How many of us quietly stare at our mirrors with an inward aching over what is staring back? From the shape of a nose to the size of a mole, we are a people convinced that our bodies are not the way they’re supposed to be.
Dissatisfaction over body image may as well be categorized as part of the human experience. During dinner conversations, office meetings, or kids’ baseball games, people comment on body image; their own or someone else’s. Just listen. Outward appearance is nearly an obsession in our culture, truthfully. Someone walks into a room, we eye up what she’s wearing and how she’s wearing it; what she’s saying and how she’s saying it.
It’s Normal, Right?
Part of this eyeing up is natural. We have eyes to gauge our surroundings. Our surroundings inform us how to judge a situation and respond. If I see a car encroaching upon my lane on the highway, I judge the situation and react by slamming the brakes, or beeping if the idiot deserves it (kidding!). Yet, mostly these eyes are used for other purposes. We scan to judge a person’s character or integrity based on how they look. We playfully call it “people-watching”, but we should probably call it “people-judging” or “people-scoffing.” Those who struggle with judging other’s appearances the most, I believe, deeply and profoundly struggle with their own body image.
Consider how often you make conclusions about people based on their outward appearance. Or keep a tally for a week of how many comments you make solely about how something or someone looks. Or maybe count the hours you spend getting ready to go somewhere. Or analyze what you post on social media. Or study a few TV commercials. It’s all about the look.
Looking good and living healthy is not wrong. In fact, these things are commendable. But the looking good looks bad when you say any of these things privately in your heart:
“I am better.”
“I have more.”
“I’ve done more.”
The reality is that the deeper part of us admits:
“I am worse.”
“I have less.”
“I’ve done less.”
But our pride and love of self take over to craft a perfect individual to which all others should aspire. This is a big problem.
Can we not empathize here with our friends and neighbors who wrestle with their gender identity? They look at the same mirrors and say the same things: “This isn’t right. I want something else.” This struggle, if we’re honest, follows us everywhere too.
No matter where we stand or how we struggle with body image, there are a few simple things we must acknowledge:
- There are things we cannot control about our bodies. We were born a particular gender, a particular ethnicity, with particular features, all subject to an aging process. Can’t change it; can’t avoid it.
- There are things we can control. We can diet and exercise, pick out clothes, get enough sleep, maintain hygiene, and more.
Regardless, #1 or #2 do not matter unless we consider the maker of our bodies, namely God. What use is having perfectly chiseled abs or glowing makeup and hair if it’s not an expression of our love for and desire to honor God? Why change your body’s image unless it points to the Lord?
Body Basics According to God
Here’s a taste of what God thinks about our bodies.
He made our bodies.
“So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.” —Genesis 1:27
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted 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.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” —Psalm 139:13–15
He owns our bodies.
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” —1 Corinthians 6:19b–20
“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” —1 Corinthians 6:13b
Every person must admit:
- We are not the primary owners of our bodies. And for marrieds, we are the third owners: first God, then spouse, and then you. Thus, we should not seek to change the unchangeable of our bodies, including all its quarks and blemishes—they are from a good God for a good reason. This has huge implications. To be clear, I do not mean to imply that any change to a body is wrong; for instance, dyeing hair, losing weight, shaving, taking meds to alleviate pain, et cetera (refer to Body Basics #1 above).
- We are to honor God with our physical bodies. Thus, it’s commendable to strive for good health, treat your body right, and respect others’ bodies as well—not looking on others with judgment or envy, but with compassion and encouragement.
- Our physical bodies have purpose, having been designed by an infinite, all-wise, wonderful God. Thus, the way we are constructed somehow accomplishes God’s will for us and for others.
My daughter Adalee was born with a genetic condition known as Trisomy 13. The prognosis is not good for these kiddos. Many are aborted if discovered in utero labeled as “incompatible with life.” Initially we were told that Addie would not walk, talk, or have meaningful interaction, or even recognize family. The stats are just as severe: 95% of children with Trisomy 13 do not survive their first birthday. If they do survive, they struggle through a myriad of anomalies and delays. Needless to say, when Addie was first born our family was devastated. Every day was touch and go with anxious prayers that God would intervene and help this little baby girl.
Her physical body is fragile and suffered much in those early years. Even today she encounters more health problems than the average kid. But here’s what we’ve seen:
- She survived seven life-threatening events, four of which her mother revived her and one her grandparents.
- Addie was totally vent-dependent and hospice talk began. We prayed desperately, and within hours she started breathing again.
- She came off oxygen, which many thought she’d never do.
- Today, she’s beginning to stand with minimal assistance and can army crawl wherever she wants.
- She has six Christmases, five birthdays to date, and has been the beautiful flower girl at three weddings.
- She knows her family very well, often laughing uncontrollably when mom or dad get home. And she really likes her little brother.
Why Share This?
All we have seen in Addie is a gracious, powerful, intimate God who fashioned her body just as He desired. We now know more about Him and have seen Him bless other people by her life. Little of her journey has been easy, but Addie has purpose and her life is filled with meaning despite her bodies’ limitations. She is the joy of our family.
In short, your body is not a mistake. It is exactly as it was meant to be. Blemishes, flaws, illness, disabilities, and more are all a part of the world as we know it and, more importantly, a part of the Lord’s plan as He purposed it. We can’t run from it, but we can entrust ourselves to Him who has control over all of it.
Lord God, help us to trust You when things aren’t as we want them to be, from the way we look to the circumstances of life. Prompt us to consider honestly the fact that Your Son came out of heaven to put on a body which He offered as a sacrifice to You for us on a cross. Thank You for raising His body from death to new life! We look forward to the day when our bodies are perfect standing before You in all Your splendor and glory! Thank You for Your plan of redemption through Jesus Christ! In His name we pray, amen.