In the past few years, the number on my scale has been creeping upwards. I used to be a fairly healthy eater. I was regular at exercise. Then life became full of busy. I stopped running and weight lifting regularly. At the same time, the house started to be filled with more tempting sweets (blame big birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, older kids scoring more Halloween candy, etc.), and I started having sweets after lunch in addition to the regular ritual of a bowl of ice cream after dinner.
When my stretchy jeans were at the edge of their stretch, and I didn’t want to buy a new pair for a size change, what did I do? I did what thousands of American women do–went on a diet. I tried to be smart about it, balancing my diet with healthy food and allowing myself a few sweets so I wouldn’t feel too deprived and start binging. However, God has given me the blessing (and sometimes not so much of a blessing) of a strong will and an all-or-nothing personality. I followed a calorie cutting tracker religiously and found the time to exercise, and I fairly quickly lost pounds until I needed the new jeans for a size change down instead of up. Too quickly–sometimes while dieting I felt weak with hunger, but I still wouldn’t let myself eat unless my diet allowed it.
I realized I had lost too much, so I felt comfortable eating the junk again while I let myself go up a few pounds to get back to a more healthy weight. The problem was that once I was in the habit of eating badly, I didn’t stop. It wasn’t too long before I was heading back where I started. I dieted again. This time, I had less time to exercise, so I denied myself all sweets and when I hit my target weight and was done dieting, binged on the sweets, making me need to diet again.
I think you can see the problem. It wasn’t too long before I saw it.
I was trying to lose weight, not be healthy. What happened to the person who generally ate when hungry, stopped eating when full, chose healthy foods (for the most part–I have always had a sweet tooth), and exercised? I started praying that God would give me the desire to be healthy, to be the person I used to be. I looked healthy from the outside, but I truly wasn’t.
The cycle will continue until my desires change.
The spiritual condition of our souls can mirror the physical condition in which I have been. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.” If you’ve been in the church a long time like I have, you probably know it’s pretty easy to choose the right words, words that will almost guarantee other Christians nodding and smiling at you. We can go to church every Sunday, attend leadership meetings, and join the prayer team, all the while doing it out of a desire to look good, feel good, or try to get on the good side of Jesus. We can honor Him with our lips, but still hold our hearts far away from Him. We can have a good number on our spiritual scales but still have an unhealthy heart.
The cycle will continue until our desires change.
I have good news, though. In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God, talking to His people Israel, is quoted as saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” We might do all the same activities in church, stay on that leadership team, attend those prayer meetings, and worship corporately on Sunday mornings, but for God’s own glory, He will change our hearts to do it out of love for Him and others.
Just as I have been praying for God to help me desire to be healthy, and He is slowly changing my focus, we need to be praying that God will help us desire spiritual health–desiring Him above all.