Yesterday I had a counseling session with my therapist, Sarah. We sort of planned this session so that we could touch base and put together a game plan for the holidays. The holiday season, as joyful as it can be, also can be increasingly difficult and triggering for people in eating disorder recovery. It is a common and often celebrated idea that the purpose of Thanksgiving is to consume as much food as possible, “cheat”, “indulge”, “treat yourself” and “be bad” for one day out of the year. While stuffing our faces at Thanksgiving dinner we are simultaneously talking about how we will need to get to the gym early the next morning to burn off the extra calories. We share our plans to get in shape during the new year and how this is “our year” to get healthier and fitter.
Although Sarah and I did talk a little bit about how to practice good recovery during the holidays, we actually ended up talking a lot more about suffering and thanksgiving than we did food.
I was telling Sarah about how recovery is very difficult and how I want to be healed. I shared with her that I have really wrestled with God about the purpose of this suffering in my life, and the purpose of all of the suffering on this earth.
I didnt’t understand why I have to suffer from anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand why women and children are victims of sex trafficking. I didn’t understand why 6 children had to die in the bus accident in Chattanooga the week of Thanksgiving…it makes me sick to my stomach to think about it. I didn’t know why people have to suffer with cancer, HIV, heart attacks, and other life crippling illnesses. I hate the thought of losing anyone in my family anytime soon….or ever for that matter. I haven’t quite grasped the reason why I live in the wealthiest county in Tennessee and other children are born into extreme poverty and die of hunger. It breaks my heart that our country is so divided, & that the election has caused so much frustration and fear. I don’t understand why life can’t be easy, simple, peaceful, and perfect. I hate pain and discomfort, and I avoid it at all costs. I look around and it is easy for me to see more things that I am frustrated about than I am thankful for.
I voiced this concern to Sarah and she reassured me that it is okay to wrestle with God, and that there are some things that we won’t be able to understand on this side of heaven. Although I knew this intellectually and I agreed with her, the statement didn’t settle my heart. I want to know, I want to understand, and I want to be able to make sense of everything that is going on in my life, the lives of others, our country, and the world. I don’t want to wait, I don’t want to be patient, and I don’t want to trust that God is sovereign and in control. How am I supposed to give thanks in everything??
I know that God is the author of time and space, that he created the world, that he knitted me together in my mother’s womb, that he withholds no good thing from me, that he bestows favor and honor and glory on me, that he is always for me and not against me, that he works all things together for my good, that I will receive a crown of glory in heaven, and that I am his beloved. I know that he is sovereign and in complete control, and that nothing can reverse the will of God…Yet…I still doubt his goodness and I still often lack trust in him. Why?
Sarah asked me a difficult question that I think is worth pondering this holiday season. She asked me, “Do you believe that God loves you more than you love yourself?”
In other words...When God says he loves you, do you believe that? Do you believe that God is going to take care of you? Do you believe that he always has your best interests in heart, even when it means suffering? Do you believe that God is a good father? Do you trust him in everything, with everything, and through everything? Do you trust him enough to approach his throne with thanksgiving and gratitude, even when your life isn’t going how you think it should?
The question surprised me…I wasn’t sure of what to say. If I am being honest, many times I do doubt God’s love for me because I don’t feel it. When I am suffering an anxiety attack or a bad day of recovery it’s easy to feel like he doesn’t hear me and he doesn’t answer my prayers, and that I am left alone. I believe that if I was in control my lift would be 10x better, because no one knows what is best for me except me. Right?
As hard as it is, God promised that we would face trials on this earth, & even more so if we are believers. We are not exempt from the suffering’s of Christ. We aren’t going to understand every purpose of our suffering in this life until we are face-to-face with God the Father. However, we aren’t left without hope. When I am doubting the goodness of God it is usually because I am simultaneously not believing God’s truth, and believing the lies of the enemy. I know that the plans that he has for my life are for good and that my life would be a train wreck if it was up to me to control it. As scary and difficult as it is, today I am choosing to trust that God loves me more than myself, and that God knows what I need better than anyone on this earth. I am choosing to cling to the truth that God’s love for me doesn’t change based on my feelings, actions, sin, thought patterns, habits, or behaviors. I am choosing to take refuge in his truth that he is in control, he is good, and that I can trust him. I am trusting that God doesn’t delight in evil or suffering, but instead he works ALL things together for my good and the good of others. I am trusting that what satan intends for harm God uses for good.
As hard as this year had been for me, I really do have so much to be thankful for. On my hardest days, the thing that gets me through is praising God for who he is and how he has already worked in my life. The other night I was in a lot of physical pain and I was sitting on my bed crying with my mom. She said, “Find something to thank God for.” And I honestly thought, “What in the world…..why are we talking about this right now…I don’t want to thank God for anything. I am hurt, upset, and angry, and he isn’t doing anything about it.” Almost out of obligation, I began to thank God for the most basic needs in my life.
“God I thank you for blessing me a great family, fiancé, and friends.”
“God I thank you for allowing me to spend another weekend walking Maddie at the park; it really helps with my anxiety.”
“God I thank you that I am at home with my mom and not alone.”
Then, my prayers of thanksgiving began to move into a deeper level of gratitude.
“God, I thank you that you have done so much healing in my heart, soul, and body this year.”
“God I praise you that you reconciled yourself to me through the blood of Jesus.”
“God I trust you even though recovery is incredibly difficult.”
“God I trust you while I am waiting for healing.”
“God I trust you when I don’t understand.”
When I began thanking God, my heart began to settle with a peace that surpasses all understanding. I began to focus less on the trials in my life and more and more on the glory of my savior. It brings hope to my soul by thanking God in everything…even when it’s the last thing I want to do.
I haven’t been through any major trials or trauma in my life up until this year. Recovery is no joke. It has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through, yet I know that God is using it for good in my life, to make me more like him, to continue to heal me, to bring me deliverance from my enemies, and to grow in me a heart of compassion for other people. Today, and everyday, I am making the choice to praise God with thanksgiving, despite whatever is going on in my life. Here are a few things I am thankful for this thanksgiving:
- I am thankful for my relationship with Jesus. I am thankful that he was willing to give everything for me, despite the fact that I have nothing to give him in return. I am thankful that his blood covers all of my sin, and that I have a home in eternity with him.
- I am thankful for my incredible family. God has used y’all to show me his love in so many ways & I don’t know what I would do without you all. Thanks for listening, praying, encouraging, loving, and sacrificing so much for me.
- I am thankful for my fiancé, Josh. After dating 5 years before we got engaged, it was inevitable that we would have to walk through some trials together. Thank you for never judging me, never leaving me, always listening, trying to understand, taking me to pet stores to make me feel better, and loving me like Jesus does. I am thankful that I am engaged, and that I am about to enter a new season of life.
- I am thankful for my friends that constantly and encourage me and remind me not to be too hard on myself.
- I am thankful for the ability to walk, talk, hear, see, and listen.
- I am thankful for a bed to sleep in, a home that keeps me warm, and enough food to eat at each meal.
- I am thankful for my sweet Maddie, who eases my anxiety and is a constant source of joy in my life.
- I am thankful for recovery, the opportunity to rebuild my life, and the ways that the Lord has matured me through it.
- I am thankful to have the best recovery team in Nashville. I am thankful for their patience, understanding, compassion, truth, and love. Thank you for teaching me how to see myself the way Jesus sees me, and for standing with me on this journey. You all are gifts from God in my life.
- I am thankful for my church, Grace Chapel. Every time I enter the building it is evident that God’s spirit is alive and active. Thanks for teaching me, praying for me, raising me up as a disciple, and maturing me in my walk with Jesus.
- I am thankful for my teachers at Tech who never hesitate to drop everything they are doing to help me with a case study, go over my thesis paper, or just talk.
- I am thankful for the gospel, and the privilege of sharing this hope with other people.
- I am thankful that God is a good father, and that I have nothing to fear, because God’s perfect love casts out all fear.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16