It had been for as long as i could remember. Any pleasure that food brought me had drained away years ago.
Autoimmune disease had turned food into the enemy. Even harmless substances and healthy, nourishing foods can be increasingly targeted by the body as foreign invaders. This puts the body in a hyper-reactive, fight-or-flight mode all the time, leading to chronic pain and inflammation.
As a result, i began to fear eating. i had learned to associate food with pain.
i had to eat to live, but i felt like eating was slowly killing me.
it’s hard to describe what torment that produced.
Over the years, i adhered to a variety of restrictive diets in an effort to turn off the “inflammation switch.” To get my body to quit attacking itself.
I progressively narrowed my food choices to the point where i was only eating about a dozen foods.
i felt there was no way out. i was convinced i was destined to gradually waste away, perpetually hungry and in pain.
But over the past two years, God had been doing an amazing healing work in my mind, body and spirit. He opened my eyes to who He really was — so different from the taskmaster God i believed Him to be.
i don’t understand how healing works. i think it often looks different for each of us. Some of us are not healed this side of heaven for reasons only God knows. i can only share my experience. And all i know is that as God began to heal my mind and spirit, it gradually led to unmistakeable physical healing as well.
So this particular day in June, as i walked through the grocery store, i suddenly had a crazy thought that seemed to come from out of the blue: You can eat more foods, you know.
A few days before, God had clearly led me to toss out nearly all the supplements i had been dependent on for so long.
Slowly, it began to sink in …. He was changing my diet too.
After years of food fear and self-deprivation, trying something new scared me more than it excited me. i was strolling through the dairy aisle as i began cautiously contemplating what my first step on the culinary wild side might be.
i felt God gently ask me, “Well, what do you like?”
It had been so long since i had eaten for pleasure, for a moment, i couldn’t remember what i liked.
i suddenly thought, “i used to like vanilla yogurt!”
Yes, vanilla yogurt was a bold choice for me … ha! That tells you a bit about my diet.
Would this hurt me? i wondered. i asked God to show me.
i felt immediately that i should look up the benefits of vanilla on my phone. The first article to come up talked about the “mind-boosting, anti-inflammatory abilities” of vanilla. i felt peace and took the plunge.
the ultimate kill joy
My long battle with food was a metaphor for so many other things in my life. The enemy is a master manipulator. He is the ultimate kill joy.
He takes those things in our lives that God designed to bring us life and joy and he turns them into poison and uses them to attack and drain us.
That’s what the enemy does. He distorts and lies. Those lies are always designed to lead us away from the Father.
The enemy knows that the closer we get to God, the sweeter the journey becomes.
Following the Father, one step at time, one moment at a time, invites His presence in shockingly sweet and powerful ways. We begin to deeply understand His incredible love and awesomeness.
The natural result is joy.
Sometimes that new journey with Him leads to changes in our circumstances. Sometimes not. But knowing we are purely, perfectly and overwhelmingly loved by the God of the universe always changes us.
And although we often still want a change in our circumstances, it somehow seems less important. i experienced joy in Jesus before i began experiencing joy in food. Once i began to experience life with this “new to me” God, i was content to eat spinach and soy milk forever, as long as i had Him.
So satan tries to get us to follow anything or anyone else. He doesn’t really care who or what it is as long as it’s not God.
Here are a few of the deadly lies that i believed that have pulled me away from the Source of joy:
Follow your heart.
The world often tells us to “Follow our hearts.” This sounds like such great advice.
Usually what our hearts desire are love, acceptance, significance. Those desires of our heart are God-given.
But if our quest for those things aren’t deeply rooted in the love and truth of the Father, our hearts can easily get tainted by things like fear, selfishness and ambition. Instead of leading us to God, they can pull us away from Him.
In Psalms 37, David tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Because when we delight ourselves in Him, we discover that He is all we need. We trust Him to give us what is best for us. We love and trust Him so much we begin to want what He wants.
David was a man who understood the folly of being led by his heart apart from God. His heart’s desire to have Bathsheba led to adultery and murder. Although he received God’s forgiveness, the consequences were felt for the rest of his life.
Our hearts can be foolish and polluted. We may think we know our hearts, but God made our hearts. He knows better than even we do what will truly bring us lasting joy and satisfaction.
As we draw closer to God, our hearts become are aligned with His.
Then He can fulfill desires of our heart because they reflect His own.
Follow the crowd.
Social media is full of ads for courses that encourage us to follow someone else’s formula for success. “Do what i did!” they tell us.
Yet, when i tried these courses and formulas, it never delivered the payoff i was looking for. Even if it “worked,” it often felt empty.
i think it’s because trying to be someone else or fit someone else’s formula of success robs us of our uniqueness. It takes our focus from our unique design and what God wants to do in our lives and limits the possibilities.
i think we like to follow what has worked for others because it feels safer. We think we can predict the result and minimize risk.
But here’s a big problem with trying to copy others: They are human. They will make mistakes. Their formula might be great for them, but totally wrong for us.
Can we learn from others? Of course. But let’s allow God to direct our gaze to other’s examples. Let’s let the Holy Spirit lead us to those people He wants us learn from.
There are no shortcuts toward God’s plan for our journeys. And we have to be adventurous and trusting enough to step off the beaten path and follow our Guide into unchartered territory.
Our path may look like all zigs and zags. Speaking from personal experience, it probably won’t seem to make sense half the time. The voices of the crowd will get louder in our heads.
But if our journey is led by the Father, we can rest secure knowing that we’re exactly where we should be.
Even when it feels like we are standing all alone.
Follow your timetable.
God wants us to delight in His dreams and plans for our lives.
Unfortunately, we often we rob ourselves of the joy of them by rushing the process. We don’t want to wait.
The enemy tells us we have to “help it along” or “If it doesn’t happen now, it won’t happen at all.” He makes us feel like we need to be in a hurry. And those beautiful dreams and plans begin to make us feel anxious.
But if we follow and trust the Father, we can wait. We can enjoy the process because God can be continually found in the process.
In my experience and often in the Bible, God gives dreams and plans long before it’s time for them to blossom.
I think it’s a lot like childbirth. When a woman is first pregnant, no one can really tell. There’s no outward evidence of this beautiful promise she holds inside of her. Gradually, that promise grows. As it grows, outward evidence of the dream and plan begins to emerge. It becomes uncomfortable. There may be things she has to give up.
Like that baby, the dream can sometimes feel heavy and burdensome. We wonder if this “baby” is ever going to come. And then, when the time is right, the child is born. The birthing process is painful and we may wonder if it will really really all be worth it. And then we see the child. And we instinctively know it was worth the wait.
But what happens when a child is born too early? Complications.
He or she isn’t born developed enough to fully thrive.
So if waiting is so difficult, why does God share the dream long before the fulfillment?
I don’t know all the answers, but here’s one: It keeps us going. Through all the waiting and struggle, through long seasons of seeing no fruit, when my dreams seemed to die, I would reflect back on moments when God clearly spoke those dreams to me and it would keep me going.
And no matter how impatient or discouraged i was at that moment, i’d remind myself that He makes everything beautiful in its time.
joy is dangerous, too
Recently, God led me to Nehemiah 8. The Israelites are being reminded of God’s greatness and they begin to weep and mourn. They are convicted and become deeply sad for how they had followed and trusted so many things that had led them away from Him.
But Nehemiah told them this: “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (v.10)
Following God isn’t always easy, but as we do, the increasing awareness of His presence and activity brings joy that we could never have imagined.
It changes our hearts and gives us the strength to stand out from the crowd, to trust Him and to wait on His timing.
That is why the enemy tries to so hard to distract and blind us to who God really is and the depth of His love and power.
Joy isn’t just an emotion, friends. It is dangerous weapon against the enemy. Because It’s contagious. It draws others to us. It makes others want to know this Joy we have.
Because Jesus IS Joy. And He is sweet. Even sweeter than vanilla yogurt.
2017 was an amazing year for me. An incredible year of spiritual and physical healing and transformation. A few months ago, i started sharing what God showed and taught me on this blog.
Today’s post is the latest installment. To read more of the posts about my journey, click HERE.