Body image. It’s something that nearly all women struggle with: globally, only four percent of women consider themselves beautiful. Why is this such a widespread issue? God declared all of his creation good in the beginning. Adam and Eve certainly didn’t have body image issues.

Oh, wait. As soon as sin entered the world, so did concerns about our bodies. Adam and Eve immediately realized they were naked and hid themselves. I don’t know if Eve thought she was fat, but I wouldn’t be surprised. At any rate, what was meant to show the glory of God had been marred by sin, and we’ve been suffering the consequences ever since.

But like all of the fallen creation, our bodies are redeemed by Jesus’ death on the cross. As my pastor says, we live in a “now and not yet” state: parts of our lives have already been redeemed, and we have the promise of full redemption in the future. In the meantime, as we wait for a clear understanding of God’s design (and for our perfect bodies!), what should our attitude be toward our bodies?

Part of the answer lies in seeing our bodies as vessels for God’s service. We are not all called to the same service, and our bodies are all broken by the fall in different ways. Our perception of how God is using us can also be distorted by sin. But if we can focus on what we know to be true, it will inevitably improve our body image, taking our gaze off ourselves and putting it back on Christ and serving others.

God made you for His glory, and your body is created for service.

Right now, my sister Betsy is in a season of singleness. She cares for her body by eating healthy food and exercising, but she’s much too busy serving God to get caught up in too many thoughts about her looks. Church activities, children’s ministry, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry for her family, milking cows, and working at a greenhouse fill her days. She also invests in others’ lives by being a true friend and listening ear. Betsy is a lovely young woman, but she barely has time to glance in the mirror, much less obsess about body image, and her outward focus only adds to her beauty.

For me, pregnancy brought a fuller understanding of seeing my body as a vessel of service, rather than something to attempt to treasure in perfection — not that my body has ever been perfect. Child bearing is an amazing privilege, but it’s also where weakness is shown very plainly. With my first, I gained a frightening amount of weight, my feet, hands, and even face swelled, and I was sick and in pain for most of the nine months. My body looked terrible and felt worse. But God reminded me that I was laying down my own life (and “beauty”) for someone else, and I was able to embrace my changed looks by realizing that I was doing the work I was called to do. This mindset was also helpful as even after giving birth I was unable to lose weight while breastfeeding. Of course, I had my days of feeling hopelessly ugly, but I knew the truth: my body was being used in God’s service.

Isn’t it amazing that God would choose to use us? We are so weak, so broken, and yet we can be Jesus’ hands and feet to a needy world.  A prayer attributed to Teresa of Avila says:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

So if you’re struggling with body image, remember two things: God made you for His glory, and your body is created for service. Focus on loving others and serving Him, and it will help you see your body in the right perspective.

Image Credit: goodmorph via stock.xchng

3 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this article! It is fascinating that only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful – what a witness to the fact that the world has twisted the definition of beauty. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kirsten D. says:

    I came across a quote recently that reminded me of you and Betsy: “Happy girls are the prettiest.” (Audrey Hepburn) It is always refreshing to be with someone who is always cheerful, has a ready smile, and is focused more on others than on herself — the truest and most lasting kind of beauty — and time with you and your sisters always inspires me to strive towards being like you in that regard! *Hugs*

  3. Thank you, Jeannie, for sharing this!

    And that prayer is amazing, btw. 🙂

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