Why Christians Are Free to Struggle

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published Oct 11, 2023
Why Christians Are Free to Struggle

If God isn't mad at me for the war I'm facing, why should I be angry at myself?

This week has been a little rough. Run-down could describe my mental and physical stature between catching a cold and fighting allergies. I suppose that's typical for the time of year: Fall leaves remind us to embrace change and let things go. Cooler temperatures urge us to embrace those we love with a little more warmth than before. Dark clouds threaten what remains of autumn light shining through. 

It might sound cliche, but in these dimmer seasons, I begin to wrestle with myself, the girl I want to be versus the one I am. It's as if I'm closing one chapter in my life I love and approaching another one I fear. I'm eager to move on but scared of the unknown. 

Keeping Secrets Under Wraps

Closed curtains, fastened shutters, and tightly bolted doors attempt to keep out the cold, but something else chills me to the bone. Unlike cooler temperatures, the more we keep struggles inside, the greater they fester and grow. We don't grow warm and comfortable but weary and isolated. 

As a teacher and writer, I'm good at giving others advice that I fail to take myself. Being vulnerable and transparent about my closed doors with God and others marks the top of the list. I can't explain it, but some struggles are easier to write about than others. I wonder if this is because of a grave misconception in the Church: once you’re healed or delivered it’s for forever.

The truth is that most struggles in life are more like battles than a war. As my husband notes, they are ongoing brawls rather than single encounters that never return. However, that doesn't make them any easier to fight or live with. 

When the War Returns

Tuesday evening, I sat in that place, wrestling with something I keep hidden and something almost everyone knows about. Writing about mental health isn't always easy, but when anxiety and depression have surrounded you since childhood, the words often flow. 

When it comes to self-harm, however, I almost always run and hide. Something about eating disorders and addictions makes me shudder. I know that other people struggle with them, but shame convinces me that no one else does. The thought of having that diagnosis along with my other half a dozen makes me nauseous.


One of My Struggles

For seven years I battled Ana and Ortho. It was my coping mechanism for ongoing trauma, emotional and verbal abuse, anxiety, and depression. As my home and family crumbled, I looked for any sense of control. While I thought it served me well, nothing is life-giving about conditions that diminish and shrink your body. 

I kept this secret behind closed doors because I believed the lie that it helped me deal with my anguish. The reality was that I only hurt myself and others along the way. 

Before I knew it, family and friends grew concerned, and I was annoyed. In denial, I lied to faces, cheated my way through life, and avoided circumstances I should've confronted with honesty. 

That's the thing about eating disorders and addictions to exercise; they make promises they can't keep, convincing you otherwise. 

At my worst, I exercised three hours and ate no more than 500 calories a day. I'm embarrassed to say those words when I know I willingly threw away food I packed and children are starving in foreign countries. I'm also ashamed that I lied to those who knew I was becoming someone I never wanted to be but denied it anyway. 

By 21, my life was spinning. I was eating, but my exercise was unpredictable. A broken foot landed me in the ER that December, saving my life.

Sitting on the cool bathroom floor, I remember screaming at God: "Why did you do this to me?" As tears streamed down my face, He answered: "You know why. For your good."

From that day forward, I was healed. I never went to therapy or counseling for my eating patterns or exercise addiction, but God had taken the struggle away. I was in awe and began living my best life. When people talk about being delivered from addictions and struggles, that's what I experienced: full and whole healing that could only come from God. 

That's been my story. My testimony. My badge of honor. 

The Battle Isn't Over

I didn't know what to do when threats came back, knocking many years later. They looked different. But something still felt off. 

Ashamed, I attempted to fight alone. 

I realize now that weapons of war are only powerful when others fight with us. 

The Bible speaks of many individuals who tasted freedom, only to later struggle to find it. While it's not inherently broadcasted in the Church often, it's true. 

  • David destroyed Goliath, but Bathsheba threatened to destroy him. 
  • David was strong in the Lord, but couldn't destroy Ishbi-benob on his own. 
  • Peter was one of Jesus' first disciples but denied that He even knew Him when it mattered. 
  • Paul did mighty works for the Kingdom of God but wrestled with a thorn in the flesh daily.

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus' healing and deliverance in your life doesn't equal a life without temptation, struggle, or wrangling. You may very well continue to sin, be tempted, or wrangle. As my pastor notes, Jesus' presence in our lives doesn't exempt us from the struggle of sin. It convicts us so we can't enjoy it any longer. 

Once you’ve been healed or delivered from something like anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder, you may think it's going to be forever. That's what I thought when God broke my foot and those thoughts, actions, and desires dissipated. 

Being Set Free Is Active in Our Lives

Here's the truth: I've been set free from the struggle by the power of Christ within me, but I'm not exempt from its presence, temptation, and ability to present itself in my life.

This helps explain why at 24, some of my ED thoughts and exercise rituals tried to come back. It helps explain why at 27, I'm still not happy where I'm at in my relationship with exercise and food. 

The presence of these wars doesn't mean my deliverance at 21 wasn't real. It very much was and is something I'll never forget. It meant that I was human. And while I still live on this earth as being in the world but not of it, I'm going to wrestle. Even after my deliverance. 

It's the same devil, but he brings new levels. 

It's the same anxiety but presents itself in different ways.

You can be set free from something and still wrestle with it. 

God isn't surprised by this, but He wants you to tell Him. Not to shame or condemn you, but to walk with you through the battle. 

A War Cry of Hope

This is my war cry. My SOS to say I'm done hiding behind the shame, guilt, insecurity, and fear that people will look down on me for still struggling with things I thought I was beyond. If God isn't mad at me for the war I'm facing, why should I be angry at myself?

Humans aren't exempt from trouble. Neither are Christians. We're free to struggle. 

The good news is that Christ loves us amid our wrestling. 

He doesn't ask us to hide or cover our imperfections. 

He asks us to run to Him for shelter and help when we experience them. 

I don't know what battles you're fighting today, but I know if you're anything like me, fear and shame can make you feel utterly helpless and alone. I'm here to say you're not the only one. 

You're not the only one struggling with an eating disorder. 

You're not the only one struggling with an addiction to exercise. 

You're not the only one fighting to be free from pornography. 

You're not the only one who's cheated, lied, and had an affair. 

You're not the only one who's struggling–we all are. Most people just aren't brave enough to confess it. 

As Tenth Avenue North beautifully writes: "Hallelujah! We are free to struggle. We're not struggling to be free. Your blood bought and makes us children. So children, drop your chains and sing."

How beautiful is that first line? We are free to struggle; we're not struggling to be free. Our freedom as Christians was bought with Jesus' blood. We're no longer chained to the things of this world. Our salvation through Christ has purchased us from sin. But we will still struggle. Fight wars and battles. Wrestle. And that's okay. 

Because we're His children. 

He loves us. 

He sees us fighting. 

That's strength written as beauty. 

Certainly not something to be ashamed of. 

Agape, Amber 

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Miguel Bruna

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.