"How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
My Soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."
I am in recovery from an eating disorder that I have had for a long time. I restricted my intake of food, compulsively ate, and compulsively exercised. Looking back at my recovery, I think the hardest thing for me was that there were times the compulsion to overeat or begin a binge was absolutely overwhelming. It would start in the middle of the afternoon. When I resisted a binge in the early stages of recovery, I found I could often resist until bed time and I would be exhausted from experiencing such a long period of angst that the desire to binge and the desire not to binge at the same time caused. When I chose to give in to the binge, I found there was instant relief from the angst even before I took the first bite of food. I felt so much shame over that until I came to understand more about the brain and realized my pleasure center was activated by the anticipation that followed my decision and not just the food itself.
Then there were those other days that I hated the worst. I would crave something and I would choose to eat it only to find that it didn't satisfy. Then I would crave something else, only to find it didn't satisfy either. I could spend a whole afternoon looking for that thing to help satisfy me, only to find at the end of the day that there was no satisfaction in any of the foods, only a great deal of shame for not being more committed to recovery and wiser with my choices. There was shame for not being strong enough to resist temptation. And the biggest shame of all, was for not remembering God in the moment of temptation and crying out to Him for the strength and wisdom I needed to have victory.
I met others in recovery and found out that it didn't matter what it was that they craved, they had all pretty much experienced what I had. Oh, they may yearned for a cigarette, a drink, drugs, sex, a view of pornography, a unhealthy relationship, more power, accolades, more new clothes, to be even busier, or a host of other things any of us can find ourselves yearning for. At the end of the day all of of us were filled with the same toxic shame. Many believed as I did that we were defective for having a issue of compulsion and not overcoming it.
I understood for a long time my eating disorder was out of control and it was sin. No one ever had to confront me with that truth! I felt shame that my problem was centered around food. Then it hit me one day that the first sin Eve committed in the garden was driven by her lust of what was beautiful to behold, appealing to her physical appetite and tastes, and appealing to her desire for power. I began to pay real close attention to what and when I craved anything. A conversation, a binge, a compulsion to over exercise, shop, etc. and over time I realized how often I was just seeking relief from boredom, emotions, loneliness, powerlessness, or exhaustion. At other times I was trying to fill the emptiness that resided deep in my soul.
I paid close attention to the desires I had, but that were never satisfied and realized that they were often things that pointed me away from God. I saw that when I could spend time with people and have conversations about God, I didn't crave as much. When I had lunch with a friend and God was the center of our conversation, I didn't overeat. When it was a shallow conversation, I often left feeling unsatisfied by the encounter.
When I came across the above verse I thought, "What if, what if God designed us to yearn, which in today's language would be to crave? What if the fall and our tendency to sin had distorted our appetites in such away we forget it is for Him that we yearn? What if we have forgotten He alone can satisfy our deepest yearnings of which we might not even be aware? What if when we are feeling dissatisfied, we take that feeling as a sign to begin to look to God who made us with our individual cravings and acknowledge that the craving is distorted and ask Him to daily remind us that in our heart of hearts we were made to yearn for Him?" Maybe those who struggle with addictions and compulsions have been given an extra dose of the yearnings and that those yearnings were misplaced. At first glance that seems kind of unfair. But the truth is, if we understand that we are craving time with our Savior, we will be driven to His arms where there is deep soul satisfaction! If there is truth that those of us who struggle with compulsions were given an extra dose of cravings, then we have the potential to be driven to more intimacy with the Savior than those who don't experience such strong cravings.
Maybe, no not maybe, certainly the answer for those of us who yearn for the wrong things is to get to the place we know the Savior so well that when we let our mind go in neutral, it automatically goes to Him. If we experience enough satisfaction in Him, we may begin to recognize those yearnings we despised in recovery are really a blessing as they drive us to Him who loves us so deeply that He died for us. Oh, how I want to be that woman whose soul yearns so much for Jesus that my heart and my flesh will continually cry out for God, not the things of this world that never satisfy the deep yearning in my soul. Oh, that at times when life leaves me feeling shaky and weak I want to get to the point I cry out to the one who can strengthen my spirit and give me peace and joy no matter what is going on in my little corner of this world. The times that I have cried out to Him, I have experienced joy replacing this ugly toxic shame that often comes with disordered sinful patterns as my heart and my flesh cry out to the LORD Almighty, the Living God.