For the Christian, weight loss is really a faith walk. It’s a call to live out the scriptures that teach us to rely on our heavenly father for our strength, sustenance and satisfaction. It’s a lesson about testing in times of trials, submission in times of willful disobedience, and trusting in times of anxiety and disappointment.
Christian weight loss is not about how sexy we look in our jeans or how toned and sculpted we can get. There is nothing wrong with having these goals but if that is your only motivation for getting healthier then it will be a long journey of deprivation with very little reward at the end. We all know that the lure of obtaining the ideal body is very tempting and the majority of women will be seduced by its pull, but remember, that we are called to be so much more. Despite what society would have us believe, we are so much more than our bodies and our self-worth is not determined by our measurements.
For years, my only goal was to weigh 145 pounds. As the decades passed from my 20’s, to my 30’s, to my 40’s, the goal became more and more fleeting. The odd times when I did reach my goal, I did not feel any different. I was still the exact same frustrated, scared girl looking for the next thing to make me feel better. I knew that God had blessed me with a passion for health and wellness for a lot more than to just weigh 145 pounds on the scale. Now that my focus has shifted from a me-centered to a Christ-centered approach, the journey is starting to feel a lot more rewarding and meaningful. I eat and move to glorify God with my body (1 Cor 6:20) and as a result, my weight is not an issue ( except for the occasional binge) .
Lately I’ve been spending more time in the scriptures to learn how to continue that shift from a me-centred focus on health to a Christ-centred one.. The story of Peter came to my mind this week. It goes like this:
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”” Matt. 14:22-33
When I apply this to my health, it shows I trust God to meet my emotional needs instead of food. I trust God to strengthen me instead of the instant pick-me-up that junk food provides.
How many times has God spoken to us? We hear him, we see him and we are strengthened to do what seems impossible. We’re eating healthy, making time to be active, spending time in His word, saying ‘no’ to all the distractions. We’re doing it! We’re actually doing it! Then it happens – the phone call; the co-workers harsh words; your husbands rejecting tone; the feelings of insignificance. Whatever it is, that is your ‘wind’ that makes you feel like that scared little girl that needs food for comfort. That’s the ‘wind’ that blows through your mind and temporarily makes you forget that with Christ, all things are possible. It’s the same familiar ‘wind’ that continually blows through your mind and causes you to sink.
If only we could remember that the hunger pangs; the anxiety and the negative feelings will pass. If only we could remember that the wind will die down once the fear subsides.
Here are three lessons that we can learn on our health and weight loss journey from the story of Peter walking on water:
1. To walk on water will take faith, not fear
“Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matt. 14:29-32
We hear it all the time. ‘Have faith’, ‘just have faith’ but how can we have faith when we may have grown up always feeling fearful. Peter and the disciples just finished witnessing Jesus feeding 5,000 men with 5 loaves and 2 fish (Matt. 14:18). How could they lose their faith so quickly?
The bible teach us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). When we’re not thinking, its so easy to forget that our strength comes from Christ and Christ alone.
Peter was actually walking on water! He had faith enough to believe he could do it. So, what happened?
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”” Matt. 14:30. He quickly moved from faith to fear. He took his eyes off Jesus and let his fear take control. Isn’t that just how we do it? One minute we’re feeling safe and secure in our father’s presence and in the blink of an eye, fear creeps in and we’re blinded by our fears.
I’m learning that faith is a minute by minute decision, not something that you get and it stays with you forever. Fear will come but as soon as it does, remember to call out to Jesus and he will reach out his hand to rescue you. Before you reach for the potato chips, before you feel like you’re going to die if you don’t eat something, call out to Jesus like Peter did. He will help you when you can’t help yourself.
2. If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat
“made them get into the boat and go before him to the other side” (Matt 14:22).
The journey that we are called to walk will not be easy but it is necessary to strengthen us. Notice that it was Jesus who sends the disciples out late AND on a stormy night. He could have sent them in the middle of the day when the weather was nice and calm. They would not have had any need to fear and they certainly would not have a need to trust in Jesus. That’s just like us. When things are going well, we often forget that we are weak and fearful. Without our health and weight challenges, we would have no need to call out for help. Like the disciples, it’s in the dark stormy times when we can ’t see our way, that’s when we call out to him and that’s when he always shows up. See your weight from a different perspective; see it as a ‘check engine’ light in our car telling you that you are in need of a saviour.
If you feel like you’re never going to lose the weight, remember that’s the time to stretch out your hand like Peter and let the Holy spirit remind us to take courage and not be afraid (v. 27). Like Peter, Jesus’ will also reach out his hand to us when we are afraid.
3. If you fall, its not fatal
Peter’s story did not end with his sinking. This story ends with beautiful, comforting ending of Jesus reaching out his hand and catching him (v. 31). But wait, the story gets even better! Fast forward a few years later and we read that Peter grew to become one of the leading figures in the church. In 1 Peter 7-9, he teaches us that:
“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
What a testimony coming from someone who was just feet away from Jesus and was still afraid. His testing and trials strengthened his faith like nothing else could. The boat experience was not tragic, in fact, it was a stepping stone to greater things. He needed to go through that experience to strengthen his faith and his relationship with Christ.
This can also be your testimony on your weight loss journey. Like Peter, lets use our trails help us overcome our fears as we learn to trust in our heavenly father to meet our every need.