Here is the second article in a series on Food For The Soul, first introduced at CatholicSistas.com.
It started with a pound or two after vacation, then a few more after the birth of my first child – little by little it crept up and before I knew it, I weighed 8 more pounds than the year before. For so many, like myself, that simple grab and go snack had now become an unhealthy addiction, or at the very least a mindless replacement in times of doubt or busyness. We believe whatever is tempting us at the moment, will fulfill what’s missing and with one bite, completely unaware, God’s plan unfolds.
My faith and willingness to surrender life’s challenges to God has been a continual work in progress over the years. Marriage, parenting, and finances took their place in line as God waited patiently for me to let Him join the journey. It’s no surprise that it took so long for me to give Him this struggle with a healthy weight? Why is this so hard for so many millions of men and women? And where does God fit into the equation?
As I mentioned in last month’s INTRODUCTORY POST, God often uses our challenges, struggles, doubts, and fears to teach us something about Himself.
For those of us who, for whatever reason, struggle with our relationship with food, there is hope. Don’t beat yourself up over trying over and over again – focused on failed attempts at being perfect. Use salvation history as a source of strength and hope. Our biblical ancestors doubted, fell, and started over again – many times! But God knew all of this and had a plan! With the redemptive act of Jesus’ sacrifice, came God’s most precious gift to us, the living force of God within us; the Holy Spirit that dwells in the temple of our hearts.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. Cor 6:19-20
To learn to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength begins with surrender and trust. As we begin to dig into this series on discovering a healthy dependence on food, by embracing God as the source of our strength, we will start by unpacking the truth that God created all things, including us. We were created in His image and likeness, therefore, our wholeness incorporates our body, mind, and spirit. All were created to work together. We are His masterpiece!
For we are God’s masterpiece, He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ~ Eph 2:10
We cannot be whole, as God intended, by just working on one of these areas. They all need to be in balance. Diets alone don’t address the cause of weight gain. It’s no coincidence that the very first book of the bible starts with the creation of man, a garden, and a fall. Hmmm, I think there’s a lesson here, don’t you?
So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them;
male and female He created them. ~ Gen 1:27
God created a pleasurable world of food. Food is meant to be an instrument that points us to God, not something that takes His place in our heart. In the beginning, God created the perfect environment for His people, in fact, Garden of Eden translates to Garden of Pleasure.
God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed … every tree whose fruit yields seed. …Of every tree of the garden, you may freely eat” ~ Genesis 1:29; 2:16
Yet even within this environment of perfection, Eve faced temptation and doubt entered her heart. The serpent twisted God’s words, creating doubt and exposing a weakness in Eve. In that moment, she took her eyes off God. Adam and Eve were given the first test of faith and with one bite, they disobey and lost trust. Here enters the fall. BUT again, friends, there is hope.
So often we wonder why hard things, hard choices, or difficult moments have to be part of our journey. We put so much energy in the why’s of life that we fail to keep our eyes on God and ask him the what; “what are you trying to teach me here”? Even in the midst of Eve’s fall, the serpent served God’s purpose. Despite Adam and Eve’s weakness, God’s love was so great and He used this opportunity to teach them, and us, how to trust and rely on Him alone; how to become more dependent on His provision in our lives. God said you cannot stay here, but I will place you somewhere else where you can live, but life will be hard. Yes, life will be hard but NOT without purpose.
God now places responsibility on Adam and Eve to learn the skills to work with the garden. In their work, they find their purpose and how to nurture one another. It was the beginning of their journey to discovery and knowledge, through physical work and mental choices. I believe the combination of physical work AND mental choices placed in God’s hands will help us remove the barriers that lie between us understanding why our hearts reach towards other things for satisfaction and are not satisfied with God.
We are called by God to be good stewards of all He has given us, including our physical bodies. Each of us has been designed uniquely with a purpose; a unique gift that we bring to the world for God. To carry out that purpose, we must be strong and healthy.
THE WEIGHT IN OUR HEAD – Keeping our heart and mind aligned.
I believe that the first step in living a healthier life is changing the way we think about ourselves and our health. Once you have made a mental shift, making and maintaining the physical change will be much easier. If the body is misused, the mind and spirit cannot become what God planned they should be. God intended for us to an abundant life; life to the fullest.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10
When working with clients, I often hear the weight of their words become as great a challenge as their weight loss efforts. Sometimes it’s the negative self-talk that we’ve become accustomed to, and other times it’s the doubts, lies, fears, shame, and guilt that we carry around. For some, the pleasure of food has such control over how we interpret a good evening, a successful celebration, or a remedy to our sadness or discomfort. This anxiety is real and bringing it to the table, literally, opens up a door for prayer. In researching the word anxiety, I found it literally means to cut into pieces. The effects of our “stinking thinking” can actually cut into pieces the peace and satisfaction that God wants to give us.
I recently read the book Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly and found his description of happiness and pleasure profound. He states “The difference between happiness and pleasure is subtle but real. Pleasure cannot be sustained beyond the experience producing it. You eat, and you experience pleasure. You stop eating, and the pleasure stops. That’s why we don’t stop eating. We’re not hungry; we enjoy the pleasure that comes from eating. We have disconnected eating from the function that allows us to fuel our incredible bodies and have turned eating into a past time. Happiness is different. Happiness can be sustained beyond the experience producing it”. This, however, takes making a choice. To choose between the momentary thrill and the satisfaction and well-being that lasts beyond the activity producing the happiness”.
So how can we begin to live life to the full and grow in our desire to be satisfied in Christ? Let’s look at how Jesus responded when faced with temptation.
Redemption – God’s Blueprint For Structure
God knows and understands our challenges and weakness. He loves us, as He did Adam and Eve, and doesn’t let our “falls” separate us from Him. He had a plan all along – His son, Jesus. In contrast, to the test in the garden of Adam and Eve, Jesus was also tempted in the desert with food, however, his response changed the direction of mankind; he used scripture to respond to the temptation. When you arm yourself with scripture, you begin to see yourself as God sees you. No longer is food the central focus of your comfort or pleasure, but you re-direct towards God.
Next time, we’ll unpack some practical steps we can begin to take to keep our focus on God and create a foundation of structure.