Growing up, I had one primary prayer request: my mother's healing from her emotional illness.
As early as I can remember, this request topped every prayer list I ever made. It was the subject of every spoken and unspoken prayer request in church and Sunday school, the thing Grandma and I prayed for each time I spent the weekend with her, and what Dad prayed for every night.
With this much prayer going up on her behalf, I knew one day God might just get fed up with hearing her name and answer our prayers so we'd all move on to something else.
Dad said doctors were trying to help Mom, but only God could heal her. He told me I needed to pray for her. I kept praying, but it seemed her issues got worse instead of better.
When I left for college, I told myself I was done praying for Mom, but somehow she still found her way to the top of my prayer list.
During the first few months I was away from home, Dad told me that Mom had gotten so bad she would not go out of the house. Yvonne, a woman from a church in another city where Mom and Dad attended more than 15 years before, called Mom out of the blue.
"There is a Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship Meeting tonight," Yvonne said. "I'll be at your house by 6:30 p.m. to pick you up."
Miraculously Mom agreed to go even though it had been months since she had been anywhere. At the meeting, the evangelist spoke about emotional illness. After the message he said, "There are three people here tonight whom God is going to touch. I want you to stand."
Mom and two other people stood. The preacher spoke to each one individually. To Mom he said, "God touched you tonight and started your healing process. But for it to continue, you must fit your life into God's Word rather than fitting God's Word into your life. Read God's Word for what it really says, and do that."
Hanging On to Jesus
When Mom told me about this, I knew it was going to be hard for her. I asked, "So what are you going to do?"
She said, "I'm going to hang on to Jesus as tight as I can."
I was privileged to watch Mom begin her transformation. I watched her hang on tight to Jesus. I watched her walk out her healing. She walked out her journey, allowing God to revitalize her.
"Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God — which brings you trembling into his presence. God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you the passion to do what pleases him" (Phil. 2:12-13, TPT).
Following Mom's Example
As Mom was living her life, I was struggling with my weight and how impossible it felt for me to give up sugar. I began thinking about how Mom had faced the impossible circumstance of overcoming a mental and emotional illness.
I figured if Mom could walk out her journey with God's help, I could too. So that's what I did. There's more to it, but in reality, holding tight to Jesus is the only thing that can get us through something that has become a stronghold in our lives.
I saw how much like Mom I had become. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to try to think, worry and plan my way to lose weight and still eat what I wanted. Mom had tried to think, worry and plan her way to avoid life, which is what she thought she wanted.
However, Mom really didn't want to avoid life. She just couldn't figure out how to navigate her way back into life. In the same way, I didn't want to eat everything in sight; I just couldn't figure out how to control my emotions without trying to eat them away.
Letting Go of Lies
I finally saw what I needed to do. I had to let go of the lies I believed about God. One of the big ones was that God wouldn't answer my prayers. God had dispelled this lie, though, hadn't He? He had answered our combined prayers for Mom, but had He healed me of my obesity?
Then I heard God say to me, "I can't heal you of obesity because you are holding tightly to what you want. I have given you freedom and you have chosen to spend it on your own pleasures. You have chosen to eat what you want, when you want. It has always been your choice and, My daughter, it still is."
I had to do what Romans 13:14 (TPT) says: "Fully immerse yourselves into the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, and don't waste even a moment's thought on your former identity to awaken its selfish desires." When I stopped focusing on my selfish desires and started focusing on Jesus, I lost over 250 pounds!
To say God doesn't answer our prayers may seem like truth because He rarely answers them in the way we want Him to. He won't force change on us. He asks us to choose change.
God will lead us to complete freedom, but we have to listen to His direction and follow His guidance. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in bondage to things we wish we could break free from. These things creep in slowly, and before we know it, we have allowed a stronghold to take over.
Jesus will show us how to break our strongholds, and when we hang on to Him, the impossible can happen. That, my friends, is the definition of a miracle — something impossible happening when we follow Jesus.
Teresa Shields Parker is the author of six books and two study guides, including her number-one bestseller, Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor. Her sixth book, Sweet Surrender: Breaking Strongholds, is live on Amazon. She blogs at teresashieldsparker.com. She is also a Christian weight loss coach (check out her coaching group at Overcomers Academy) and speaker. Don't miss her podcast, Sweet Grace for Your Journey, available on the Charisma Podcast Network. This article first appeared on teresashieldsparker.com. For more on this topic, listen to episode 130 of the Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast, "Jesus, Heal Me," at Teresashieldsparker.com/podcast/.
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