fear and food
After the first time I had the flu, the thought of vomiting gave me a visceral reaction. I would collapse into panic attacks—crying, screaming, sweating, shaking—anytime my stomach began to turn. This fear became so strong I struggled to eat or leave the house. I hated this fear and what it did to me, but I felt powerless to change it. It subsided in my life until my first pregnancy; though I never vomited, I was gripped with nausea, and everything from this childhood fear came bubbling back to the surface.
God, why can’t I be free from this, even still? I prayed. What kind of believer, what kind of counselor, what kind of mother am I if I can’t catch a grip on this single struggle even now? Yet, in the midst of this fear, God has taught me that He is still faithful to us even when we have yet to conquer our greatest fears.
Battling to Know God’s Faithfulness
As I faced this struggle anew, I questioned God’s love and faithfulness towards me. Maybe his love for me has waned because I continue to give way to anxiety. If I were God, I would have given up on me a long time ago.
Thankfully, God is not like me—or any of us. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). God is perfect in all His ways—He is not corrupted by sin. When we base our knowledge of God on experience, feeling, or logic, we will never have an accurate view of Him. We need to know God in the way He has revealed Himself to us: His Word.
Each day as I battled to know God’s faithfulness, it was a battle to trust God’s Word over my heart’s lies. Passages like 2 Timothy 2:11–13 became my refrain:
“The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”
Even if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. Despite my struggle with anxiety, God will remain faithful to me. Not because there is something in me that demands His faithfulness (there is nothing good in me). God remains faithful because to be anything else would defy His perfect character.
Does this sound familiar? Consider your salvation story. We were dead in our sins; we wanted nothing to do with Him, let alone believe in Him. But what mercy!—God chose us for salvation, fully aware of our hatred for Him, and opened our eyes to His good news so that we could believe and turn from our sin. God was faithful to bring us to a saving knowledge of Him.
And it is that same faithfulness that sustains our faith each day. If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him. He will not lose us. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29–30).
With the psalmist we can declare, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8). By grace we were saved, and by His grace we will continue to be sanctified, even from our strongest fears.
Undoing Shame In His Faithfulness
I wished I could hide this fear under lock and key and bury it behind my house. I didn’t want others to see, let alone know, how I acted when I was nauseous. What would they think of me? They would be horrified, ashamed to know me. So I hid; I didn’t eat at other people’s houses; I didn’t attend church potlucks; and I didn’t want people to come visit me.
I hid this fear because I didn’t know how people would react to it. I wanted to know that they wouldn’t ridicule me. I wanted to know they would still love me despite my grave fear of throwing up. But I couldn’t rely on that; people are sinful, and they will disappoint us.
There is One I can rely on though. As I was learning, God had been and would continue to be faithful to me throughout this battle. He saw the panic; He saw the meltdowns in the bathroom; He saw the terror the sight of food sometimes caused me. He knew, and He still loved me and remained faithful. God was never going to abandon me. And that’s all I need. If everyone else left me, God would remain as my hope and stay.
We don’t need others to react well to our shameful fears, because God already has. God has seen all my shame and sin and He didn’t run away, but died on the cross for me. If God is the only One left when all see my shame, then I have more than enough—because God is enough.
Believing that truth, I could (though with shaky fingers) tell people about my anxiety. I told my pastor and his wife when I had to admit why I couldn’t come help out with childcare that day. Then I opened up to a friend to ask for prayer—to find out she had the same fear. As I became more transparent about my fear, I found people truly being the Body of Christ to one another, living out Hebrews 10:24–25 in the midst of my struggle:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
There’s a temptation to press into ourselves when suffering, struggle, and sin enter our lives because we’d rather others didn’t know about it.
But God calls us to continue to meet together, even in those times, and to open up to our church family. And while those people can’t fix us, they can be a spotlight to direct us back to Christ.
Maybe, like me, you suffer panic attacks each time a wave of nausea washes over you. Or perhaps you battle another form of anxiety or fear. As this fear continues, maybe you question God’s faithfulness. Friend, if you are truly a believer, God has not stopped being faithful to you. He won’t abandon you because of your anxiety. Our God is a faithful God. His faithfulness does not depend on what we do, but on His unchanging character. And by that knowledge, we can make our fears known to trusted friends in the church—because our hope and rest is not in them but in God, who alone is forever faithful.
Lara d’Entremont is a Biblical Counselor-in-training, and her desire in writing is to teach women to turn to God’s Word in the midst of daily life and suffering to find the answers they need. She wants to teach women to love God with both their minds and hearts. Lara is married to Daniel and they live in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Contributors to the "Behind Closed Doors" series are sharing personal stories about sin, and the redemptive hope found in Christ within Christian community. Our mission at Well-Watered Women is to equip women with a deeper understanding and love for God's Word, and we also encourage women who are struggling to seek the help of biblical counselors and/or medical professionals. You are not alone!