Arizona-based Trinity Church pastor Mark Driscoll recently shared his thoughts on eating disorders and how, using Scripture, those struggling with such issues can overcome them.
In a video shared on his personal website, the former Mars Hill pastor responds to a letter from a 28-year-old woman who reveals that she, her sister and her mother have struggled with eating disorders for years. The young woman asks the pastor: "Are eating disorders a sin or a disease?"
In the 15-minute video, Driscoll voices concern for the writer and acknowledges that "it is a very difficult day to be a young woman," as the pressures of social media and pornography prompt many women to abuse their bodies.
"This is a very devastating cultural set of conditions for young women," he says.
The pastor first addresses men, urging them to love, encourage and nourish their wives and instill confidence in their daughters.
"The standard of beauty is your wife," he says. "God didn't come to Adam and say, 'Tell me what your type is and I'll make a woman that meets your type.' He brought to Adam a woman named Eve; he gave Adam a wife. And in doing so, God didn't give men a type, he gave men a wife, and your wife is your type."
He urges men to follow the words of Job 31:1, which reads, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman."
When men have an objective standard of beauty, they pressure their daughters, girlfriends, and wives to constantly strive for unattainable perfection as to receive their approval, the pastor says.
"This leads to the devastation and destruction of women who are trying to live up to something that God never intended or created them to," he explains. "Make sure you don't make any backhanded or negative comments or criticism or snide remarks - those years of development are difficult enough. Encouragement...from dad is incredibly important to the development of a young woman's self-identity."
"Your Father in Heaven loves you as you are," Driscoll tells the young woman, and explains that he doesn't feel he is in a position to specifically answer whether eating disorders are a sin, as he doesn't know the circumstances surrounding her .
However, the pastor reveals that he would encourage anyone struggling with such issues to ask themselves, "Am I violating God's word with my behavior?" If the answer is yes, then the answer is repentance, which in turn changes desires, behaviors, and lifestyles.
Second, he addresses idolatry and worship: "It can be a body type, an achievement, a father's approval, a boyfriend's approval, a husband's approval...food or body image... who desires us...what is driving your life? If it's anyone or anything other than Jesus, it's idolatry."
The way out of that trouble, he argues, is by worshiping God and honoring Him with one's body.
Third, the pastor discusses condemnation and forgiveness: "Sometimes we feel like our past can haunt us forever, and what we need is God's forgiveness. So, any guilt or shame or you might bear, Jesus loves you, He died for you, He's given you his righteousness, He sees you as God's daughter, and He is there to love you and adore you. God is only good, and His heart is a father's heart. You don't need to live in condemnation over what you've done, you've been forgiven."
Driscoll also argues that often, Satan lies to women about themselves: "If you recognize this oppression, you can get out of it by acknowledging what God has to say," the pastor says.
"Whatever the oppression is, it's telling you something that's not true...God doesn't speak to you that way. Maybe a spiritual being is lying to you...This oppression might even be generational, generations of women in your family have been under this demonic torment and oppression. God wants you to walk in freedom and deliverance."
Sometimes, we can believe these lies and act upon these lies, the pastor laments: "Are you hearing that you're ugly? Are you hearing that you're unlovable? Are you hearing that you need to do some things or feel a certain way for someone to really value you?" he asks. "That's a lie - what does the Scripture say? What does the Lord say? What does the Holy Spirit say? Just calculating those will help you find the truth, and the truth sets us free."
God can heal all brokenness, Driscoll says, and wants to heal both the bodies and the souls of His people.
"The brokenness you feel internally needs to be healed by the Holy Spirit," he says. To do this, one must pray and invite the Holy Spirit in their life.
"Christ comes to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and you are God's daughter," he asserts. "Sometimes decisions we make aren't in violation of the Scriptures; they're just not wise. If so, you need to ask God for wisdom."
He also urges those struggling with eating disorders and other problems to seek help and healing, and spend some time with the Scriptures and think through the issues. The pastor asks, "What does repentance, worship, forgiveness, deliverance, truth, healing, cleansing, wisdom and wellness look like to help you move forward to become the person that God intends for you to be in Christ?"
According to the National Association of Eating Disorders, up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia, and as many as 10% of college women suffer from a clinical or nearly clinical eating disorder, including 5.1% who suffer from bulimia nervosa.