Regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status, women around the world and throughout time have faced (and still do) incessant attacks on their souls through lies propagated by the Enemy about beauty and value.
From the deception of Eve by the serpent in Genesis 3, to the isolation and suffering experienced by the bleeding woman in Mark 5, to the worried distraction of Martha in Luke 10, Scripture shows us that there are schemes of Satan aimed at pulling our hearts, bodies, and minds away from the Lord and from each other.
The Enemy does this through distracting from and distorting God’s Word—from God’s declaration of Who He is and who He created us to be. By twisting our attention away from Christ, the One who is most beautiful and valuable, and who bestows those attributes onto us who bear His image, Satan accomplishes his goal of getting us to sin.
One of the main avenues through which the mind is consumed with selfish desire and led away from Christ is regarding body image. Though I have struggled with having a healthy body image for most of my life, sophomore year of college was one of the times where my desire to be “beautiful” almost destroyed me.
That year, I distinctly remember having my eyes on myself more than on Jesus. After countless protein shakes, skipped meals, missed social gatherings, and intense workouts six days a week, it still wasn’t enough. I did not look as becoming as the women in the media. I did not even look as good as the women on my campus. Even as a follower of Christ who knew all of the “right answers” about how I should view my body in light of God’s love, my 19-year-old self stared down the figure in the mirror with disdain and self-loathing. I had embraced the waves of lies that were daily crashing against my soul.
This struggle is not unique to me. And, though I speak specifically to women now primarily out of experience, the struggle of seeking lesser things is a human struggle. When our hearts believe the lie that there is something more beautiful and more valuable than Jesus Christ, our lives will reflect our rejection of that truth. Romans 1 speaks to this reality throughout the entire chapter, but especially in verses 21-23a (ESV):
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…
Christian: whether your struggle is with insecurity, lust, pride, or some other futile pursuit, actively pray and fight against the unrighteousness spoken of in this text.
The omniscient God of the universe chose to give His people definitions of beauty and value through His Word. God is beautiful (Psalm 27:4). God promises that His people “shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord” (Isaiah 62:3a). Through Paul’s letter to Timothy, we know that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). We cannot say that our Heavenly Father has failed to provide guidance for what we should find valuable. Nor can we bemoan that he has failed to give instruction for how to actually behold beauty or even become beautiful. Believer, behold and be transformed by the glory of God! There is nothing more precious or lovely than this.
You have two options: either listen to the lies of satan woven through your culture or listen to the truth found in the Scriptures. In order to help you embrace a more healthy perspective on your body, here are a few more thoughts to cling to when you find yourself struggling:
1. We are to honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
2. We are to give thanks to God for everything—including our bodies (Ephesians 5:20).
3. To the best of our ability, we are to use our bodies to make known our Maker (Isaiah 52:7).
4. We are to remember that we are part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).
I wish I chose to fight with these truths when I stood in front of that mirror a few years ago. I lost so much time and energy to things of so little worth! And what was left in the wake of my pursuit of being thin? A worn body, anemic relationships, and an insipid spiritual state. God wants more for us than this self-centered approach to life. Ask Him to keep you from sulking in thoughts of unsatisfied self-pity.* Ask Him to help you “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). Though it may take time, you will find that by the power of the Holy Spirit this practice will help you in a much deeper and lasting way than any self-esteem book or trip to the gym ever could.
Rather than losing our lives to the fleeting siren song of self-glorification sung by culture, may we be women (and men) who seek and faithfully follow the clear beacon of truth about our identity in Christ, unto eternal glorification of our Most Beautiful Savior.
*For women who develop eating disorders, these thoughts and patterns of behavior surpass lifestyle choice and develop into an illness requiring medical attention. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Researchers are finding that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors." Even women who love Christ deeply can develop this illness. If you are one of the many woman being impacted by an eating disorder, I encourage you (with love in Christ and without any condemnation) to seek professional treatment.