obedience

Eating and Exercising God’s Way

From the moment my daughter announced her wedding date, my mind started turning. Surely, this would be just the incentive I needed to spur on my weight loss. I grew excited by the prospect of having a really great reason to lose weight.

But week after week after week passed by and I could never go more than two or three days of “eating right” before I’d just cave. I’ve never been skinny but these past few years have really been a struggle, as my age, the craziness of the past two years, and my thorough enjoyment of food are a really really bad combination.

A month or so before the wedding, my goal of being a thin and attractive mother-of-the-bride started to fade from the realm of possible and became the impossible. I told myself all kinds of things, such as: “The day isn’t about me, anyway,” and “so many women my age have this problem” but it didn’t really help with the deep disappointment that reverberated in my soul every time I looked in a mirror that day. And when the photos came–well, as is often the case–they looked even worse than the mirror.

This was just not how I had hoped to look on my daughter’s wedding day.

But, you know, I’ve been thinking about this whole subject for a long, long time. As I’ve traveled along in this world beside both slender and heavy people; athletic-looking and comfy-plump looking; overweight, just-right, and too-skinny people, I’ve come to understand something important in this discussion on eating and exercising–

You cannot tell a person’s relationship with food and exercise by their weight.

We’ve all run into those people who can eat junk food all they want and never gain a pound. Are they more godly because of this? We’ve also run into those people who seem to gain two pounds for each fry they splurge on (you may even feel like that’s you!). Do those few extra pounds indicate disobedience to scripture? What about the people that put fitness ahead of God and their families? Is this good or right? I hope the answers to these questions is obvious.

So this brings us to the fact that we must understand that this question of eating and exercising goes so much deeper than how someone looks. SO. MUCH. DEEPER.

Perhaps some reflection on the questions below would be helpful for all of us–no matter what our weight. There are some things we should all think about when it comes to food and fitness.

I’ve been working through this for what seems like my whole adult life. I have struggled so to find peace. And this has led me to ask myself some really important questions:

What is my motive to lose weight/be healthy?

How does it look to please God with eating and exercising?

 

I don’t actually have the answers to this yet but I have learned a few things (or, at least, am in the process of learning these things)–

In regards to the first question: What is my motive?

• If I want to be thin for my own pride’s sake (to impress, to draw attention, to look better than others), that’s not the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy, that could be the right reason–if I want to be healthy for the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy in order to please and serve the Lord and those He has put in my life–then this is the right reason.

 

I’ve also learned some answers regarding the second question: How do I please God in this area of my life?

• There aren’t good foods and bad foods.

• It’s more about moderation and wisdom than it is about avoidance of certain foods or entire food groups or spending hours on a treadmill or at the gym.

• Consistent self-control and intentionality regarding eating and exercising–day by day, step by step– is so key. The latest fad diet or running a marathon might work…but these extremes rarely yield lasting results that keep us focused on the real reason we want to be as healthy as we are able to be.

 

God doesn’t say a whole about weight in His Word but we can gather a few things about this area of our lives from the following verses (this list is by no means exhaustive)–

Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit. (Proverbs 25:16)

We learn from this verse that there is nothing wrong with eating sweets– just don’t overdo it!

Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags(Proverbs 23:20-21)

So we learn here that we must avoid gluttony (excessive eating or drinking). Some self-examination is probably helpful in determining what excess eating looks like for us personally.

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10:14)

This verse reminds us not to give eating and exercising a wrong priority in our lives. (Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 9:24-27 that a physical runner receives a perishable crown, but the race we run as believers yields an imperishable crown. How important to remember that we must keep our spiritual race the priority!)

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

It is important that we discern truth from error as health and fitness movements sweep over our cultures. Is this practice, routine, fitness philosophy, song I’m exercising to–are these things compatible with being a Christian? It’s too much to get into here, but it is safe to say that much occultism has swept into the homes of Christians through this area of fitness and even in how we eat (see here for an example of how it’s influenced fitness and here for a way it is seeping into how we eat.)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We know that instead of eating when we are anxious we should, instead, turn to prayer. The answer for anxiety isn’t in food, it’s in keeping our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3). How funny that some of us (me, for example) turn to food when we are anxious–as if that will help at all. Emotional eating is a result of not trusting God fully for the present life we live and the days that lie ahead. It’s a lifelong journey putting this into practice for those of us that struggle with this–but we must keep working at it for it is a command: Do not be anxious about anything. That’s what it says. And so we must learn to trust and pray instead of eat.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)

Here we see that we are the temple of God. We should treat our bodies as such, eating in moderation and with self-control and keeping ourselves as healthy as is possible. Of course, ultimately, this is in the Lord’s hands so we never want to believe that we can avoid disease and death by doing certain things. While this may certainly help we mustn’t count on this. We all know the healthy runner who has a heart attack or the health nut who gets cancer. These things are in God’s sovereignty and, ultimately, we must surrender our health to the Lord.

 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

and this one, too–

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)

From these verses we women (in particular) learn perhaps the most important lesson of all when it comes to this topic of weight: We don’t want to be consumed with what we look like. If we are known for anything, may it be that we fear the Lord. May it be for our service to Him. Our top priority should always be seeking the Lord.

The world tells us what we should look like. But the Lord obviously doesn’t agree or there would be a verse like this in the Bible about it–such as “Thou shalt be thin all the days of your life” or “May there not be found an overweight brother or sister among you.”

Please don’t hear me saying it’s okay to be an unhealthy weight. The Bible teaches us to take care of our bodies. But, in doing so, it is so important that we have a biblical perspective on this: It’s about balance and pleasing the Lord. It’s not about what others think of us or our obsession with being the best-looking 30, 50, or 70 year old around.

So, yeah…

I obviously struggle in this area of my life. I am still such a work “in progress” and most times I don’t feel like there is much progress. Honestly, this is probably one of the most challenging areas of my life.

I hesitated to share this here…

I know assumptions are made when I share something so personal. Sometimes condescension or ridicule are in the thoughts of those reading, even if they are never spoken. This is a risk I take with this kind of post.

I have chosen to take this risk because I wonder if there is someone else out there like me? Someone who is working through the eating and exercising question. Perhaps today you just need to know that you are not alone. I am right there with you–looking to please the Lord in this area of food and fitness and trying to discern just what that looks like from God’s Holy Word.

 

 

The Doomsdayer, The Ostrich, and the Faithful One

In the spring of 2020, right about the time it became obvious that what was going on was about more than a virus and would most certainly last more than a couple of weeks to “flatten the curve”, someone sent me an article. The article predicted such impending doom for that following fall that I lost a whole night’s sleep over it. It is generally best for me not to read those at night. Actually, it’s best not to read them at all.

The following morning, I was able to refocus myself on the Lord and to remember His promises, but I will never forget that long night of panic. Since that time, predictions of doom and gloom have only multiplied exponentially. It is easy to understand why, considering the strange and unprecedented times we are living in. But predictions are just that…predictions. The only predictions that come true 100% of the time are in the Bible. While we can reflect on others and consider them (if that is something you are wont to do), we dare not take them too seriously.

These times are challenging, no question about that. And I’ve noticed that most Christians respond one of three ways. Some people (like myself) have responded all three ways on different occasions. Let’s take a look briefly at two types of responders–

The Doomsdayer-– These are the ones that are all about what is going on in the world. Their conversations and communications are generally along the line of what is happening. Nothing else really exists for them and they are obsessed by the events, the news, and the future of this world. Some of these doomsdayers are working hard to “save” the world. Others are intently focused on how these events all fit into the Bible and what we know is coming.

The Ostrish– These are the ones who don’t want to hear anything. They surround themselves with only the positive and close their ears to anything that threatens their way of life. It’s actually been rather difficult to be an ostrich in this past couple of years with all that’s going on, but we all try to dig our heads in the sand at one time or other through various means of escape and endeavors of industry.

__________________________

Both of the above are incorrect ways to approach anything in this life. Although it may be tempting to handle anything difficult or vexing in one of these ways, as believers we are called to something higher.

This has been such a learning process for me and I’ve not arrived (to say the least) but the Lord has been very patiently teaching me over these past two years that all I need to be as we face these weird times is a faithful one. He may be teaching you the same thing.

In the Bible, we find many examples to follow during any trial–even a situation as strange and unusual and, yes, sometimes frightening as this one. Let’s consider just a few of them–

Noah was given the worst prediction in the world: The whole world would be destroyed and he and his family alone would be saved (Genesis 6:13-14). We don’t read much of Noah but what we do know is that he was faithful and obedient in the midst of the greatest world tragedy in existence up to this point (Hebrews 11:7).  So, too, we must be faithful and obedient in the midst of what appears to be the preparation for the “as in the days of Noah” time (Matthew 24:37).

We are called to obey.

 

Abraham faithfully followed after God, having no idea where he was headed (Hebrews 11:8-9). So, too, must we follow hard after God, even when we can’t see where we are going. Amidst the questions, the what-ifs, and the confusion, we remain faithful.

We are called to be faithful.

 

Joseph faced the unimaginable but God worked all things out in and through these unimaginable circumstances (Genesis 37-50). From being sold into slavery by his own brothers to being falsely accused, Joseph was probably very discouraged many times. And, yet, God was intricately involved in the timelines and minute details of Joseph’s life and used all of it to eventually save the nation of Israel during a dreadful famine. This account reminds us that God has every little detail of our lives under His sovereign control and we can trust His plan.

We are called to trust God.

 

Esther put her life on the line to do the right thing (Esther 4:16). It was a very different time and place and her audacity in approaching the king could mean her death. Can you imagine how she felt as she waited to see if the king would hold out his sceptre and welcome her? But, even knowing it could mean her life, she did what was right. How often we are unwilling to do or say what is right because of a little ridicule that might come our way. Oh, that we may be more like Esther and be willing to sacrifice whatever necessary in order to do the right thing.

We are called to sacrifice.

 

Job lost everything and still bowed to God and surrendered to God’s will (Job 1:21). As we read Job, we see this man struggle through great trial and finally come to understand that God is immeasurably great and man is called to surrender in the face of God’s greatness. So, too, must we understand that God’s plans and purposes are far higher than ours and only through surrendering our own will to God’s will can we find any peace at all in the midst of trials and tribulation.

We are called to surrender.

 

Stephen faced his death with valor, while calling upon the Lord to forgive those who stoned him (Acts 7:60) He remembered–even as he was dying–what was really important. So, too, must we face the truth of our circumstances with eternal souls in mind. May we never lose sight of what really matters amidst the craziness and chaos of all that’s going on.

We are called to remember what really matters.

 

Paul bravely faced much persecution for speaking the truth (Read the book of Acts to find out more). So, too, must we be willing to speak up with courage and boldness, pointing people to God and His Word. Amidst great unpopularity and ridicule and, yes, even coming persecution, we must speak the truth.

We are called to speak the truth.

 

Can you think of other examples in scripture that we can pull wisdom from for this current world we live in? There are so many others, including Jesus Himself. God has not left us to our own devices in this world but has filled His Word with examples of men and women for us to emulate. He has filled His Word to us with promises, encouragement, commands, and guidance. He has told us how to face anything that we may have to face.

I have been both doomsdayer and ostrich over the past couple of years. But what I want to be is a faithful one, being and doing all that God has shown me to be and to do– no matter what the circumstances.

None of us can know what lies ahead. None of us can know what God’s specific and detailed plan is or the timing of that plan. But we do know what we are called to do. And so we live one hour at a time in obedience to His call.

Rather than to be known as the prophet of bad news or the scaredy-cat unwilling to face bad news, may we be known as the faithful Christian who is willing to face the truth with courage and to live in such a way that always points people to Christ.

 

 

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