Today we’ll be hearing from my dear friend Olga Shpak–her battle with eating, and the truth that helps her to daily walk in freedom.
Eating. It should be one of the most normal and natural things we do – just another part of our everyday life, right?
For so many, it is more complicated than that. The NEDA states that in the US alone, 20 million women suffer or will suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life, with the majority of cases found in girls between the ages of 13 – 18.
What is it that drives us to take such extreme measures?
We could discuss the factors that play a role, go on about how messed up our culture is, how media has distorted our view, how harsh people are, etc. But ultimately, each of us knows what did it for us.
It might have been general or it might have been a specific occurrence, but something led us to examine ourselves in the mirror with disgust. Don’t we all know what it’s like to agonize over parts of our bodies, wishing we could change them, despairing because we know we can’t? Or to be told that you need to lose weight? Or to be told no one will want you because guys aren’t into “big girls?” Or maybe we’ve found that this is the area of life where we can feel in control? This is an escape.
We get it. We understand what drives girls to stop eating in a healthy way.
And if your experience was anything like mine, Christians want to offer comfort amidst this pain. They would say to me that women have value because they are created in the image of God. They would say each woman is an individual, intricately, intimately knitted together by God. God doesn’t make mistakes in His designs.
And they were right to proclaim these truths. But I did not want to listen. I did find some comfort in those words, but I was not satisfied by them. They were sweet words that simply did not give me what I wanted. I interpreted them as ones that told me that while I was very special to God, I still had to be the girl that boys admired for my “heart for Jesus,” but didn’t actually want to date me. Those boys talked a lot about godly girls that would make wonderful wives, but they chose to date the thin ones. This harsh reality left me feeling somewhat jaded.
So thank you for the comfort, ladies, but your comfort doesn’t acknowledge the bigger picture of my reality …
In retrospect, I realize that comfort had its place, but what I needed most was to be challenged. My heart was stubborn and wrong all along. From my sweet idealism to my jaded realism, I was blinded to God’s call.
So ladies, would you allow me to push a little? Can I challenge you the way that I wish I had been challenged?
Eating disorders are never simple. Each case is unique, every struggle different in some way. An eating disorder is also never simply a surface behavior – its roots lie in the soul.
What is driving your eating disorder? What is that thing that you really want more than anything?
Is it the approval and acceptance of your peers or parents? Is it the hopes of adoration? Is it simply the need to be in control? Is it the need for perfectionism?
I challenge you to think and pray about that. And as you do, I want to ask you one more question: has God called you to be thin?
I can answer that one for you – He hasn’t.
If we are to be women of God, we need to concern ourselves with what God is concerned with. And He is concerned with your body.
“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? … 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.” 1 Cor. 6:13-15, 19-20
While the context of this passage is sexual immorality, the principle applies to all areas.
What is the purpose of our bodies? What do we have them for? For the Lord! We no longer belong to ourselves. Our bodies belong to the Lord. Not only do they belong to Him, they were made for Him! You were created to glorify God, not just in your “spiritual life,” but with your entire being – including your body. Apostle Paul mentions here our union with Christ – we are united to Him, so our bodies are members of Christ. Can you see the implications of that? If we are hurting our bodies, which do not even belong to us, we are dishonoring the Lord. We are His members. Whatever we do is directly tied to Christ.
Having this right view of your body puts everything into place. Not simply the fact that God made you wonderfully (which He did!), but this view that reminds us that God has every right to our body. And might I just add that He is not in any way against your body – He has chosen to make it His dwelling place (v. 19). Filling it with purpose, He can say that He is for your body!
These are the words my stubborn heart needed to hear! I was being comforted for my pain, but not rebuked for my pride.
So, Sister, can I challenge you in the way I wish I had been?
Can I challenge you to choose to honor God over whatever it is that you want that drives you to hurt your body with an eating disorder?
If you crave perfectionism, can I remind you that Jesus achieved your righteousness for you? He lived a perfect life in your place, you are no longer condemned when you are united with Him – would you repent, accept His righteousness, and worship Him for it? (2 Cor. 5:21)
If you crave control, would you surrender to your Sovereign God that cares deeply for you? (1 Pet. 5:7; Job 42:2)
If you crave love and attention, can I remind you that you already have that in the Savior who gave His everything to buy you back? (Rom. 5:8)
If you crave acceptance and approval, can I remind you that you can’t earn those on your own? You have acceptance and approval from God because of what Jesus has done for you! (Heb. 4:14-16; Rom. 8:37-39)
Finally, can I challenge you to fear God? Not in a way that means you are afraid He will smite you – but in the way that means you live a life that wants to honor Him more than anything because He is God!
God has never called us to be thin women. He has called us to glorify Him in everything we do. Every act of ours must be in obedience and worship of a Holy God. We are to eat with thanksgiving, glorifying God for His Goodness.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31
Lastly, I simply say to you that the battle never ends here. I am writing not as one who has overcome completely, but as one who is in the trenches. There are days where looking in the mirror is still hard and I have to remind myself of these truths. But I have hope in the fight. The hope is that we know what the future is for our bodies. One day, the fight will end and we will be redeemed! God will raise us up by His power (1 Cor. 6:14). In the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed, and our perishable body will put on the imperishable (1 Cor. 15: 51-53). We will appear with Christ in glory! (Col. 3:4). And He will present us, bodies and all, to God as holy and blameless. Perfect.
So take heart. The struggle will come to an end. On That day, all will be made new.
Olga Shpak is 24 years old and lives in Southern California. She was born in Ukraine, grew up in the Seattle area, and now enjoys sunny California as she finishes up her Masters Degree in Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College. She loves discovering people & all things music.