I recently watched a TV programme about a lady who was described as clinically, morbidly obese and suffering from multiple, severe health issues. Her mother died when she was fourteen, and it was this deep and sudden loss that had turned her to comfort eating. It became a habit, and in turn an addiction, mercilessly tightening its grip over the years, and with it came intense self loathing. My heart, along with many others I’m sure, went out to her.
But it was a story with a good ending. A personal trainer came alongside her for twelve months, and supported her in losing over half her body weight. At the end of the programme she said the best thing he did for her was to become her friend. It was this, she said, that had empowered her to begin to hate herself less, and to lose the weight that was endangering her very life.
We may not all have suffered the early death of a parent, but there are many other painful realities of life that can lead to us turning against ourselves. Experiences of rejection or abandonment, betrayal or abuse, knowing we are deeply emotionally needy inside or intellectually incapacitated, or having a physical sickness or disability are just a few. And the way we cope with the pain of these very real life issues – whether it is comfort eating or another self-destructive habit - often serves to compound any self-hateful feelings that have taken root in our hearts.
No matter how much of a tangled web we might feel we are caught in or how hopeless it might seem, the truth is that we have an incredible opportunity for the story of our lives to have a good ending too. We may not have a personal trainer for a friend! But what a friend we have in Jesus! He too is utterly committed to walking our own unique and personal journey with us, but He is without the limitations of any earthly friend - His commitment to us is not just for twelve months, but forever! `He will never leave you nor forsake you` (Deuteronomy 31:6).
He too wants to help us see ourselves differently – to give us His view of who we are – not people to be hated and despised, but precious and loved children of God (1 John 3:1). And as we receive His truth we also receive His empowering to change from our self-destructive ways of coping with the painful realities of our lives.
But more than this, the Bible says this: `Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one`s life for one’s friends` (John 15:13). Jesus, our Friend, goes deeper. He laid down His life to accomplish something no other friend could ever do for us, and far beyond just giving us a new way of coping with our hurts and pains and the losses we’ve sustained. He ‘took up our pain, and bore our suffering … he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.’
No matter how damaged we are, or how big the losses, or how far we’ve fallen, through the sacrifice He made on the cross for us, the story of our lives can have an amazing ending. What a friend we have in Jesus!
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