I’ve read that western nations are facing epidemic proportions of the three principal eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating). This is particularly alarming because it has been estimated that 20 per cent of these disorders may, directly or indirectly, result in death.
Early in my pastoral experience, a couple approached me and asked if I would meet with their brother/brother-in-law. I acquiesced readily, so they explained that he was hospitalized and awaiting major surgery. They added that he was generally depressed and specifically anxious about the surgery. They also mentioned that he was overweight.
I was not prepared for what I saw as I entered the hospital room the following day. The room, designed for two patients, held only one. The two beds had been pulled together side-by-side and the man I had come to meet filled both of them. He weighed more than 600 pounds and the surgery that he was anxious about was a weight loss surgery called stomach stapling (currently referred to as bariatric surgery) in which 65 per cent of his stomach would be surgically removed.
It did not take very long to understand why he was depressed. In fact, as he talked, it was clear that his discouragement about his physiology outweighed by far, the anxiety he felt about the surgery. And, it was evident that his self image, inversely proportional to his body mass, was miniscule.
This gentleman was eager to hear what I believed and on my third visit, he became a believer in Christ. Every time we met, I would share a Bible passage that would remind him of his worth to God…weather he had lost weight that week or not. I recall sharing that God “heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3) and that the Lord “has carved our name upon His palm” (Isaiah 49:16).
We became fairly good friends over the next few months and he attended my church from time to time. When we moved away to minister in another province, he joked that he would miss the 160 pounds of Norwegian pastor, much more than the 230 pounds of fat that he had lost.
We should all do the best that we can with and for our bodies. However, as no person is perfect, neither is anyone’s body. It is imperative that we come to understand, based upon good biblical principles and teaching, that our true worth is not based upon the image that we see in the mirror, nor the number that we see on the scale….but rather on the fact God loves us immeasurably and values us inestimably!
“For the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy…” (Romans 14:17).