I am not a perfect eater, but God has graciously freed me from an eating disorder. Through the years I’ve learned how to put new habits in place. Now I sit down and eat in gratitude. I’m thankful for this struggle because it drove me to Jesus and is a tangible reminder of my inability to please God through my own merit. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 sums up where I stand: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”