By: Beth Doohan
“For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:10-11
“Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” II Corinthians 12:9
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Being in my seventh month of pregnancy, I have developed a new sleep pattern. For those of you who have been there, you know this time means frequent trips to the restroom, more tossing and turning than usual to get comfortable, and an abundant supply of pillows and blankets to support your changing body and growing belly. My husband and I were laughing the other day about how this affects our routine. He likes to sleep with his arm around me, under my neck or over my shoulders. This works great when I’m lying on my right side facing him. But now that my pregnant belly is so big, I no longer shift to my left side in the same spot. I roll, flipping from one side to the other, which creates a great distance between us after the effort is complete. It’s not that I’m intentionally trying to get away from Corey. It’s just, well, my being pregnant.
I’m very comfortable in my own skin, even with a baby in my belly, but there was a time when I wasn’t so comfortable. As a teenager and early college student, I struggled with my physical appearance. I knew God had made me beautiful, but felt I needed to control how I looked by restricting what I ate and exercising to compensate for whatever I consumed. Although these habits made me feel good about being fit and thin, it also led to being an unhealthy weight with an unhealthy mindset of obsessing over my body. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually holding onto pride over my physical body rather than trusting God with my appearance.
Perfectionism vs. Being Perfected – What’s the Difference?
Have you ever clung to something in life instead of entrusting it to God? The Bible encourages us to store up treasures in Heaven rather than on earth, for “wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21). The problem in my situation was that I was treasuring my physical appearance too much and wasn’t allowing God to redeem that part of my heart to help me change. I knew my habit was wrong, but I was unwilling to change. Because of this, it became a stronghold, an area of bondage that held me captive to a sinful behavior of abusing my body. My heart was the Lord’s, but my self-justifying attitude said, “Sure, I’m not perfect, but who is?”
In today’s society, we must be careful not to be deceived by the “whatever feels good or makes you happy is good for you” mentality. This is the culture’s attitude, not God’s. He remains the same throughout the ages and has given us His Word and commands to follow for our benefit. Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit by how we live. He asks us to come to Him for healing from bondage and promises to help us when we ask. James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” Again in Jeremiah 29:13-14, we see God’s promise that, “’If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.’”
As wholehearted women, we have been redeemed from sin by our gracious Heavenly Father. He does not expect us to be perfect, but does ask us to strive for a godly perfection. Philippians 3:12-14 says, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but…I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” What is the difference between perfectionism and “that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me”? The difference is the attitude of the heart.
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Philippians 2 describing the humility of Christ Jesus. Verses 6-8 say, “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Did you catch it? Following God’s Word and instruction requires humility. When we follow the Lord and His commands in wholehearted surrender, we are saying goodbye to pride and bringing honor and glory to God in humble obedience to Him. Sisters in Christ, let us passionately follow God, not allowing any area to remain withheld from Him.
Lay It Down to Take It On
My prayer for us today is that we would humbly and wholeheartedly speak Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Please know that this prayer and surrendering of our hearts oftentimes requires a conscientious choice to change and also the encouragement and accountability of close sisters in Christ. For me, true change required humbling myself before the Lord, admitting that I was wrong, and choosing to change by His grace. I also needed the accountability of another godly woman to conquer bondage, get serious and know I was not alone. On one of my breaks from college, a high school friend and I got together for some girl time and catching up. What she shared resonated with my heart and made me stare the pride of my heart in the face. She too had been struggling with anorexia. But, she said, she was choosing to change and live a healthy life for God’s glory and to honor Him by taking care of her physical body. She was choosing to lay down her control and give the reigns to her loving Heavenly Father.
My friend was God’s grace in my life—to see a woman I so respected admitting her stronghold and committing to change and surrender her heart fully to the Lord inspired me to do the same. I shared my struggle with her as well, and that night we shared a deeper bond of friendship and renewed commitment to the Father to change by His grace. After this encounter, I had to surrender to God fully and without restraint. This was a scary position, but I knew Him to be completely trustworthy and in the end discovered a freedom that I never expected. No longer did I struggle with self-worth or pride, no longer did I overthink my eating and exercise habits in an unhealthy manner. It was a process, but God had redeemed my situation and delivered me out of bondage, just as He promised He would.
Wholehearted women, always remember that you are not alone. If you are struggling in a certain area, don’t shrug it off. I encourage you to come before our loving Heavenly Father with an open and repentant heart to receive His healing. Share your struggles with a godly mentor or friend and allow them to encourage you and support change in your life. God yearns for us to come to Him, to lay down our control, and to let Him heal and help us change by His grace. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “‘Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’” God is waiting for you with open arms!
Today, as I get ready to welcome our baby boy into the world, I am reminded of God’s continued faithfulness in helping me overcome bondage to sin. With a heart of humility, I recognize His lordship and grace in my life to remain open and wholehearted before Him. I love the passage of Scripture found in Romans 8:3-4 that says, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” God does not expect us to be perfect. But He does call us to holiness and to humbled hearts that are willing to do things His way in His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because of Christ’s salvation and grace at work in our lives, we are redeemed from sin and are being sanctified through His Spirit as we follow Him. My heart is encouraged in this truth, and I pray yours is as well!
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