Webster defines a journey as “something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another.” And that’s exactly what the last 5 months of my life have been like, a traveling from one place to another. And I never want to get back to where I started.
Have you ever struggled with something for so long that it just seemed to be a part of your everyday life? Almost making it more a lifestyle than an actual “sin issue” needing to be dealt with?
I have. For the last 15-20 years actually. I’m not even sure exactly when it began, but up until about 5 months ago, it had defined me, protected me, and become a part of me; all the while, it was actually killing me. Five months ago, it was February and I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now. That’s right. 40 pounds. And I will be the first to admit that the Lord is not finished working in my life on this issue, but yet there is so much that He has already taught me along the way.
Obesity: A Prevalent Problem.
It’s all over the place in America. In fact, according to the National Health and Examination Survey taken in 2010, a whopping 68% of all adult Americans (20 yrs and older) are either obese or overweight. That’s every 2 out of 3 people struggling with this issue of weight. Two out of 3 people walking down our streets; 2 out of 3 people sitting in our pews; 2 out of 3 pastors preaching from our pulpits. And for more than half of my life, I have been contributing to the statistic without much thought of what I was really doing to my body.
Overweight & Your Real Reason?
Those of us who struggle with our weight are all different, I get it. And this article isn’t about a regime of diet, exercise, or medical prescriptions or procedures scientifically, genetically, digitally, or chemically organized for “optimal weight loss performance.” This article isn’t even about losing weight or being obese. It’s simply an effort on my part to open your eyes to a possible stronghold Satan may have in your life of which you were previously unaware. Each person who is either overweight or obese is generally so for a variety of reasons.
The Journal of American Medical Association attributes much of the blame of obesity on diet alone, claiming that the increased rate of obesity has occurred at the same average as the amount of food energy supplied. Another reason for the escalating statistic is the lack of exercise among Americans as a whole. I know, for me, when my life got crazy-busy, exercise was always the first thing to get chucked off my to-do list. Yet, I somehow always found time to eat an extra portion of dinner, fit an extra scoop of Ben & Jerry’s into my bowl, and watch a little bit of TV at the end of the day, “to wind down.” We always find a way to have or do the things that are truly a priority in our lives.
For a small number of us (smaller than we’d care to admit), there are forces outside our control that cause us to be overweight. Studies have shown some people are prone to being overweight. They have slower metabolisms or medical conditions such as thyroid complications, and some are even the unfortunate carriers of the infamous fat gene. For years, I was self-diagnosed with the fat gene. I mean, I’ve always been “big-boned.” However, everyone’s bones are the same, and the fat gene isn’t so widespread that it can be the real reason for over two-thirds of Americans’ weight problems. When God convicted me of this issue in my life, I started to consciously make health-related decisions and brought them under God’s will instead of my flesh’s will; the weight started coming off, and I could no longer blame “my fat gene.” But there are some legitimate medical conditions that can cause rapid weight gain or slow weight loss. These cases, however, aren’t to be seen as an excuse to throw caution to the wind and live the lifestyle of an overweight person. Instead, these people need to seek professional medical help and live life as any Christian who has been given an opportunity for God’s strength to be seen through their weakness.
For many of us who struggle with our weight, there is an emotional or psychological component involved that is deeper than we may initially realize. Some people overeat because food is emotionally satisfying. Food is their outlet, their go-to drug of choice, their addiction. For some, food is a trustworthy friend who never lets them down, it always gives them joy and makes them feel better about life. For others, their weight has always been a part of who they are. If they were to lose it, it would be like losing themselves and their identity. For others, they’re overweight for much darker and sadder reasons. Something tragic has happened in their past, generally some form of abuse, usually sexual. Their weight is a protective barrier, a shield that doesn’t allow anyone else in who might hurt them, judge them, or see their past. To lose their weight would mean becoming vulnerable, and so the pounds stay packed on like a iron-clad safe around their pain.
For others still, there’s a spiritual aspect involved to their hefty weight. They don’t know how to say no to the flesh, or they don’t want to. Controlling the flesh takes a level of self-discipline that they’re either not accustomed to or they’re not comfortable with, so they instead feed the flesh anything and everything that it desires. However, the discipline of self-control effects every area of our lives. If we don’t have it in the area of eating, we don’t have it in other areas too – like sexual lusts, anger, greed, etc. Since self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, a lack of self-control is a lack of surrender.
Healthy Living: My Journey & Inconvenient Conviction
I’d like to be able to say that I have arrived in this area of my life. Lesson learned, checked it off my list and moved on to the next monumental life lesson God has for me. But it’s not been that simple. There’s no motivational book or work-out DVD that will change your life in 90 days or less. Like with any fundamentally-changing lesson, bad habits need to be broken, and healthy ones need to be established. But for me, it’s gone past the wanting to fit into a certain size or be a certain shape and turned into an inconvenient conviction. I say inconvenient because that’s exactly what it is. It’s not convenient to keep exercise a top priority; it’s not convenient to resist zipping through a fast food restaurant or not ordering exactly what appeals most to me on any given menu. It’s not convenient, but it is a conviction; and that changes everything!
When it comes to gluttony, there are so many arguments as to why it’s wrong. There’s the obvious, “Well, the Bible says so, that’s why!” And we all know, cognitively if not practically, that we should be taking care of our bodies, after all God cares about the sanctification of our bodies as well as our spirit (1 Thess 5:23-24). But for me and my inconvenient conviction, there were three specific truths on which God really dealt with me.
- Being overweight is not how God intended us to be.
Our bodies, our hearts, our joints, our lungs, none of them were created to handle a person who is overweight. This isn’t how we were created (Genesis 1:31). This is why the more obese we get, the harder our bodies have to work, the more burdensome simple tasks are. We weren’t created to be overweight.
- Being overweight is not being a good steward of what I’ve been given.
This one was painfully convicting for me. When it comes to being a good steward, so often our first thought goes to the stewardship of tangible things, our money, our possessions, our time, etc. I know for my budget and my time, I plan both of these out carefully. And yet how often do we sit down to a meal not even thinking twice that it may be our entire caloric intake for the day? I didn’t think about what I was eating, just that it tasted good….until God convicted me. God has given me this body, and I only get one while I’m here on earth. He’s entrusted it to me so that I can live this life to glorify Him, not so I can indulge its every whim, thereby, destroying it. We must be faithful stewards of ALL that God’s given to us, including our bodies (1 Cor. 4:2).
- Being overweight is robbing God.
When I was a teenager, I gave God my life; it was His. But every day since then? I stole it back one day at a time by the way I was mistreating my body. I know God has a plan for my life, Psalm 139 tells me this plainly. But what if that plan requires me to live until I am old and gray, and my heart gives out before I get there? What if at 80, God has something extraordinary planned for me to accomplish for His kingdom? Wouldn’t it be tragic if I died at 65, simply because I wasn’t being a good steward of the one body, the one chance, I got. I would be robbing God…and ultimately myself of great ministry potential because I didn’t have enough self-discipline to lay off the Ranch dressing. I would be trading the beauty of a long ministry to God’s people for the instantaneous gratification of my own flesh. How selfish!
This is my inconvenient conviction.
I don’t tell you this story so you can look at my success and praise the efforts I’ve made. I don’t have a secret product, a shake, or a dietary supplement to suggest; partly because chocolate cake and Doritos aren’t the enemy here, our flesh is. Paul says, “I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body,” – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13.
My reason for sharing this is to plead with you: allow God to take you on your own journey. Look at your own life and don’t make the same mistakes I was. Statistically speaking, 2 out of 3 of you are. Figure out what your real reason is for being overweight or unhealthy. Then start seeing obesity and being overweight the way God does: as the sin of gluttony. See the body God has given you as a special commodity, treat it well, and be a good steward of what God has so graciously given you.
“I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Cor. 9:24-27