In a culture that glorifies youth and beauty over age and wisdom, it’s no wonder that many people have low self-esteem because of their poor body image. Last week, I discussed the importance of having “God-esteem” to ensure a healthy, godly self-esteem. To recap, God-esteem means that we should esteem God so highly that we share his viewpoint of us (see last week’s post in full here).
But a big part of having godly self-esteem is a healthy body image. Easier said than done, right? Women especially play the comparing game and find themselves falling short. I know whereof I speak—as a teenager, I hated my appearance once I hit puberty (glasses, braces, and a rapid weight gain hit all at once), and those negative feelings spread their nasty tentacles into every other area of my life. Despite the gifts, talents, and blessings God had given me as a young person, I was depressed to the point of despair because of my appearance.
Thank God for parents who supported me, never drawing attention to the weight gain that caused me such angst; while they thought I looked fine, they also encouraged me when I began turning down treats and exercising regularly for the first time in my life. That summer, my dad walked with me early each morning before he went to work, and my mother found a fun Christian workout video I could do. The pounds came off, but more important, I established healthy eating and exercise habits that have stayed with me throughout my adult life.
At the same time, I recognized that my feelings of despair about my appearance were just plain wrong, and I longed to have a healthier attitude toward my body. I turned to Scripture, and of course, God in his wisdom offered some comforting words about appearance. I imagine they have been a balm to hurting hearts throughout the ages.
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. – I Samuel 16:7
To set the scene, God had sent Samuel to seek the new king of Israel among the sons of Jesse. When Samuel saw the eldest, Eliab, Samuel thought that he had the look of a king. But it was not until (as an afterthought) that Jesse’s eighth and youngest son, the red-haired David, was brought in from his smelly sheep-keeping that the new king was revealed.
Obviously, God’s opinion of us is based upon the truth of who we are, deep in our hearts.
Jesus spoke of this as well.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. – Matthew 23:27
I’m so thankful that God does not give a hoot about our body shape or hair color or nose size! In fact, he carefully sculpted all of those features for his glory (see Psalm 139).
But at the same time, as a Christian, I am convinced that the very character of God demands that we take care of our bodies. After all, we bear his image, house his Spirit, and should strive to be like him in all things, right?
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? – I Corinthians 6:19
So, as we do any other sin, Christians should avoid gluttony, laziness, and other forms of self-indulgence that will hurt our bodies and hinder our ability to serve God.
For me, that translates simply into regular exercise (which also helps keep me sane and centered) and healthy eating as a general rule. In recent months, our whole family has reduced our sugar consumption and increased our intake of fruits and vegetables. I love to bake, but I’ve cut back on having breads and desserts around all the time, instead making them occasional treats. We don’t follow a specific diet plan, but we do our best to fuel our bodies rather than satisfy our cravings.
And you know what? Just as in any other area that I’ve turned over to the Lord, I’ve been blessed with peace and contentment about my appearance. Though I’ve lost a few pounds and tightened up a bit, I’ll never be a supermodel. And that’s okay! Knowing that I am taking better care of my body makes me feel good about it. These days, I can look in the mirror and be content with what I see, just as I am content when other areas of my life are in harmony with Scripture.
I certainly wish the same for you all.
Here I am with our sweet dog, Jessie, who loves to share our yoga mats as we do “downward dog.” 🙂
Have you ever struggled with poor body image? Have you conquered it, and how? As always, I’d love to hear from you.