Bringing the Dead to Life: A Story of Recovery

CW: eating disorder, restrictive diets, weight loss, overexercising


My not-so-guilty guilty pleasure is watching the dueling HGTV stars Hilary and David help homeowners with their broken, dysfunctional houses on Love It or List It. David tries to convince homeowners to list their house and move to a new, better home while Hilary renovates the home so homeowners can love it again.

While David’s showcase of the perfect dream home is exciting, I’m always more marveled by Hilary’s big reveal. David’s new house for the homeowners is a sales pitch, inviting the homeowners to run away from their problems. 

Hilary, on the other hand, tells a story of transformation— of taking something the homeowners had given up on and transforming it into a beautiful home. What once was abandoned has been restored. It’s as though the house has new life.

The transformation Hilary does for homes is similar to the transformation that takes place in our hearts when we turn our lives over to God. The Bible says God makes old things new (2 Corinthians 5:17), and he brings the dead back to life (Romans 4:17).

But before transformation can begin, we must recognize our inability to solve our problems alone and let God, the Designer, have full control. Only then can we be restored and brought back to life.

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God brought me back to life when I started my recovery journey from an eating disorder.

All eating disorders are different, but they typically include a broken relationship with food and exercise. Mine started from a desire to “take control of my health” with a strict diet and intense exercise routine recommended by the bestselling book of a naturopathic doctor. 

When I started the diet, I had a noble goal: achieve a healthier lifestyle. Soon, I did see the results I wanted health-wise. On top of that, people were complimenting me for my willpower to resist “unhealthy foods” and my discipline to get up early every morning and work out. I was proud to lose a couple pant sizes and stock my closet with new pieces. 

However, this new lifestyle had major side effects physically, mentally, and socially. I experienced dizziness and nausea daily, and I couldn’t concentrate at work. My sleep was fitful and restless. I declined invitations to hang out with friends and family for fear of missing a workout or not having food that fit my restrictive diet.

The physical repercussions aside, I became isolated from friends and family, overcome with anxiety, and unable to return to my previous, and actually healthier, relationship with food and exercise. Before seeking treatment, my life was full of the darkness and helplessness associated with being “dead.” 

Even in the first few months of recovery, it felt like no amount of treatment could restore what the eating disorder had torn apart.

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Three months into treatment, I attended a Good Friday service at a small, Anglican church. After the music, the associate pastor took the stage. He first thanked the musicians for leading worship then, surprisingly, taught us some music theory.

“Music classifies keys as major keys and minor keys,” he said. “The minor keys are the dark, gloomy chords while the major keys are the joyful chords. The key change is when all the chords in the song switch from minor to major or vice versa.

“Romans 8 says, ‘the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. [And] we ourselves…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship’ (22-23).

“Since the beginning and after the fall, all of creation has been calling out to God, for our world was on the minor keys—the gloomy notes. But when Jesus died and was resurrected, the cross became the ultimate turning point for all history. 

“Upon his resurrection, there was a key change, a turning point in the song of creation. And for the rest of eternity, we will be on the joyful notes in a glorious, major key.”

Turning point. The words echoed in my mind as the pastor closed the service in prayer. I knew my minor keys were well-weathered and worn. The eating disorder had taken over my life— separating me from friends, harming my body, and causing persistent anxiety. 

I felt as the prodigal son did in Luke 15 after squandering his inheritance. Starving to death and making meager earnings tending to pigs, the prodigal son finally relinquishes his pride.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father.’”  (Luke 15:17-18a).

Now, I was the one in the pigsty. When I was in charge of my own life, I put all my hope and energy into the wrong things. The master I was serving—an identity based on looks, approval from others, and perfect health—was a life that would ruin me, as it had ruined my relationship with food and exercise. 

I needed Jesus to be the key change, the turning point in my life. It would mean surrendering my strict diet and healthy rules and giving up control. It would mean not letting a number on a scale or a pant size rule my life, or an obsession with perfect health be my master. As Paul describes in Romans, I’d have to be “dead” to those things.

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus… Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life…For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:11, 13b, 14b).

So, like the prodigal son, I turned around and went home to a loving Father who ran out to meet me. 

“‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate” ‭‭(Luke‬ ‭15‬:‭24‬).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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Giving up control and surrendering my health to God was the ultimate turning point in my eating disorder recovery, just as the cross was the turning point in all of history. 

In John 10, Jesus says, “‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’” (John 10:10).

What transformed my heart was the truth of Jesus’ ministry. He came that I might be alive, not dead to sin or the things of this world. Neither is God’s love for me tied to my pant size, a number on a scale, or perfect health. 

 But like renovating a house, my eating disorder recovery was not an overnight event. 

For several months, I saw a therapist and developed a treatment plan with her. She helped me work through my fatphobia, negate harmful thoughts about food and exercise, and reintroduce a variety of foods back into my diet. With her counseling, I found freedom from the lie that my worth and value were tied to my weight and appearance. 

During recovery, I also gave up exercise for a year and a half since I couldn’t engage in it positively. Instead, I found ways to move that weren’t about the exercise itself like going on a walk with family or playing pick-up volleyball with friends. Lastly, I set boundaries around conversations with family and friends to avoid eating disorder triggers. While establishing boundaries was difficult at first, I found we have a lot to talk about besides diet, weight, and exercise!

Eating disorder recovery is a long journey with ups and downs and requires day-to-day maintenance on my part, much like a house. Daily, I battle with harmful thoughts and lies about my size and weight. 

But once I gave the Designer full control, God transformed my house. By his grace, I’ve been able to pursue recovery because he continues to help me let go of my old ways of thinking, so I can allow myself to be completely defined by my identity in Christ. 

And it’s not too late for God to transform your heart or your situation. He can change the minor keys of your song and be your turning point, and he wants to. 

Go to him now with confidence, for I can fully attest: Jesus came to bring the dead back to life. 

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If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or know someone who is, I encourage you to seek out treatment or help. You can find resources at the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) at Their confidential helpline is a great place to start.