Over the years, we have worked with many people who have various reasons why they feel disconnected from God. Their reasons depend upon their spiritual circumstances. If you also feel disconnected, perhaps you will see yourself somewhere in the following.
I don’t believe in God. Some people have never developed a faith in God. For most, it is not that they have rejected God but that they have never been exposed to God while growing up. God is simply not a part of their life. I have seen many people come to faith through their struggles with their eating disorder or debilitating issues around food. When faced with an overwhelming addiction, people find great comfort in learning about a God who cares. “’But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17).
I don’t know I could have a relationship with God. Some people have a faith in God but have no idea that a relationship with him is possible or permissible. God exists as a fact of the universe, like the solar system, but without any connection with us as people. I have seen great joy when people realize they can exchange their relationship with food for a truly satisfying relationship with God. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
I had a relationship with God, and I still have an issue with food. Many people I work with come from a background of religious faith. They believed in God while growing up but have assumed, because of their eating disorder or their issues with food, that their faith has been rendered ineffective. This false assumption is one we work very hard to overturn, because it is faith, however disconnected, that will be their greatest asset in redeeming a healthy relationship with food and eating. Faith, even incomplete faith, is very powerful, as one man declares in Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
I’ve failed God, and he is displeased with me. Shame and guilt whisper this message to so many with an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food. Because they assume God has written them off, they find it very tempting to write themselves off. This apathetic, destructive approach works against any desire to keep trying, to keep hoping. Perhaps the greatest argument against this false assumption is the message of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I am angry at God. The anger that fuels an eating disorder or disordered eating does not always stay within the confines of the individual. I have worked with people who are furious with God for the pain that has happened in their lives. They resist surrendering their will to him because they don’t believe he can be trusted. The reason for their anger is understandable; the object of their anger, God, is not. Together, we work to gain an understanding of Psalm 4:4-5: “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hears and be silent… Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.”
I am afraid of God. This spiritual disconnect can be very strong for those who grew up in a strict, rigid, religious household. God was presented as a punisher, as a wrathful God to be approached only in fear and trembling. It is one of the great joys of my life and work to present God as he truly is: a loving, caring Father who is slow to anger. Even Moses in the Old Testament, who was a witness to God in his most awesome power, was inspired to describe God as “the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).
God may bare about others, but he doesn’t care about me. Another way of putting this is, “I’m different. I’m special. I’m unlovable.” This wrapped impression of being “special” is part of the false pride associated with an eating disorder or some types of disordered eating behaviors. This false pride is used as a faulty rationale for staying with the behaviors instead of submitting to God and crying out to him for help. The truth is you are special to God and he does care about you. Listen to this promise from Job 36:15-16: “But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place, free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.”
I can hide my eating disorder from God and handle it on my own. Ever since Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in Eden, we have been thinking we can keep secrets from God. I cannot count the number of times I have heard this thought expressed by someone struggling with food as a negative issue in their lives. There is nothing that is secret from God, and an eating disorder or pattern of disordered eating is not a thing to handle on your own. “’Can anyone hide in secret places so I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill the heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:24).
I trust my relationship with food more than my relationship with God. Food is a known quantity, a controllable quantity. While the relationship with food may be damaging and strained, at least it is known. For those who do not know or understand God, or who fear a relationship with him, food can seem the safer choice. This, however, places food in the position of an idol, as a created thing taking the place and position that rightly belongs to the Creator of all. “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).
Eating disorders affect people physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually. Healing from an eating disorder or pattern of disordered eating therefore requires an equally holistic approach to recovery. The team at The Center • A Place of HOPE works with each person individually to understand not only their physical, mental, and emotional needs, but also how they can be reconnected with God. If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder or addiction, depression, PTSD or another behavioral disorder, call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 today.
Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.