Paul describes “a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.” Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away from him, but Christ simply says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Perhaps Christ said: If you were never weak, my Paul, you who speak in the tongues of men or of angels; you who have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and have a faith that can move mountains; who possess nothing and give over your body to hardship–where would be my entry point? How would you ever feel the need of me? What would remind you to call out for me?
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I have steadily gained weight since I left school which means I am now 115 pounds heavier than I was then! I have been tempted to consider my tendency to gain weight as a thorn in my (literal) flesh, a weakness. You know, bad metabolism, low thyroid, la-di-da.
Well, all somewhat true, and I could accept it as a thorn in the flesh to live with, as people accept ME or CFS—except that, in my case, there is some sin involved, and sin is never, never to be accepted, but to be striven against, and conquered (I believe!).
I recently admitted the part sin had played in my weight gain and repented deeply. For me, eating chocolate or sweet treats is sin because my body simply does not need it. So I am abusing a body which is already slowed down with extra weight. Similarly, eating for pleasure when not hungry, or to medicate low spirits, stress or boredom–especially eating things not super-nutritious for my body–is abusing the body and “temple” God gave me.
Or to put it another way, it’s the sin of seeking comfort in anything except other than the Comforter. Idolatry: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jer: 2:13).
(And since that deep repentance in mid-October, I have not bought chocolate or sugary treats, save for a magnificent Pere Noel Stollen in Luxembourg, shaped like a huge Santa Claus that ogled me!!)
Believe it or not, I only acknowledged that comfort eating or emotional eating was a weakness of mine earlier this year. I am not yet wholly free of it–it was a habit of decades after all–but do substitute raisins or popcorn for chocolate or crisps (potato chips for Indian and American readers!)
And perhaps the next step will be not to eat at all if I am not hungry, but do something else. Run, perhaps, which also gives a high and a healthy one.
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This is how I am now training myself to think about food. Is what I am planning to eat a blessing or a curse to my body?
What’s a curse to my body?—sugar, chocolate, white flour, white rice, high-fat foods, and anything eaten when I am not hungry. What is a blessing to my body?—Fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, and seeds.
I’ve been vegan for 3 weeks, following Dr. Furhman’s brilliant diet which is fruit, vegetables, beans, soups, and salads as a main meal. However, salads without feta, and a bit of fish or meat or egg were a bit too hard for me, so I have gone to his 90% vegan plan. Going low-carb vegan was cutting out too many food groups –meat, fish, diary, eggs, carbs and sugar, though I did lose 8 pounds on it.
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Peter in Acts 10 sees a great sheet lowered from heaven with clean and unclean animals. He refuses to eat.
“Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. 1 Tim 4:4.
No food God made is “bad.” On the other hand, many foods man has made—sugar and high-fructose corn syrup which is smuggled into pretty much every processed or fast food, are deeply addictive, and according to the New York Times, toxic, and so our family is cutting out sugar and as many processed foods as possible, even making our own hummus and dressings. Yeah, hard-core!!
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Alcoholics Anonymous is a brilliant organization, and much of their wisdom can be applied to self-medication with food. Realize that you cannot break this habit on your own, and that you need help.
They have an acronym HALT for times when alcoholics might be most tempted to have a drink—when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. These are also times when those who seek comfort in food might be tempted to a massive food blowout.
My struggle for health is now becoming so entwined with my spiritual life, that are almost one and the same. It’s like a conversion experience—being transformed by the renewal of the mind. Cultivating new responses. Practicing a new way of living. Tuning in to how I am really feeling instead of numbing my emotions with a bar of chocolate, or a high carb emotion-numbing feast.
You know how impressed we are with David praying seven times a day. Well, I have an inbuilt call to prayer now that I have given up sugar and chocolate and white carbs and am trying to stop all “comfort eating”. Cravings become a reminder to pray.
Feel the need to eat when sad or bored or stress or angry—but not hungry? Well, I try to slow down and take the time to “eat Jesus”. Eat his flesh, drink his blood. Ask his Holy Spirit the Comforter to fill me.
And so my weakness provides a reminder and pathway for me to seek God and experience his power, and so, when I am weak, I will be strong.