As I write this, I’m thinking about peanut butter toast. I salivate with each word, as if each one is melting in my mouth. Peanut … Butter… Toast … Glorious! Immediately, my brain produces five convincing reasons to put down the laptop and go make peanut butter toast. Let the battle begin with my diet.
Most of us know this battle all too well. In fact, I’d guess that at least a third of you are now craving peanut butter toast. (Sorry!) The battle is exhausting and never ending. We reach out for help from personal trainers, dietitians, gurus, and Google. Isn’t it interesting that we turn to every source except the Helper? We don’t usually classify dietary struggles as a spiritual issue, but I’d like to suggest that there could be more going on in the kitchen than you may think.
If I give in to my craving and eat that peanut butter toast right now, I would feel fantastic … for about 15 minutes. Then comes the guilt, followed closely by thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and even self-loathing. The fact that my food choice affected my mental and emotional state is evidence of an unhealthy relationship with food. But the fact that my food choice also caused me to question God’s truth about my identity and worth is evidence of a spiritual battle. I’m not suggesting food is evil, but I am suggesting that, just like unhealthy behaviors in any area of our life, an unhealthy relationship with food can leave an open door for the enemy.
Scripture warns us that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). The Enemy and his agents are waiting for an opening; in my case, I’ll bet there are demons stationed in my kitchen. My struggle with food is easily exploited, and they know it. Go ahead, eat the peanut butter toast! Do it! Do it! Do it!
Maybe your demons aren’t in the kitchen; instead, maybe they wait by your mirror just hoping you’ll feel fat and hate your outfit (and yourself) today. They might even hang out in the stairwells at your workplace waiting for the next time that annoyingly-motivated coworker insists you all take the stairs. They just can’t wait to suggest lies about what your lack of physical fitness means about your self-worth.
We are all uniquely sensitive about our bodies, and if we aren’t inviting Christ into this area of our lives, we might unknowingly prop open a door for the enemy.
While Jesus may not have insisted that we all “eat clean” and exercise regularly, He did tell us to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). He’s right there with you when you struggle with food choices or body image. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” When you find yourself struggling with food, fitness, or your body image, pray! And if you find yourself in the aftermath of a bad food choice, meditate on the following verses instead of the Enemy’s lies.
When you doubt your ability to keep going, read Hebrews 12:1:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. — (NLT)
When you face an insurmountable health challenge, read Philippians 4:13:
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.— (NLT)
When you find yourself obsessing over some aspect of your health read Luke 12:24-25:
Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? — (NLT)
When you’re feeling worthless, remember that you were made on purpose and read Psalm 139:13:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. — (NLT)
Our identity and worth are not found in our food choices, the image in the mirror, or athletic achievements. Christ alone is our source of identity and worth, but this doesn’t mean the areas of health and fitness are anti-spiritual. Invite God into these areas of your life and watch His grace, strength and healing power abound.