Is it just me, or does God seem to be tightening up His ship these days? In a very short amount of time, God has brought several things to my attention that I was doing that He doesn’t appreciate. These are things I have done for a while but God, in His sovereign timing, is just showing me now. One of those things this past week was a BIG one. It involved something I love that had gone into the idolatry zone. But God in His mercy already had a plan in motion to get me back on track. And two days later, as I knelt at the altar at church to pray, I felt closer to Him than I have in a long time. It was there that a version of Job 5:18 popped into my mind. “God wounds and God heals.”
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore, do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.”Job 5:17-18
God Gives Good Gifts
Christians are not called to live lives of boredom and lack. It’s not our home, but God has created several things on this earth that are pleasurable and completely wholesome for Christians to enjoy. We can have friends, we can laugh, we can have hobbies. We can play and feast, all within the bounds of God’s great provision of goodness for our lives. The problem only comes when someone or something we love becomes too important.
Colossians 3:5 calls it “inordinate affection.” It’s when that thing that’s perfectly harmless on its own starts to fill our thoughts or meet our needs instead of God. It’s when losing access to that thing brings annoyance or even anger/upset. That’s when we know that our innocent enjoyment has slid down the very slippery slope into idolatry.
Eat to Live or Live to Eat?
My whole life, I have been a “foodie.” I love to experience new foods, eat delicious foods, look at pictures and recipes for foods, and watch food shows. In fact, it has pretty much been my “love language.” Celebrating something? Let’s go eat! Feeling sad? I will bring you a treat to cheer you up! I appreciate you? Let me show you with an array of yummy snacks in a cute container.
But it isn’t just food in general that I love so very much. I also have a mouth full of sweet teeth. I mean that I love desserts. Every night after dinner I would enjoy a piece of cake, some cookies, ice cream, a doughnut, or pie with a cup of coffee. It wasn’t like I was eating because of stress or sadness or discontent. Desserts were just a treat to bring a little happiness to a long, hard day. They were something to look forward to.
Warning Bells, Full Alarm
The warning bells really began a while back when I started feeling like I needed to fast. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say that I only fasted on my days off from work and church — and I was really starting to dread days off. In fact, I would rather work seven days a week than have to spend my day off fasting.
Then on a recent visit to see family for vacation (what I joked of as a “food-cation”), I got a pointed message from God. I woke up one morning and had the thought, “My stomach loves me.” That was a two-for smack. Number one, it was a clear reference to idolatry. Just like the Old Testament idols of silver and gold, my stomach is an inanimate thing that cannot “love.” Number two, it echoed Philippians 3:19 which is about people who set their minds on earthly things and are enemies of the cross. Not good at all. At the time, I thought it was a call to get back into focus on my trip. Even so, I stopped my habit of after-dinner desserts from that day.
The rest of it came to a head this past Monday. I had set the day for fasting, and for the first time, I wasn’t even dreading it that much. It had definitely occurred to me that my relationship with fasting was unhealthy and went beyond the usual. So, I had been praying for God to show me the appropriate mindset for it, a way that pleased Him. When I found Derek Prince’s video called Self Humbling Through Fasting, I knew that was the right track. That day, I had planned to publish my latest Summer Psalm Series post about Psalm 51 and then DO the challenge for the week. I was preparing to ask God to show me any issues I needed to repent for.
But before I even got into my prayer closet or even attempted the challenge, a dear sister in Christ sent me a song. We send each other songs sometimes when we find them, so I didn’t think anything of it until I heard it. Let me tell you something. If you are even a little bit concerned that something in your life might have slid from harmless enjoyment into dangerous idolatry, listen to this song to find out. It’s called Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham. While I listened to it, I felt such a strong sense of conviction that tears were flowing in streams by the end. When I got to my prayer closet, I didn’t even have to do the asking part of the challenge. I just went straight to the repenting part.
God’s Great Mercy
Now let me tell you about the goodness and mercy of our great God. He could have brought this thing to my attention any day. He chose to do it on the day when I had just written about repentance. If you haven’t repented – really repented – in a while, let me remind you that there are two parts to it. There is the part where we confess, apologize, and ask God to help us never to do it again. There is also the part where God forgives…and forgets. He takes our sin as far away from us as east is to the west (Psalm 103:12). He throws them to the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).
I don’t know about you, but every time God brings something heavy to mind that He is unhappy about, I start to do that little trying-not-to-panic thing. It’s true that God is a loving Father and chastens those whom He loves, but even thinking of Him being a little annoyed with me (much less that I have a black sin in between us) makes me tremble. I could have gone into a full-on freak out if He hadn’t just reminded me about how He so graciously removes sin once we repent for it.
On Hindsight, He Set Me Up for Success
Not only that, but the week before, a brother in Christ from church had told me a story that was pretty out of the blue. In fact, he probably scratched his head at the time, wondering why he had even told me the story at all. But I’m sure that God was leading him to do it because the message helped me again and again as I went through my ordeal.
My brother said that when he was a boy, the whole small church used to go out to eat together every Sunday. The restaurant was always a topic for discussion, so one day when he was about 12, he came into the church and first thing asked the pastor (my current pastor’s father), “Where are we going to eat after church today?” He said the pastor didn’t answer but came to the mic and told the people there would be no lunch plans for the church that day or for a while.
The pastor said, “When the first thing out of your mouth isn’t ‘How are you’ or ‘Lord bless you’ but ‘Where are we going to eat?’ it’s time for a change.” Then my brother in Christ smiled at me and shrugged. He said, “Not that we didn’t ever have lunch together again…” When I thought about the story later in light of my issue, it really helped me understand that it was about the importance placed on it more than the actual food itself. Proper enjoyment was absolutely still possible (despite the devil’s outrageous lies to me) as long as I was within God’s bounds for it.
So, I already had a good mindset for going into my new way of life, but while praying, I believe God gave me action items. These are tangible things I could do to “turn away” from food as sin and get back to food as a harmless enjoyment. Otherwise, I believe I could have started obsessing about food in fear and gone completely in the other direction to aversion. (Obviously, since the point was that I was thinking too much about food, this would have been counterproductive.)
Before even Monday, God had already nudged me about no more “dessert every night.” He also added deleting pictures of food from my phone (and let me tell you, there were a LOT) and memorizing Psalm 27:4. It says, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” I had the sense that this was not only to remind me of my priorities at all times but to use as a sword in case I ever felt strong feelings creeping in again.
God Wounds and God Heals
Monday was spent realizing and repenting. Tuesday was spent telling the devil he is a liar and adjusting to new attitudes and habits with food. By Wednesday after having recited Psalm 27:4 many, many times, I was ready for church. I was so happy to worship and felt a closeness to the Lord that I haven’t felt in a while. When prayer service started at the end of the pastor’s sermon, I was so thankful to God. No matter how many tears had been shed or how many thoughts (from the logical to the crazy) had run through my mind over the past couple of days, I was in a better place. I truly felt “bruised” and “bound up.” And I completely understood that it is for our ultimate good that God wounds and God heals.
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