(Click here to read Debra Fehsenfeld's personal testimony, "Free at Last.")
. . . Stopping the practice of bulimia was just the beginning of a whole new life, but it was an important beginning. It was through this time that I first began to believe that God is powerful beyond the grasp of my imagination. I want to share some insights that have been helpful to me throughout the process of being delivered from this bondage.
I have come to believe that the basic pattern for change is the same no matter what the habit or addiction: dependence on God, trusting Him for help one day at a time, purposing to avoid the “triggers,” adding health-promoting routines, and becoming saturated with the truth of God. My particular battle was with bulimia, so that is what I reference here. However, I believe that these same principles can be applied to those seeking freedom from other destructive habits and addictions. These are the same things I continue to practice, seeking God for greater and greater freedom from the rule of anyone or anything but Him.
1. Cry Out to God
If you are in bondage, there is no way to complete freedom but by His power. Let Him know that you know you need Him and that you can do nothing to free yourself. Acknowledge before Him that you deserve nothing but punishment from Him, having failed to love Him above all other things. Cry out to Him for mercy.
Tell Him, if you can honestly, that you hate that food has taken from Him your love and energy. Express your desire to give Him all your heart’s affections. If you find yourself just saying words, without your heart and mind being engaged, admit that to Him. Be completely honest before your Savior. Honesty is essential for healing. Ask God to reveal to you the truth about your own heart.
At times we may assume that, of course, we want to be free—it would be crazy for us not to want to break free of enslavement to the rule of food in our lives—and that we want to be free so we can love God more than anything or anyone. But these assumptions may not be true. Because we want or assume something to be true about our hearts does not make it true. Do not expect to find honesty and purity in your heart. When we put our hearts under the searchlight of Scripture, we will usually find an admixture of both holy and unholy desires and passions.
Without the Word of God as our “mirror,” we can’t know what is really true of our own hearts. What are we to do when we recognize that though we want to love Him with all our heart, and to be free from the rule of bulimia, we find ourselves repeatedly making choices that lead us to a binge/purge? And what are we to do when we find ourselves insisting, at least mentally, that we really do love God more than food, though we may be in the same moment in the midst of a binge? We ask God to purify our hearts, and help us see any deception that is there. Begin to notice what you say, think, and do, especially in regard to food, and come before God in the light of His revealing truth.
Make this the prayer of your heart: “O God, You know my heart. I want to be free from bulimia [or whatever the sinful addiction may be]; I want to love You with all my heart, but I realize that as of yet, I do not. I know this because I continue to hold on to my old ‘love.’ You are worthy of all my love. For the sake of Your name, will You make me absolutely pure in devotion and love for You.” Every time you recognize you have mixed desires and passions in your heart, get before your Helper and Healer quickly. Keep coming back to Him. If you come to Him in this manner, acknowledging and confessing failure, mixture in motivation and desire, and committing yourself to live in obedience to His Word, you will receive help.
Though your love for Him may not yet be all you want it to be, if it is your aim and intent to love Him supremely, you may be sure that He will hear and respond to your cries for freedom.
2. Trust God for Today
Trust Him to help you this day to eat healthy and to avoid a binge/purge. Do not tell yourself, “I am never again going to binge/purge.” Rather, pray: “Help me, please, Lord, and by Your grace, I will obey You today.” Trust Him to supply you with the strength, perseverance, and love that you need to obey Him today. Then prove your trust by making decisions and choices about what foods you will eat with love for God and His Word as your rule. We are brought to freedom and changed day by day.
3. Avoid "Trigger" Foods
There have been, more than likely, some particular foods that you eat during a binge—foods you would not eat if you weren’t planning a purge. While you are still so vulnerable to going back to your old master and “love” through habit, you must wait to reintroduce these foods into your diet. Some of these foods, you may never choose to eat again. Eat foods that you feel good about putting into your body, and do not overeat.
4. Add Exercise to Your Daily Routine
Your goal is not only to stop binging/purging, but to become healthy because you are God’s and want to make the best possible utilization of all that He has entrusted to you for His glory. Besides contributing to your physical health, exercise will also help to energize you and get you going. We are much more inclined to binge or overeat when we feel sluggish or low in energy.
An Offering of Thanks
Think of exercise as your thanksgiving offering to God. As an offering it requires sacrifice. Let this “sacrifice” be an expression of your thanks to God for giving you the health necessary for exercise.
If you find exercise is becoming for you another form of “purge,” acknowledge that and deal with it before God in the same intentional way you are dealing with food. Just as with food, “dealing with it” does not mean you quit it altogether, but that you must not allow it to “rule” over you. We have but one Master—Christ the King!
5. Be Saturated with the Truth
Memorize Scripture (during exercise is a great time for this!), study, listen to sermons, read books to help you understand the Word of God, praise Him because of the truth you are discovering. Do everything you can to get the truth of God into you. “Feed” on it. “Savor” it. Think about it just as you have done with food. Just as food ascended to the high ground in your life, now let the Word of God overtake that ground and stand alone in its priority in and governance over your life.
Aim So as to Obtain
Your life is found in the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; John 6:63). Seek Him in His Word like you believe this. Press forward to take hold of this life that’s truly life, and don’t let go until you possess it fully! To those who seek Him, believing that what He says is true and, by faith, acting in obedience to His word, He will grant freedom. You can be freed from bulimia, and as you continue to seek Him in this way, you will gain increasing freedom from enslavement to food. You will be freed to love and serve your good Master!
You May Wonder . . .
“If I ‘saturate’ myself in the Bible, will I really be freed from bulimia?”
God’s word is not a “magic wand.” It does not “zap” us with freedom (as I had first expected). Freedom is granted according to our faith in God (faith is a merciful gift from God, not something we can manufacture naturally). We must ask ourselves, “Do I believe what He says?” “Do I believe that His love is more satisfying than the richest of foods? . . . that in His presence is the fullest measure of joy that can be known? . . . that He is powerful enough to do anything? . . . that He is wise and very good?”
Bible knowledge itself does not free anyone. Many have memorized and studied the Word of God and never been changed. You can read it, memorize it, and study it, and never be changed. According to Hebrews 4:2, “the gospel was preached to [the Old Testament Jews in the wilderness]; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (NKJV).
The change, the freedom comes when you read, memorize, study, believing God. You do not know when or how He will do what He promises, but you believe He will. You “hold on” to Him and His Word, obeying Him because you believe Him. You release your grip on things that you “love” because you believe that what He has is better. “Faith without works is dead.” If we say we believe that God’s love is more satisfying than the richest of foods, yet still plan and engage in a binge, where is the evidence of our faith?
Perhaps you believe God enough to pray, but not enough to change. If you find yourself lacking in faith, not really believing Him, ask God for faith to believe Him more—ask for the mercy of greater faith. Then begin again obeying Him, believing that you have been granted the faith you asked of Him.
“Will it be easy for me to stop binging/purging?” No—not if you are truly ensnared. It may be easier for some than others—depending on how established old habits are. Habits do not change without intentional change and commitment. Sinful habits must be broken and replaced. Do not expect this to be easy.
6. Seize Pivotal Moments
It is in the midst of the most intense moments of temptation—those moments when everything in you feels drawn to doing what you have become accustomed to doing—that you have the opportunity to embrace and cling to God's grace to break those habits and to be freed. When you feel the old, familiar draw, you can be sure you will do what you have been doing unless you purposefully do something different. The "something different" can be any number of things—play with your children, pray for someone, pay bills, write a letter, go for a walk . . . It ought to be something active, not just mental. Do "something different" while depending on God, praising Him and reminding yourself afresh of the truth that you have come to believe: His love is more satisfying than the richest of foods!