“Mom, am I pretty?” Three daughters. Each is very different in personality. Yet, each has asked this simple question over the years. As they grew older, my opinion was dismissed by the more important opinion of culture. You can hear my daughters, right? “Of course you think I’m pretty. You’re my mom.” For each, pretty became defined by the world: t.v., social media, friends, the mirror.
I can’t quite remember when they started to be aware of their bodies. I just remember it happened way earlier than I had expected. However, none of the three have ever asked “Mom, am I fat?” Rather, their body image woes were a periodic declaration as they walked by me. Proclaimed in various emotional states:
Frustration: “Ugh, everything I own makes me look fat!”
Disgust: “My skin is horrible.”
Anxiousness: “I can’t try on bathing suits, let alone go to the beach! I need to do squats.”
Insecurity: “Ugh, She’s so perfect. I wish I looked like her.”
Women can easily become obsessed with outward appearance. And, it starts young. What we see in the mirror or on the scale determines our mood, destroys our confidence, and lays claim to our identity (daughter of the King vs. vegan; alive in Christ vs. beautiful). We sacrifice money and time to change, camouflage, or fix what we dislike. We sacrifice our emotional well-being in the desire to look different. Outward appearance has become a stronghold; enslaving us and taking our thoughts captive. Whether the bricks of our body image stronghold are insecurity or vanity isn’t the issue. What matters: this stronghold distorts and destroys relationships, derails our Kingdom purpose, and can, if left unsurrendered, devour our faith.
I have felt every single one of my daughters’ feelings. As their mom, I want them to see all that I see. As a believer, I pray that they see themselves through God’s eyes because His love for my girls is far above the love I feel. I want them to know He is better than any feelings they have about their bodies. I want them to seek Him and trust that God doesn’t want us burdened, enslaved, or consumed by body image. He doesn’t want this false idol (or any) to snatch His daughters from His hand. He wants us to live in the freedom and power of Christ: Freedom from the penalty of sin, but also empowered to resist every temptation. God has not left us alone to battle the stronghold of body image. In truth, He has equipped us to demolish it so that we experience His abundance and glorify the Kingdom.
So, let’s take each brick of this stronghold and lay it at the foot of the Cross. Let’s expose each brick in its walls to the light of His truth and determine their worth in light of His love. Let’s see ourselves through God’s eyes and exchange the bitter fruit that grows from the stronghold of body image for the immeasurable grace, abundance, peace, and love that flows from His truth: we are his image bearers.
BRICK ONE: PHYSICAL APPEARANCE DETERMINES YOUR WORTH
God doesn’t focus on outward appearance. In fact, He often reminds us not to focus on outward appearance because it is superficial, fleeting, and ever-changing. God is quite clear that outward appearance is not the measure of worth:
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as a man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in life to come.” (1 Tim 4:8)
“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Worth is determined by the condition of your heart. Ok. Ok. I can hear your eyes roll…remember: three daughters.
“Yes, Carol. I know. My mom and God call me beautiful. Inner beauty is what truly matters and determines my worth. But! What I look like, on the outside, is judged by the world and makes me feel _________ . My life would be better, easier, happier if __________ (insert physical feature(s) changed.”
I not only hear you. I feel all of it as well. But, in these thoughts another brick is exposed. Where the enemy wants to enslave us to the worldly definition of beauty (much like our physical appearance, what the world decides is beautiful is ever-changing), as daughters of the King, we know the world does not define the standard of beauty. God, and God alone, does. So what is the defining attribute of authentic beauty? According to Scripture, beauty is ignited FAITH.
BRICK TWO: THE WORLDLY DEFINITION OF BEAUTY
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)
There is a beauty that not only doesn’t fade, it grows increasingly more dazzling: surrendered, ignited faith. As faith increases, strongholds weaken. Faith renews our minds and transforms our hearts. We begin to see ourselves through God’s eyes. And in His eyes, you are:
WORTHY (Zephaniah 3:17)
A MASTERPIECE (Ephesians 2:10)
A TEMPLE (1 Cor 6:19-20)
A CROWN OF SPLENDOR (Isaiah 62:3-5)
BEAUTIFUL (Song of Songs 4:7)
WONDERFULLY MADE (Psalm 139:13-14)
And, make no mistake about it, the brighter your inner light shines for Christ, the more you become His image bearer, the greater you reflect His beauty. Throughout Scripture, God repeatedly and lovingly reminds you that the wellspring of authentic beauty is to be alive in Christ. He doesn’t want you to look in the mirror and pick apart His creation only to turn it to ashes. He wants your life to reflect the beauty of Christ:
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.” (James 1:23)
Surrendered, ignited faith empowers you to see your true reflection: IMAGE BEARER.
Is there anything more beautiful?
BRICK THREE: IF PHYSICAL APPEARANCE IS FLAWED, THEN IS GOD FLAWED?
The other bricks are heavy. This brick is heavy and ruinous. God is all-knowing. There are reasons Scripture reminds us, again and again, not to focus on outward appearance: it is fleeting nor does it determine worth. Scripture is your armor; reminding you to set God above all. He knows anything set above Him becomes a false idol (even “good” things). If body image is set above the Creator, then your perceived flaws can lead you to question God’s very nature: His goodness. His justness.
“If God is good, then why do I look like this?”
“If God is just, then why does she get to look like that, but I have to look like this?”
Whether your idols plant seeds of doubt, shame, resentment, bitterness, jealousy or judgement, vanity, and pride doesn’t matter. Setting anything above God damages your relationships, hinders your Kingdom purpose, and devours your faith. Through His Word, God equips you to guard against and destroy every stronghold, including that of body image. His truth reveals both His nature and who you are to Him so that the enemy cannot pluck you from His hand.
In the battle against body image, the most hashtagged verse on the gram is Psalm 139:13-14:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139: 13-14)
For good reason, too, Psalm 139 is a jewel which celebrates God’s character and acknowledges our desperate need for Him. However, “fearfully and wonderfully made” out of context turns this mighty sword of a verse into a band-aid. And Psalm 139 is no band-aid!
No. It anchors you in the humbling truth:
God does not change.
He is flawless.
He is good.
He is just.
He is faithful.
He is intentional.
His love is perfect.
“Fearfully and wonderfully made” reveals that the God who does not make mistakes formed all of you to be set apart for His glory.
Take a second: intentionally and lovingly crafted. Set Apart. Let “Fearfully and wonderfully made” take your thoughts captive:
Perfect love formed every detail of you. Chosen. Purposed.
The wonder of Psalm 139 is–acknowledging who God is and praising Him–it leads us to the important question: Set apart to accomplish what, Lord? The more you give to God, the more you sink into the water of His very nature, the more you see your true reflection: His divine signature woven into every cell, hair strand, fingerprint, iris, and body part.
So, when you look in the mirror, see the truth of Him: sister, there is no flaw in you. You are altogether Beautiful. Created on purpose for His purpose.
In context, Psalm 139 is a weapon against the stronghold of body image. It cuts through the enemy’s lies that your worth is tied to the outward appearance momentarily preferred by the world. Psalm 139 is a shield. It lifts us out of self and protects us from the world’s darts. Psalm 139 is the truest of mirrors: one that reflects the unchanging, rock solid truth of who God is and who you are to Him: an image bearer of Christ.
He is without flaw.
You are his handiwork.
Praise Him, so that your soul knows the truth well.
His works are wonderful.
You are altogether beautiful.
Carol Bevil is co-founder of Fuel Your Body, Feed Your Soul, a God-first approach to nutrition, body image, and food relationship. FYBFYS is founded on Romans 12:2 and focuses on renewing the mind to transform the heart.
Carol has been married to the best guy for 23 years and is a momma to four. She is an author, speaker & coach who has multiple certifications in cycling, personal training, and nutrition.
Raised in a Jewish family, she felt God’s relentless pursuit her whole life. Stubborn and willful, she begrudgingly attended church with her husband where she constantly pestered the Pastor. One Sunday, he challenged her to read the Old Testament and look for Jesus. There He was … on every page. She was baptized at the age of 40 and has spent the last 14 years doing her best to surrender her willful spirit and share her passion for Christ with everyone.
Read her books:
You Are His, 21 Day Devotional anchoring your identity in God’s Truth.
Break Through: 6 weeks to demolish diet culture strongholds
Follow her on Instagram @fuelbodyfeedsoul