“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
I made a tough decision the other day: I quit the gym that I have been attending for almost two years. It is a temporary decision based on a state mandate of wearing masks while working out. I agonized over the it, desperately trying to figure out if I could make it work. I did okay with the masks during the weight circuit but struggled with breathing during my normal cardio routine. Ultimately, I had no choice but to quit the gym and find a different way to stay fit. Although I felt panicky as I signed the paperwork, I heard God speak these words “Trust Me”. I walked out of the gym, confident that I would continue my path of healthy living.
I know some may think that this weight loss journey has been all about my ability and my willpower. For those of you who know me, I won’t deny that I have a strong will, some may say I’m a force of nature. Yet, this healthy journey has not been about my will, my ability, or my knowledge. If it were all about will, I would never been morbidly obese. If it were all about my ability, I would never have struggled with exercise. If it was all about knowledge, I have known for years the science about healthy living yet, never applied the information regularly to my life.
This healthy journey, losing 167 lbs., has been less about me and more about letting God into the process. You see, one other time, in my mid-thirties, I lost a significant amount of weight. That time, the journey was all about my ability. But because I didn’t let God deal with my motives, my heart and my reasons for gaining the weight in the first place, when I hit a plateau and stopped being successful, I quickly gained all the weight back. When my ability failed, when my will faltered, and when my knowledge did not work, I shoveled food in my mouth to avoiding dealing with problems.
We all have default coping mechanisms for dealing with crises. Some coping skills are healthy, but often, most of us use unhealthy coping methods. I used food to deal with childhood abuse and it later became my default way of dealing with life, in general. No matter what situation came up in my life: stressful parenting situations, marriage challenges, busy schedules, relationship struggles, or even just wanting to reward myself for a good job, I turned to food. Food became the center of all major events in my life, from planning parties, hanging out with friends, holidays, and seasonal changes. I defined my life by what I was eating!
Not only was I stuffing my face with food, I was stuffing all my emotions with food. More significantly, I was trying to avoid feeling empty. When I was empty, I not only felt hunger pains, I struggled with emotions like loneliness, frustration, anger, and disappointment. I was uncomfortable with these emotions because they made me feel exposed and vulnerable. So, I avoided this emptiness by eating another slice of pizza, another magic cookie bar, or another of whatever else was nearby.
Food was an easy fix to the feeling of emptiness. Food is everywhere! Even in the Bible there are many references to food. For instance, the Hebrews wanted to return to slavery in Egypt because they remembered the fish, cucumbers, and melons. David met Goliath on the battlefield because he was delivering cheese to his brothers. Daniel and his friends turned down a diet of rich food for vegetables to please God. Even in the book of Revelation, John sees a vision of the marriage supper of the lamb. It is obvious that God created food for us to enjoy. As Asheritah Cuicui says in her book, “Full: Food, Jesus and the Battle for Satisfaction”, “Food is a good gift from a good God.”
Yet, God never intended food to satisfy our emotional needs. Asheritah Cuicui remarks in the same book, “Food cannot fix anything—God is the only one who can satisfy us because He created us to find our satisfaction in Him.” This is illustrated early in the ministry of Jesus. After a forty-day fast, Jesus, weak with intense hunger pains was tempted by Satan. He, having all power, could have easily turned stones into bread. Yet, he declared in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The word “live” is translated from the Greek word “zao”. According to Strong’s Concordance, “zao” means “to enjoy a real life, to be active, blessed, and endless in the kingdom of God.” God’s word helps us to lead an active, full life that is blessed, whereas a candy bar creates a longing for more and never satisfies. God never intended for us to fill our emptiness with food. Our emptiness can only be filled by activating His word in our life.
I have “about” twenty-five pounds more to lose. I say “about” because I am letting my body dictate the stopping point rather than some arbitrary goal that I have in mind. I also am not defining success based on whether I achieve that goal. Instead, success for me is defined as learning to cope with my emotions in a healthy manner. It is learning to find new strategies to stay fit instead of letting circumstances derail me. It is learning to find my completeness in God instead of a cheeseburger. It’s learning to make relationships, not food, the focus of celebrations. Ultimately, success is not a piece of bread, but living a full, active life that is blessed by God!