I began reading through Isaiah a few weeks before school ended (my second year, that is) and only recently finished. In the time between the first chapter and the last, I studied for and finished final exams/my sophomore year, traveled to and explored England with my family, (almost officially) moved out of home and into my new apartment in SLO, searched for and finally found not only one, but two, jobs, and am now soaking up the last month of summer and preparing for the start of my third year at Cal Poly.
Why Isaiah? Well, quite honestly, no specific reasoning motivated me to start this book of God's word, other than simply wanting to understand more of Him. Now that I look back - after finishing the book, studying chapters over and over again, and listening to/reading through commentaries on it - I can clearly see it's relevance (not that any book of the Bible is irrelevant), specifically in the past six months or so of my life. Maybe you're new to my blog, or maybe you've followed me since I began, in which case you probably know my story. If the former is your case, click here to catch up. To summarize, I suffered through an eating disorder for about three years - beginning with minor anorexia, then spiraling into severe orthorexia. Recovery for me came in waves, which is the best way to describe when and how I fully recovered. I wish I could explain this down to it's core, but all I can say is the Holy Spirit moved in me so greatly during the last months of my sophomore year, encouraging me to be re-baptized and showing me more clearly than ever before the fullness of completely surrendering to, faithfully walking hand-in-hand with, and whole-heartedly living for my God. On May 22nd, I was washed by the most cleansing wave of all. While I still come across some lingering struggles with regards to food, physical appearance, and all that an eating disorder convinces us is of utmost importance, I no longer feel consumed and controlled by them. I no longer give in to that sin.
Isaiah. Isaiah showed me the eating disorder that Israel went through. Now, it wasn't the same as mine, but the sin of idolization lies at the root of both.
Israel rebelled against God by worshipping things of this world - silver and gold, kings and rulers, and prideful self-glorification. Through visions of Isaiah (a prophet, son of Amoz), God lays out His plans for rebellious Jerusalem and Judah. Constantly, repeatedly, He warns the people about consequences of their sin and promises them of His salvation, if only they will surrender their idols and worship Him as King. Isaiah shares His encounter with the Lord, when he whole-heartedly, fearfully, obediently and passionately surrendered his life to the One who saved him. He stands as a faithful messenger for the Lord, bringing to the rebellious people Good News of Jesus' coming and God's rule. Just when I began to find comfort in these promises, however, the Lord shook me awake with words of anger and promises to destroy all idolaters and hypocrites. His anger is not forever, nor is it ultimately characteristic of Him, thankfully. The book of Isaiah holds a promise of Jesus, son of David's coming and with it life-giving words of hope. The Lord wants to open His people's eyes to all they've been missing, and to provide for them stability strong enough and worthy enough of all hope, faith, and praise - Jesus. Despite Israel's sin, God promises not to abandon the city. He is faithful in protecting it, if only the people will recognize Him and repent from their sin of idolization, and even addresses Israel as His servant. So faithful and so loving is He that He sends his son, Jesus the Messiah, and commissions him to declare His promise of everlasting love and salvation. The Lord tells of Jesus' purpose, and through him, how He will display God's mercy and grace. One last time, He warns against sin and offers encouragement and hope in that His arm is never too weak to save. Only are we weak enough to allow our sin to separate us from Him, and yet He still offers His son as Savior, Jesus the Messiah. The last few chapters of Isaiah burst with the Good News as he prays for Jerusalem's final salvation and continued faith in the Lord. His word paint heart-warming pictures of His gracious arms reaching down to a once-rebellious people to lift them up in salvation and honor, all for His glory.
Throughout my eating disorder (and even sometimes today), I sinned by worshipping my outward appearance, by believing the lies magazines and TV and society told me about size and beauty, and by living in fear of food instead of my God. The heart of my eating disorder longed for the Lord, but even though I'd called myself a Christian for years, I denied God because I feared that His plan wouldn't match mine. I wanted full control of my life - the life God blessed me with - but I was damaging my body, probably even shortening this precious life without knowing it. In my heart, I heard Him warning me of judgment, yet I refused to listen. In my heart, I felt His promise of restoration and salvation, yet I still refused to listen. I searched for comfort and affirmation in family and friends, but found nothing everlasting. Towards the end of this past school year (my second one at Cal Poly) I remember a few nights spent crying on my bedroom floor, overwhelmed by loneliness, purposelessness, and emptiness. Confused. Discouraged. Crying out to the Lord, I finally felt His arms wrap around me when I re-dedicated my life to Him through baptism. I no longer felt my worth tied to my blog, or my beauty dependent on my size. I no longer saw God as controlling, selfish, and frightening. He showed Himself to me as the forgiving, gracious Father He is and pulled me out of the consuming eating disorder. I sought Him wholeheartedly, and He appeared. I repented, and He forgave.
- Chapters 1-6 reminded me most of the worst times throughout those years. Blatantly, they laid out before me conviction of my sin and practically slapped me in the face with guilt. Reading God's own word about His anger and disappointment in a people who had committed the same sin I had been for so long left me feeling crushed and hopeless, though I'd been in successful recovery for months. Not knowing how the story would end but sure of the fact that Israel and I have much in common, I didn't know if I'd end up saved by God's gracious hands or defeated by His powerful wrath. It wasn't until He spoke some of the richest words yet at the conclusion of chapter 6 that I saw signs of a "happily ever after" ending, more clearly than ever before, His gracious hands working in my life just as He promised for Israel...
Whatever it was inside my eating disorder that cut me down, the Lord's hand took it over and made me a holy seed. Whatever it was inside your deepest struggle that crushed you, His hand wants to make you a holy seed, as well. His purpose in your suffering isn't to defeat you or kill you, but rather to use you as servants to glorify His holy name. You will become a holy seed of God's Good News! You will be made new by the Spirit, as He promises in Ephesians 2.
- Chapter 37 tells of King Hezekiah's reaction to the king of Assyria's threats. King Hezekiah first instinct was not to respond directly to the king of Assyria. It was not to turn to his allies and his people for advice. It was to look to the Lord in prayer and ask for peace. I wondered how three-year-suffering would have been different, had I made prayer my first instinct. I wondered if my suffering would have even continued for as long as it did, had I humbled myself enough to bring my fears to the Lord, first and foremost.
- Chapter 59 answered one of the biggest questions I've held regarding God's love for us - if He loves us so much, then why does He allow bad things to happen? Why do I sometimes feel so far away from him? At the time I read this chapter, I was searching endlessly and for a job and feeling overcome with the stress of it all. It seemed as though God had backed away from me a little bit, as though He pulled His comforting hand out of my life. However, it is not the Lord who backs away or ignores us in these times, but rather it is our sin that causes us to feel distant from Him. Overwhelmingly moved by this realization, I couldn't keep it inside my own heart and I just had to share it - read it all here.
My biggest take-away:
- Well, I'm never really able to pick just one thing (if you're a close friend/family member, you know that all too well) of anything, but I guess what blew me away throughout Isaiah was how familiar it all sounded in comparison to my life. Each verse, each command and promise and word from the Lord walked me through my eating disorder. From the very beginning, three years ago - feeling ugly and unworthy - through to the very end, only a few months ago - feeling beautiful and cherished by the One who chose me - Isaiah painted it all, and finished it off with accents and sparkles and shimmers of God's grace.
- Idolization truly does lie at the heart of sin. Israel worshipped itself, along with treasures of this world and self-proclaimed kings and rulers, and I worshipped my own appearance, along with lies told by social media and self-proclaimed kings and rulers of today. The Lord clearly pointed this out to me through one of my favorite books, Idols of the Heart, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and again through the book of Isaiah.
My favorite verses:
Thank you for reading, and I encourage you to delve into the book of Isaiah. If you've gone through something similar to an eating disorder, this book brings comfort beyond belief. Comfort I wish I'd known existed in the heat of my worst few years. But, all in all, God's word stands and is the same yesterday, today, and forever :) thanks, God, for speaking to me.