Today marks the end of my second round of 30-day antimicrobial treatment + strict paleo/low-FODMAP diet, and although it’s definitely an important milestone on my gastrointestinal timeline with SIBO, I’m not exactly in the most celebratory mood.
They say it takes 30 days to make a habit, and in many respects, this is true. For routine-based actions of daily life, like my morning + nighttime skincare routines or taking a specific supplement at a specific time of day, a month is plenty of time to train your muscles, so to speak. But when it comes to food, and changing or maintaining your diet, it’s more than mere muscle memory—-it’s a complete overwrite of everything that’s been programmed in my system since childhood. And if my SIBO journey has taught me anything, it’s that beyond physical health, it takes mental strength and self-love to bring about and solidify change.
The first half of the 30 days started out strong, but of course, as time went by and the newness of the challenge wore off, my willpower waned in tandem. And each time I gave into my weaknesses for “unsafe” foods or alcohol, I began to stress less importance on the crucial reasons behind why I began the entire treatment in the first place, instead choosing to ruminate and marinate in my negative human emotions. Feelings of disappointment in myself for not being mentally strong enough; in my body for not being able to handle and digest foods like it used to; in the expensive supplements that are designed and supposed to help, but seemed to show less effective results; in other people like my nutritionist in whom I wholly placed my trust and confidence, but who was increasingly M.I.A. and less reliable in my journey towards healing—-all of these melancholic emotions overwhelmed me to the point where I found myself constantly and resignedly admitting defeat. What’s the point of even trying anymore?
I’ve often wondered: these trials that I’m going through with my health and my stomach problems—-are they a form of God’s discipline and retribution for the sins that I’ve committed in the past? I know, this escalated quickly–and it sounds dramatic and heavy and maybe unpalatable for some, but I think it’s a topic worth mulling over.
I recently listened to an episode on the podcast Ask Pastor John (as in John Piper, and it’s a great podcast where he gives answers to questions on a wide and refreshing range of raw topics). The anonymous behind the question asked, “Pastor John, did God cause, or would God cause, my wife to miscarry our child because I have a struggle with lust and pornography?”
Although the subject of the question obviously doesn’t directly correlate with my current circumstances, its main idea resonated with me—-this notion that our sins and shortcomings can be the cause of pain and hardships not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of our loved ones. Of course, to a certain degree, this is likely true. It’s essentially karma—-what goes around, comes around—-and in many circumstances, the line between cause and effect is unmistakably clear. But what I’m more curious about is this theory that we might suffer consequences that are inadvertently interconnected with a sin or vice because they share a common thread. In anonymous’ case, he felt that his struggle with lust and pornography (an innately sinful and sexual act) was the reason why his wife lost their baby (a life that was created through a sexual act, holy within the context of marriage, but one that was possibly tainted by his actions). I’m not sure if any of this is making sense, but in any case, he concludes his question, confessing, “I have a lot of guilt right now, and I don’t know how to think about God’s discipline and punishment for my sin.”
Like many of you, I often feel the weight of guilt and regret when I think back on the mistakes I’ve made in the past. A huge part of me believes that the certain past decisions I made with my body inadvertently led me to my current state. And the shame and self-reproach that can come with that conviction often leads me to believe that I wholly and hopelessly deserve the difficulties that I’m going through.
In response to the anonymous man’s plight, Pastor John says this:
“What should you do? What should this person, this man, do if he believes that God has dealt him such a painful blow? And the answer is not in doubt. Many things are in doubt. Many things are uncertain in this situation. But the path of gospel obedience is not uncertain. The glorious truth of the gospel is that we never need to be sure whether a specific suffering is owing to a specific disobedience.
And the reason we don’t need to be sure about that is that the gospel forgiveness and gospel righteousness imputed through faith in Christ does not depend on that certainty of understanding. It depends on Christ and on faith in him. We don’t need to be sure about the connection between our particular sufferings and our particular sins in this life, because the death of Christ is sufficient to forgive the worst sin in spite of the worst suffering. That is the glory of the gospel.”
I know it seems like a stretch to relate my stomach problems to the gospel. But I’m learning more and more that when I can view the vicissitudes of my life–from the milestone moments to the mundane—-through a gospel-colored lens, I can continue forward with hope, knowing that my slate has been (and continues to be) wiped clean. I’m still learning how to live my life believing this truth to be sufficient for me.
At the end of the day, I wanted to encourage those feeling disappointed in failing to see a significant change in whatever habit you’re trying to form (or trying to lose), whether it’s related to food and dieting, weight loss, quitting unhealthy vices, making a point to read the Word every day, giving self-affirmations on a daily basis, etc. The inevitable shortcomings and failures, which are innate qualities of our fallen human nature, will undoubtedly have its tangible effect on your life—-but they do not define you. And we can find comfort and peace in that.
// ruth kim