I have never been one of those “naturally thin” women. I was only thin at all for a handful of years in my childhood. Though I can blame a few inches of my waist-size on genetics, a slower metabolism, and a busy lifestyle, the truth is I can also blame seasons of sin and carelessness. For me, the perpetual cycles of gaining and losing, the battles with what I eat and don’t eat, and obsession with hitting a certain number on the scale or fitting into a specific dress size, have been soul crushing. You may not be able to tell by a cursory look at my physical body, but I have actively aimed for holiness in this particular area of my life for 15 years.
Early in my faith, battling my weight caused me to doubt my salvation. Though my faith has matured, I must still fight to believe God is able to sustain me in the war against my flesh. The weight I wrestle with is so much more than pounds measured by the bathroom scale. The burdensome weights of shame, condemnation, and doubt lead to hopelessness much more unhealthy and destructive to my person than the ones you can see with your eye.
Shedding the Weight
If running the race of faith leaves you winded, perhaps you are carrying spiritual weight you were never intended to carry. Hebrews 12:1-2 calls believers to lay aside not just the sin, but also the weight that so easily entangles—but the author doesn’t mean the pounds. He is concerned about the worldly weights hindering God’s children—weights like shame, fear of man, hopelessness, and doubt. In order to run the race of faith, we must throw these hindrances off and look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
To shed these burdensome weights I must fight to see myself as God sees me: loved, adopted, forgiven, and accepted. I have to exercise self-control in my thought life, refraining from words of self-deprecating body-shaming. I have learned it is more important for me to watch my heart intake than my calorie intake because what my soul feeds on will ultimately guide the choices I make for my body. I am the most encouraged and edified to persevere when I choose to value sanctification over skinniness and spiritual fitness over thigh gaps or great abs.
The Lord knows my frame. Whether or not the scale changes or fluctuates, the Lord continues to produce the more important, eternally significant changes within my spirit. Day in and day out, he is lovingly refining us, and not for our own vanity. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Shifting of Hope
Too often I hope in my goal weight and my fleshly ability to get there. I pursue godliness not for the sake of Christlikeness, but in order to get what I want—lower numbers on the scale or that elusive smaller dress. If I can memorize enough verses, pray hard enough, avoid temptation enough, then I think I deserve a smaller waistline. When I don’t lose, I despair. When I focus on transforming my dress size more intentionally than I focus on conforming to the image of Christ, I value the jar of clay over the treasure inside. Paul told the Corinthians, who had the similar problem of self-reliance, and people like me: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
How often do we view our extra pounds as a way for Jesus to be made manifest in our bodies? If you’re like me, you see the affliction without the opportunity for God’s intervention and glory. But, thanks be to God, neither slow metabolism nor sin can stand in the way of his purposes! Each weight-related temptation, sin, and failure is an opportunity to know the surpassing power of Christ in both life and death. My hope is not dashed or driven to despair by a higher Body Mass Index or how I look in the mirror. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:11-12).
Though death (thyroid problems, disease, aging, and more) is at work in us, we have a living hope far greater than any weight-loss goals. Our hope won’t be satisfied by a gym membership or a diet plan, but only by the Savior. Where is your hope? Is it in attaining the world’s standards of beauty or in the power of Christ and his ability to indwell weak bodies of flesh?
Though weight battles seem arduous, I believe they fall under the category of what Paul calls “momentary affliction.” And though they feel miserable, they are producing eternal results that will last long past the physical body’s prime: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Fight for holiness, discipline your body for the sake of godliness, but don’t limit your progress to results in the mirror. Don’t let your physical weight struggles distract you from running the race of faith and hoping in the weight of glory that God is producing through your trials. Trust that the Lord is good even in your weight-related trials. He is working on a canvas broader than your body and conforming your heart to Christ’s likeness.