Recently, an acquaintence of mine died from complications related to anorexia. She was 26 and a lifelong Christian.
Her sister is a friend of mine on Facebook, and when she shared the news of her sister’s death, she phrased it like this: “After a courageous battle with an eating disorder, _____ is now safe at home in heaven with Jesus.”
My first initial reaction to reading that was … doubt. Um, if your sister was a Christian, then how could she have had an eating disorder? Since when do Christians get eating disorders? Why did she have a body image problem? Didn’t she trust God enough?
I don’t know any details about this young woman’s anorexia. I don’t know what caused it, and I don’t know why it was such a struggle for her. Frankly, I didn’t know her at all, and if her family, who are also believers, say that she died believing in Jesus as her Savior, then I will believe them. I am glad that she is safely home in heaven.
My initial reaction got me thinking, however. Perhaps her eating disorder was some kind of chemical mix-up in her brain. People’s brains are certainly susceptible to all sorts of problems, especially with the polluted and chemical-filled world that we live in. People struggle with depression, too. Christians struggle with depression. Good Christians struggle with depression. Another acquaintence of mine, also a lifelong Christian, committed suicide years ago — and his pastor still gave him a Christian funeral in church. Furthermore, my alternative-medicine-crunchy side believes that depression is often a sign of a specific type of body imbalance, at least according to Chinese medicine. That’s the rationale I’ve used with my recurring anxiety problems, which also fit the symptoms of my specific type of body imbalance. Thanks to the kind of body God blessed me with and the cool, damp climate in which I currently live, I am very prone to anxiety problems.
I’ve struggled off and on with anxiety for four and a half years now. I know that it’s a chemical imbalance in my body; it’s not me. And I know it’s not due to a lack of faith on my part. In fact, it annoys me to no end when I talk about my anxiety problem in some public way and someone chirps back at me, “Well, you know that the Bible says ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,’ and ‘Do not be anxious about anything,'” with the underlying message that there’s something lacking in my faith which causes my anxiety.
I will state for the record, here and now, that I can totally tell the difference between my chemical imbalance anxiety and my I-need-to-give-this-problem-to-God anxiety. My body gives me signs; *I* know the difference.
And finally, I know my anxiety problems are chemical because the homeopathy has helped me so incredibly much! It wouldn’t have been able to make that big of a difference if my problem were one of weak faith.
So, with all of these thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that, just like every other ailment under the sun, a Christian can also suffer from an eating disorder — and still be a Christian. I shouldn’t judge people because of their particular problem, and I definitely should NOT judge their problem as resulting from a lack of faith. I don’t know what was actually going on with this young woman, but I know that she struggled with her eating disorder and eventually died from it. But praise God that she died a Christian. Her battle is over now, and she’s enjoying the great banquet feast of heaven, where her struggles with food are non-existent.
A Christian who dies in faith is always an example to other believers, and often in ways of which s/he has no idea. She has been an example for me, and I thank God for carrying out his good and perfect will for her spiritual health – as well as mine – in her life.