“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” – Romans 7:15 ESV
The battle between flesh and spirit is a daily struggle. As believers, it’s our goal to seek God in the big and little things, to turn to him, and to practice being ‘in the world, not of it’.
As a teen, I became intensely aware of my flesh. My body was not picture-perfect slim, and felt awkwardly unappealing. Even though I knew God loved me, I was dissatisfied with my body and gave into the temptation to control and manipulate my diet and the scale. It was a yo-yo game between willpower and control – and my apparent lack of it. I was struggling with the same issues that most other women do, and looking for solutions and hope in the same guilt-driven and deceptive places – even though in most other things, I looked to God for help.
Distracted by the world, and its ability to trap even the well-intended believer with it’s shiny promises, I believed that it was okay to be obsessed with my diet and that I lacked willpower and was lazy if I didn’t search for answers and diet plans and supplements to help me succeed. So I bought the weight loss books, the latest programs, and joined in the trendy sisterhood of the food-obedient and willpower-controllers. My hope laid down in this dead end, unaware that Jesus had a much better plan to keep my body and mind thriving.
With my body and soul confused and defeated, I eventually decided that there must be more to all this. I began to dig deeper into God’s perfect plan and the truth that Jesus does not want to transform our bodies via special diet plans or supplements so that we get the “after photo” result, or because we mustered up so much willpower. He does not work that way.
After I pushed away the media and societal messages, I was clearly led to the realization that God made me to freely function and thrive – not live under the command of arbitrary food rules and physique ambitions – which only ever allowed me to barely survive. As my body and mind transformed, I started praising God for how he made me instead of rejecting it. I became less concerned with my external disciplines, and put effort into renewing my mind and seeking God’s will. The response from a pure heart redefined my motivations – it wasn’t about me getting rid of temptations from my kitchen, it was about allowing God to work in me and release me from those chains. Temptations are not a problem when I live in full awareness of God’s sufficiency for me and they no longer serve as idols in my mind. God’s work in me that keeps me healthy starts in my heart.
I eventually became certified as a health coach so that I could help others in their struggles and personal transformations. I have had the honor of coaching several Christian women, but what I witness often perplexes me: women-of-faith all too often caught up in the lies that the world whispers to us about our bodies, food, and self-image – just like I had been trapped in for so long – and this is not often even recognized as a faith-based problem. So this revelation forced me to examine my own heart and to study what God’s Word tells us. As always, God gives us clear insight to our fleshly desires and temptations:
“Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.
“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.
“Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” Luke 12:22-34 MSG
God wants to provide what we need and wants us to be more focused on all the good things He gives, rather then being obsessed by a sole focus on getting what we desire. This is not an excuse to be careless with our bodies – because the Holy Spirit resides within us, we do have a profound motivation to respect and nurture our bodies:
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1Cor 6:19 ESV
When we examine this God-directed wisdom, it is stark contrast to the messages we get from the world. God offers me freedom when I put him first and ask him to come alongside me as I discern my choices each day and enjoy his provision for me. Our God is not a God of rules and restrictions – He is a Father that pursues us with his compassion, freedom, grace, and abundance. Focus on God and His perfect and pleasing will for you, and let that be your motivation and satisfaction for both your spirit and your body.
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