Shattered Surrender

February 26, 2015  - By Gretchen Saffles

The struggle of eating disorders and a broken identity.

my story

The following post is raw. It is a tiny glimpse into a struggle I had with an eating disorder in college, and my heart in sharing it with you is that more women would find freedom from the bondage of eating and image through Jesus. Eating disorders are one of the most hidden sins of our society, especially in the church. As followers of Jesus, we need to stand firm against this yoke of slavery and speak about the lies that women are believing all over the world about their image, food, and worth.

To the girl who is struggling with her body–I know. I have been there. I have walked the cliff of control and almost fallen over it in my struggle to make my body perfect and find my beauty in the number on the scale. I know the loneliness of your heart. I know the bondage of your thoughts. I know the pangs of hunger and the deceit of the mirror. You are not alone. But, I also know the freedom in found only in surrender at the feet of Jesus!

I know true healing. I know the joy of looking into the mirror of the Word of God and finding true beauty instead of the mirror on on the wall. I know what it is like to be satisfied by Jesus Christ alone and I long for you to know this as well! Freedom is not for tomorrow, it is for today, sister. And it is found in Christ alone.

Gretchen Saffles

To the friend or family member of the girl who is struggling with her body - This stronghold can only be broken through prayer and the power of Jesus Christ. It is a mental struggle and illness that should not be taken lightly. Even if you don’t understand, pray, encourage, and point your friend to the Word of God. Don’t try to fix them apart from the gospel. Don’t try to convince them they are wrong. Be patient, be supportive, and be there. The issue is not just in the body or the image, it is in the heart. We all have secret sins we struggle with, and the gospel is stronger than any of these strongholds. Let’s join together in coming to the cross for freedom and salvation!


That’s the number that glared at me on the scale. At 5 foot 10, I was a mere 115 pounds. Looking in the mirror, I felt beautiful. Finally, I thought to myself. I’ve finally reached the goal! After months of paying excruciating detail to my eating, exercising way more than my body could handle, and cutting every meal in half, I had lost 25 pounds. All while being involved in several ministries, including a Christian sorority, Bible studies, and our local church.

My freshman year of college looked drastically different than I imagined. Going into school, I felt confident and prepared. In high school, I was a leader in our youth group, on homecoming court every year, and involved in several activities. My parents encouraged me each day, and every morning my dad would greet me when I walked down the steps with a cheerful “Morning Princess!” My worth and beauty were affirmed through what I did and the words of my parents. I didn’t realize how much I relied on them to satisfy that longing in my heart.

Before I left for college, I made a surefire plan for my first year. The first thing on the list? Do not gain the dreaded freshman fifteen. I had been warned by many friends of this terrible thing that happens to freshman college students. Within months of stepping foot on campus, they gain 15 pounds. I had determined that this would not happen to me. So I made my infamous plan. I read books on how not to gain weight in college and went in with a mind that felt it was in total control of my eating and exercise.

The changes that college brought seemed overwhelming. No longer did I have my parents to encourage me every morning. No longer was I well known like I was at my school and church. I was starting fresh, which was exciting and scary at the same time. The possibilities for who I could be were endless. Without realizing it, I began a pursuit for beauty that would lead me down a narrow path of destruction.

Finding rescue in the Redeemer and letting go of identity struggles.


By my second semester of freshman year, I had dropped 20-25 pounds from my previous healthy weight. I was not overweight coming to college or unhealthy. However, as Satan fed my lie after lie about my identity, I began to see myself as fat. I obsessed over the mirror and with each glance at my body, my eyes became exceedingly unhealthy and unable to see the truth. Our university was big on encouraging students to live a healthy lifestyle, but in their attempts to point us to “healthy” eating and exercise habits, they fed me a list of rules I had to follow.

Every single sign I saw I obeyed. “Cut your meals in half.” “Don’t eat sugar.” “Don’t drink this…do this…eat this…” That is what I did. 

I cut my meals in half (which were already extremely small), ate little to no sugar, and increased my exercise habits. I remember walking to class feeling dizzy and thinking I needed to drink more water. At night before bed, my stomach grumbled and burned with insatiable hunger. I would eat a bite of an apple and low calorie peanut butter to help till the morning. Every meal was planned carefully and exercise was priority. Without realizing it, I began a downward spiral into anorexia.

This season of my life was not marked by blatant rebellion towards the Lord. As a matter of fact, I was truly seeking Him and involved in many ministries. However, Satan’s deceitful ways are astounding. He knows exactly where we are weak and attacks hard in those areas. I even used Scripture to cover up my sin. 1 Corinthians 6:19 was my go-to verse - “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” If my body was a temple, shouldn’t I take care of it? The lies of Satan were extremely strong and mind-controlling. He attacked me where I least expected it.

The eating disorder lasted for about a semester in it’s atrocious strength until God opened my eyes to my wretched sin and need for salvation. I will never forget the day I was washing my hair in the shower and noticed hair webbed in my fingers. My hair was falling out. I got of the shower and crumbled to the floor in total defeat and surrender. That day I drove home to my parents and confessed my need for help. My heart and identity were shattered in a million pieces, and my body was broken.

Psalm 34:18 tells us this truth: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” I was broken and crushed in ways I couldn’t fathom, yet God was near and He saved me. We sought Christian counsel and a nutritionist for help, and I spent countless hours journaling, studying, praying for freedom, and seeking to walk in it. My greatest fear was that I had lost my credibility as a follower of Jesus. I was afraid God wouldn’t use me anymore and that my sin was too big for Him to handle.

That is where the gospel rescued me from the pit. Don’t take this part of the story lightly. Jesus Christ reached down in my sinfulness and stronghold and broke the chains. As I struggled for freedom, I learned over and over again that there is NO freedom apart from the blood of Christ. There is no healing of our mind and thoughts apart from the cleansing of His Word. There is no hope apart from the cross. I share my story with you in its raw entirety to point you to Jesus. No sin is too big for the cross. He is still saving us. He is the great and mighty rescuer, and He has the power to break any stronghold!

If you are struggling with any kind of disordered eating, whether it be anorexia, bulimia, or an obsession with health and exercise, know this day that there is freedom in Jesus.

Well-Watered Women: Shattered Surrender

No program or self-help article will set you free like He can. I have tasted of the darkness and of the light. I have felt the shackles be broken off of my hands and feet. I have felt the freedom that Christ shed His blood for on the cross. It is real. It is now. It is forever. And it has the power to save you.

You are not alone in your stronghold and you will not be there forever. Today, if you have been hiding in the darkness, bring this struggle into the light. Pour out your heart and your brokenness before Jesus, the mender of all things broken, the repairer of our wayward hearts. You are not too broken to be restored, sister. There is hope and there is freedom.

The secret sins of our hearts were not meant to keep us in bondage. Let’s walk in the light of salvation, the truth of the Word, and the freedom that Jesus bought for us. I am praying for you today and that you would begin the healing process and start walking the road to freedom. If you would like to read more of my story, click here. If you are hungry for freedom, begin in Psalm 23, meditating, praying, and yearning. Confess this sin to another believer and seek help, first from the Word, then from wise counsel and a professional. The road to freedom is long, beautiful, and gospel-filled. Christ will heal your eyes and your brokenness. One step at a time.

Walking in freedom with you,


Read more about secret sins and identity struggled in our Blog series "Behind Closed Doors".

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  1. Your story will set many women free…continue to tell it and how the Lord healed you! I also struggled with an eating disorder. ..what a crazy deceptive lie…so hard to get out of, but as you said prayer is what works!! I know I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for praying friends and family!

    • says:

      Amen friend! Christ is the reason for our freedom! This is an issue SO many women struggle with in secret. I believe it is time we brought light to the situation through the gospel! Grateful for you!

  2. I am one of the people you wrote this for. I have struggled for all of my adult life with body image and eating issues. It’s getting worse. I recognize it for what it is now, but I don’t know how to make it go away. I’m a mom of 6 kids. I love my life. I love my husband. I love my God. I don’t know WHY I struggle with this so much…but it consumes nearly every thought…what I will eat (or won’t)…when I will exercise next. I HATE it. I WANT to be free from it SO badly. I read your words and hear them…but don’t know how to translate it to my heart and life. Thank you for sharing. It is encouraging to hear…but I’m hopeless that my heart will ever change…

    • says:

      I am so grateful that you wrote me, Courtney! I am going to email you!

  3. says:

    Thank you for this.
    I was just pointed to your page by a friend, and this speaks so much to me. I am a cheerleader at Ohio State, and I am in a world that constantly demands that we attain perfection. Perfect bodies all under 100 pounds, perfect hair, perfect makeup. I am constantly under scrutiny from so many peers, my coach, and my teammates who would say to me that I was too big to fly in stunts. Even as a strong believer, I have fallen into a lie of hating myself because of what my coach and other have told me that I am too tall or too heavy, even to the point of avoiding mirrors when I change for fear of seeing what everyone else tells me they hate. I know what the Bible says about loving our bodies, that we were beautifully and wonderfully made, and the man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. However, I have gotten to the point where I deny the truth of these words because of my role as a cheerleader. I am supposed to be skinny, everyone says. I HAVE to be skinny. Thank you for reminding us that we are not here to please people to please God, and the hole in our hearts for affirmation can only be filled by the cross. His love gives me value, and my soul finds rest in this peace.

    Lots of love from your sister in Christ,

    • says:

      Stay strong Allison, we are all in this together as the body of Christ we can all overcome this worldly pressure to be “worldly perfect” together. Stay strong and stay in His word. We are not the numbers on the scale and we are not what others say, but instead we are Daughters of a King.
      Much love,

    • says:

      Allison, my heart breaks for you hearing of the struggle you have had. I have been there, friend! I have felt the comparison and the struggle is so strong! The lies Satan tries to pin on us are nothing. Christ spread wide His arms at the cross and had His hands and feet pierced so our shackles would be set free! Did you get that? Freedom. Now. Today. The shackles and lies Satan tries to place on you have already been defeated. I struggled with the mirror just as you did and I even had to fast from the mirror. I had to replace the mirror on the wall with the mirror of His Word. In Christ YOU are free indeed. I am praying that He removes the shackles today so that you can see and feel the freedom!
      I would love to keep praying for you! Please contact me with anything specific I can intercede for you!

      your sister, Gretchen

  4. says:

    You took my heart and hit it directly with an arrow. I cannot say how much I relate to this in this season of college and never feeling enough from my past. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story!!

    • says:

      Danielle, know that you are not alone and that the Lord is with you and fighting for you! (Exodus 14:14) The enemy will not have victory! I am praying for you today! Please let me know if there are any other ways I can pray for you! You can email me at The Lord is your healer and your keeper! And you are so precious in His eyes!

  5. says:

    So thankful for you, sister! 🙂

  6. says:

    Thank you for sharing! You make freedom sound so easy. I am frustrated with myself. I have struggled with an eating disorder (anorexia) and exercise addiction since I was eight years old. I am now twenty three. It’s consumed my life and my mind. Although there have been seasons of less intensity, I’ve never fully recovered or found freedom from it. Letting go of the "control" and surrendering it all to Jesus seems impossible to me and frightening. I wish my mind and heart were completely focused on and consumed with Christ, but I am distracted by and consumed with what food I will eat and when I will exercise next. It is a terrible thing that seems like I will never be healed from. I’ve been to inpatient and outpatient facilities multiple times, in and out of therapy for years. I feel like the biggest failure in the world and have just come to accept that I will never be totally free from it. The most disappointing thing to me is the distraction it is from Jesus.

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