A few weeks ago, I ate a gynormous wedding style supper at a fund raising event – no qualms, no fears, no counting, and no regretting after. I was hungry, the food was delicious, and so I ate. It was a wonderful gift. I felt so normal, like that was what the eating experience was all about. I didn’t even think about all these things until later because, in the moment, I was thinking about the event. Last year, I wouldn’t have even remembered what the speakers said because my mind would have been too distracted with trying not to eat that much, or with counting calories, or with thinking about “making up” for all the “bad” food I consumed.
Yet, just last week, I had such a difficult time getting myself to eat. I wanted to go back to my old habits. The temptation to skip meals was not just in the back of my mind, but making itself known loud and clear. I felt powerless over the eating disorder like I had never learned anything at all.
Maybe I am afraid of the upcoming holidays. Maybe it’s the same old fear of gaining weight. Or maybe it’s something else I haven’t recognized yet.
Why is eating, something so basic, so necessary and fundamental to human life, such a struggle?
I wish I could just let it go forever and never have to deal with this eating disorder again.
Other than my mental problems, my life is very good. I have an amazing husband, a wonderful house, good friends and family, and lots of other beautiful gifts.
If I didn’t struggle with an eating disorder, depression, and anxiety, then I probably wouldn’t have much suffering in my daily life. I don’t have to cut trees down to keep my house warm. I don’t have to sew my own clothes. And, ironically, I don’t have to hunt and kill my own food. I’ve been given bountiful gifts from God.
The truth is, all these good things from God are blessings, yes, and very good indeed. However, my comfortable life doesn’t necessarily keep me close to God or help my relationship with Jesus.
The thing that unites one most closely to God is uniting one’s sufferings to Jesus’ sufferings on the cross. One cannot know God unless one has truly suffered. Because, it is through pain that we realize we need God.
When things are going well, I often forget about God. But when I am in pain, I think about God all the time. If I didn’t suffer from an eating disorder, would I think I didn’t need God? Would I still turn to Him and beg Him for help? Probably not.
Suffering reminds us that we need God every day. Without Him, we would not be here. And without Him, we cannot make it to Heaven.
This is why many Saints would embrace their earthly crosses, their own pains and sufferings; because they knew it was the path to God. Suffering is the most difficult blessing to understand. “Your rod and your staff are a strange mercy in a world where I’m not yet home.” (Audrey Assad song, Lead Me On.)
So, going forward, I will remind myself of the “why”. Maybe God is allowing me to struggle with this eating disorder, because He knows that through my suffering, I will ask for help realizing my complete dependency on Him in every moment and in everything I do.
Then, practically speaking, I will take my own advice. I will continue to give myself permission to eat. I will go through the motions even if I don’t feel like it. Meaning, I will eat three meals a day even when I am tempted not to. I have come a long way and I don’t want to go back to the way I was before.
If you are struggling with something, whatever it is, think about all the good that has come from it. Maybe your suffering has helped you become a better person. Maybe it is helping you become closer to God. We might not be able to see the forest through the trees. Yet, God never lets us suffer for no reason. Most of the time, we don’t know the reason why. But, it is still comforting to know that there is a purpose. Even if just for the fact that pain and suffering will get you to pray more.
Remember, after the Cross is the Resurrection.