For those of you who receive my Daily Vitamin devotional, you know that last Friday I traveled to Florida to see my friend Junie, whose eating disorder has reached a desperate state. I just returned last night and there are many things swirling through my mind which will take some time to process, but I felt it was important to share with you some of what I’m learning, especially for those of you who have a loved one with an eating disorder and are not sure how to help.
What I have learned in my many years of working with eating disorders is that love is the greatest – and often least available – element in the healing process. This matters because eating disorders are fueled by hate, and the only antidote to hate is love.
Logic and reasoning can be helpful tools when it comes to channeling one’s hatred into a more positive direction (a seeming oxymoron), but reasoning alone won’t eradicate hate. Medication can manage negative feelings and responses, but it won’t eliminate the hate that drives the lies swirling through a disordered eater’s brain. ONLY LOVE has the power to truly overcome hate, which means that if there is not a good dose of love in the healing process, complete healing cannot occur.
The challenge, as I’m sure you can appreciate, is that none of us are capable of perfect love. And depending on our relationship with the person who is fighting this disorder, a lot of other things can get in our way. For example, it’s hard to love someone who hurts us, or who isolates, or who is exhibiting unhealthy and unreasonable behavior. And there can be a legitimate, human limit to how much we can take before we numb out or tune out or simply stop desiring to love the person who struggles. Even those working on a professional level face this dilemma, and when you add the length and weariness of the battle to the mix, love too often gets lost.
But we must not forget that there is a more powerful, sinister force at work. Our enemy Satan is intent on stripping love from the equation at every turn, because he knows that love is more powerful than hate. This means that our battle to love others is far bigger than we are, and we need God’s help to fight it well.
I could write many blogs on this, and perhaps I will, but for the sake of hope I want to offer a few practical things…
- You are not capable of loving people unconditionally, but God is. And he is more than able to fill you up with a love that you can’t even explain. So if you are being called to love someone right now, don’t waste any time getting on your knees and begging God to fill you with his love for that person. Do this often. Every day. Sometimes every hour. Don’t rest on your human love reserves – they will fail you. Ask God and his Holy Spirit to fill you with love to share with them, and be open to how he might bring others into the picture. Which brings me to my next point…
- You are not big enough to tackle this problem on your own. This weekend when I went to visit my friend I had 6 prayer warriors on a text chain on my phone who were lifting me up at every turn, and many others – some who I don’t even know – praying around the globe. I also had a friend with me whose sole purpose in coming was to support me in prayer as I ministered to Junie. God filled me with strength to love Junie for hours on end because there were people interceding for me (and for her). I was not alone, and you should not be either. If you don’t already have a core “prayer warrior” team around you, I highly recommend you set one up. If you’re not sure who to ask, ask God to show you. You might be surprised who he brings to mind.
- God wants to bolster your love by bringing others into the job. The beauty of my time with Junie this weekend is that I have not been walking this road with her on an intimate level. I have not experienced disappointment in the way that her family has. I have not been beaten down by years of deferred hope like those who love her have. I was fresh and ready and available so God used me to bring love in a way that others may not have been able to. In your own situation, invite others to stand in the gap for you when you feel beaten down and empty. This is the way of love – that we give what we have, to whoever God leads us to give it to. And that we allow God to use others in our own journeys when we feel we are empty.
I know I’ll be writing more on this as I unpack it all – SO much happened in the space of 48 hours and I look forward to sharing it with you. But for now my prayer for you is that God would fill you with his perfect love, a love that casts out fear and gives you strength to keep moving forward. Love heals, and I pray you feel it healing you – and those you love – today.
Furious Love is a Christian documentary that I have now watched 4 times in the last few months. It will give you hope about the power of God’s love to combat darkness. You can watch instantly on Amazon for just $2.99. I don’t get any money for recommending it, but you simply MUST watch this film! Would love to hear your thoughts when you do…