Today I am posting an email and my reply to a previous post on eating disorders. I have withheld the name of the person who wrote the email out of courtesy to her. Part of the obligation of the biblical counselor is to speak the truth in dark places, to be willing to shed the light of Truth on topics that are difficult and misunderstood by Christians. The Church has bought into the lies of humanistic reasoning in too many cases. Not everything is a “disease” or a “mental illness.” In fact, much of what is touted as such are the sinful thoughts, beliefs, desires and behaviors for which Christ died.
“After reading your blog about eating disorders I have to say FYI eating disorders are not rooted in idolatry it is not a love for self that originates in the sinful heart of man. It is a illness & love for self? It is more often a self hate & complete lack of self esteem. It is not a devotion (Idolatry) it is a illness!!! Leave it to the professionals!!! Before you do permanent damage to someone like me who has a E.D. someone who is not wise enough about what the Bible says to not just swallow your judgement of something you clearly have no idea about. Sorry do not mean to be rude but your judgement is rude & I do not want to see some sweet Christian girl or woman who is already struggling with a eating disorder to believe that she is committing idolatry by having this illness. Please remember James 3:6 says And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among the members, that is defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. Please don’t start a fire because believe me what you are saying is poison.”
Thank you for your comments on my blog post on eating disorders. I understand your perspective on this behavior, but want to assure you that I have a full and complete grasp on the topic, despite your concerns.
As someone who has struggled with eating disorder behaviors for over 20 years, and as a biblical counselor who has been trained in helping people with these behaviors I stand by my conclusions, and if I am judging as you say, then I stand in judgement of myself.
Eating disorders begin and continue because we are lusting after something for ourselves- thinness, control, feeling good, escape, body image and other things- more than we are desiring to honor God and worship Him. This is the essence of idolatry!
You wrote that eating disorders are “self hate” and “a complete lack of self-esteem.” I cannot agree with you on this. Because the mindset of a person with an eating disorder is on themselves there is is much more a “self-love” attitude. A lack of “self-esteem” would mean no concern whatsoever with body image, clothing sizes, if other’s think we are fat, if we think we are fat! In fact, it is quite the opposite of low self-esteem! Biblically, “self-esteem” is considered to be pride. The person actively involved in an eating disorder thinks about little other than how what they eat will affect them. How these calories will affect them. How they look, and how they feel all the livelong day. Their focus is totally self-focused. This is another aspect of that idolatry I spoke of.
In Mark 12:31 Jesus tells us we are to love others as we already love ourselves. Jesus knows the inclination of the sinful heart is toward self-worship (self-love, pride) and He teaches us through the Scriptures that we are to love others with the same devotion we have for ourselves. In fact the preceding verse Jesus says we are to love God with all that we are first, and then love others as much as we love ourselves.
I don’t think you can deny that while a person is practicing their eating disorder behaviors they are not loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. I don’t think you can deny that while practicing eating disorder behaviors they are not loving others (who are concerned about their well being, health, and their very life) more than they are loving themselves. Because in spite of knowing those truths, they continue to consider themselves as more important- their desires, their wants, their feelings. Again, idolatry of the heart, a worship of self.
I don’t think we are always aware that is what we are doing, but the sinful heart (Jer. 17:9) lies to us and is excellent at deceiving us. Sometimes we are aware we are harming our bodies by these behaviors because they cause physical distress and harm (gastric problems, teeth problems, heart problems, death.) All of the physical problems caused by eating disorder behaviors must be monitored by a medical doctor and the dietary concerns by a nutritionist. The spiritual problems of the heart, the soul care, that is the realm of the biblical counselor.
I do not deny any of the physical ramifications of an eating disorder, I am merely asking you and my other readers to consider the source of the problem as being spiritual long before it is acted upon physically. I am always amazed when Christians prefer to believe they have a mental illness that can never be cured (according to man’s belief’s you can only “be in recovery” for the rest of your life) rather than believing and accepting that eating disorder behaviors are sins that the Lord Jesus Christ died for! I would rather joyfully accept that I am no longer bound to be a slave to that sin (Romans 6) and that in Christ I am FREE.
When I struggle with the occasional desire to restrict food or calories or to eat 140,000 calories it is not a “disease” acting up, it is my sinful heart urging me to worship myself, my clothes size, my body image, my desire for control, or any number of other things. My responsibility is to confess those sinful idolatrous desires to God and repent in my thoughts, beliefs, desires and actions. Repenting means I refuse to continue to act on the sinful desires and urges I have and I choose to go in another direction. None of this is possible without the Holy Spirit’s help and power within me.
Thank you for your email [reader], I pray you will find freedom in Christ.
I am going to suggest you get a Kindle copy of my booklet, The Process of Biblical Change off Amazon. It should still be a free offering there. If not, let me know and I will be sure you get a copy.