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Squeezing Out God


by Stacy Reaoch

 

As I was shopping for a birthday card once, I overheard a conversation between two employees in the store I was in. One woman was sharing some health concerns she had. The other was quick to offer a solution: “I have a quinoa cookie recipe that will blow your mind!” I couldn’t help but smile at the woman’s enthusiasm for her recipe. (For some reason, the words “quinoa” and “cookie” don’t seem to go together in the same sentence for me...) But at the same time, I realized she wasn’t really listening or offering any sympathy to her friend with health concerns. Instead she just rattled on about how certain foods had impacted her own life and could definitely be the source of her friend’s problem.

 

Sometimes our preoccupation with our bodies and diets can bleed into every conversation we have. We don’t even realize how consumed we are with thoughts about food and health. Instead of listening empathetically to our friend’s problems, we’re thinking of the solution we can offer through our own diet and supplements. Or instead of hanging out and embracing what someone else wants to do, we let ourselves be held back by worries about how we’ll look or what we’ll eat. And we miss out on truly being a caring and considerate friend.

 

We long to be caught up in worship at church, but we end up being distracted by looking at other women’s clothes or hair. We long to be part of a community, but concerns about what food we can eat hold us back from participating in church events. We long to be more prayerful, but we can’t deal with not having a makeup regime or a workout each morning—and that pushes out any time for prayer.


You can see how longing for the perfect body or an obsession with the perfect diet can end up squeezing out God—because we’re following our own plan for happiness instead of following Him. We can think that in order to find a sense of significance, we need to fit into a smaller dress size. We idolize organic food, thinking that controlling every ounce of food that we consume will ensure us good health or a pain-free life. Or we might use an excess of food to numb the pain or stress we’re feeling. Maybe exercise is so important to you that you feel like your day is ruined if you haven’t fit in your workout—your happiness depends on it. There are so many ways we take the good gifts of food, exercise, and beauty and warp them into mini-idols of our hearts.

 

Idolatry begins in our imaginations: we dwell on what we perceive to be the perfect circumstance, pine over what we don’t have, and become angry or bitter at the lack in our lives. Instead of recognizing God’s all-sufficient grace, wisdom, and sovereignty, we think our plan is better. We see our situation as a curse instead of noticing the blessings God has poured out on us. And what’s the result? We miss out on God-given opportunities to showcase His love, because we’re naval-gazing at our own lives. And we miss out on experiencing the joy of delighting in God Himself, because we’re trying to satisfy ourselves in one hundred other ways.

 

These issues are complicated, and there are lots of reasons why we end up falling into this trap! Maybe you’ve battled health issues or you’ve felt the wound of degrading comments made about your appearance when you were young. Maybe disappointments in other areas of life have led you to obsess over the things you can control. Maybe you worry about how people perceive you or you’re desperate to make a romantic relationship work.

 

Remember, your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need (Matthew 6:32). He cares for you! He loves you just as you are, with all your fears and failures. But He also calls you to fix your eyes on Him.

 

There is Freedom

The good news is that if we are in Christ, God is still willing to welcome us home even when we have fallen into idolatry. He doesn’t want us to miss out. He always wants to give us more of Himself. And as Psalm 103:10-11 so beautifully reminds us, His love covers all our sin:

 

“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”

 

God doesn’t give us what we deserve, but instead covers us in the precious blood of Christ, seeing us as righteous even when we’re far from it. This is why, when we devote ourselves to building His kingdom, we’re freed from the self-conscious thoughts that keep us in bondage. We find our joy in serving others, looking to meet their needs and using our gifts to draw others into a relationship with Christ. We find our joy in God Himself, knowing He is our redeemer, savior, and friend. These things are far more satisfying than the fleeting pursuit of chasing beauty or health.



This article has been adapted from Beautiful Freedom: How the Bible Shapes Your View of Appearance, Food, and Fitness by Stacy Reaoch. Stacy is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mother of four who resides in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the author of Wilderness Wanderings and the co-author of Making Room for Her.

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