If you’re a woman, and you’re breathing in this polluted air of impossible cultural standards with me, this post is for you.
I see you.
You’ve been on my heart and I need to encourage you. I need to tell you not to give up. I need you to hear me say that you, sister, are enough, because Jesus is enough.
While today, I do want to speak specifically to the pressure of physical appearance, I’m praying that regardless of your womanly plight, and your battle against the things of this world, you will be greatly encouraged by truth.
But if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and felt less than giddy about what you see, let’s talk.
I’ve been in multiple conversations recently with friends about body image, health and fitness, and the frustrations of not being where we want to be. Let me first say, I believe these conversations and endeavors bring great glory of God when they are saturated with the godliest of motives. 5 am workouts, meal prepping, prioritizing time at the gym, can we please redeem these as tools toward godliness rather than vanity?
These things are not the problem. The problem is the cultural hype. The problem is the obsession with self.
Here’s where we are, you and me. Yes, we. Despite our efforts to convince ourselves that we are where we are all alone, my hunch is that this is entirely false. We’re actually all, at a root level, struggling in very similar ways and being deceived by very similar lies. And, as women, this one is our lot, our gigantic, unbearable lot. This epidemic of image, of attaining physical perfection, of meeting impossible standards. We lean in as the world whispers, “Here’s the standard, here is the mark. Look like this, be like this. You can do it. You have the power within you.” In actuality, this is only a slight twist. But a slight twist on truth is still, undoubtedly, untruth.
Biblically, we do have a standard, indeed, a high calling. We’re called to be like Christ. But while the world puts the achievement of perfection on ourselves, the Bible places it on the blood stricken shoulders of Jesus. He came and took our weakness, in His grace, giving us His perfection.
So we find ourselves torn, between the biblical desire to steward this life and this physical body well, yet in desperation and dependence on Him alone to accomplish anything good in us, and a culture that places an ultimate premium on self-obsession.
Ironically, while the world peddles this elevation of self, I think what we all really want deep within, is the freedom to move past ourselves.
Over the past three years, I’ve been on the freedom side – trusting in Christ and working hard unto Him – and on the obsession side – placing more value than ever intended on my success or failure, consumed by physical appearance and worldly comparison. So I wanted to encourage you, and myself. As we battle today with whether or not to get off the couch, as we think about the less-than-ideal food choices we’ve made, and as we wonder whether we will ever lose the weight…
Give it Time
As resistant as I am to this truth, timing is everything. There are a thousand things God is working and weaving together on your behalf. Only a small portion of that will you ever see with your eyes. This is so frustrating and so beautiful at the same time. Remember that God’s ultimate goal for us is to bear His image and bring Him glory (Rom 8:28-30). This means through each and every day, each and every experience, and each and every moment, He intends to teach us and change us. So enjoy the process, enjoy the journey. We will likely have sin-issues to work on, junk to be sifted and sorted as we go. When we do it right, we may not see quick change, but we will see lasting change.
Give it Grace
Friend, we will mess up. Not that this gives us license (Rom 6), but let’s anticipate the grace that precedes us in any endeavor. It is no different whether we are attempting to make changes, big or small. Give yourself goals and commit to them, but give yourself grace when things happen, when life happens. Pray through the mess ups, get back up and keep going, with the help and strength of Christ in you. Too often we let discouragement or disappointment in ourselves keep us down and define us. Christ alone defines you, and He is your help in any time of need. Keep going. It will be worth it. And not just the result, but the journey itself.
Give it Purpose
It must be bigger than you. If you do it for you, you may see changes in the physical realm, but I believe wholeheartedly that they will never be enough. God honors our efforts motivated for His glory and not our own. Think through what you really want, and why. For me, God very clearly impressed on me to break a cycle of generational sin. I knew that His desire was for me to start living like I was worth the blood He purchased me with, to take my insecurities to the cross, rather than an order of McDonald’s fries. And God is slowly but surely redeeming bad, cyclical habits rooted in heavy hearts and faltered faith, and getting all the glory for it. When it’s bigger than us, we can let go of self-criticism, self-doubt and flat out self-obsession, and live in trust and freedom.
Give it Away
If the purpose is greater than us, it will likely not end with us. Be ready for God to use you in the lives of those around you. In fact, find ways to encourage and breathe life into the dry and exhausted bones of your people. You’ll find this breeds life in you too. Offer the perspective that God is pleased with our hearts, bigger than our failures, and walking alongside us in the very journey He has purposed for our good. We need each other.
Finally, in all of it, remember that He’s enough. He’s enough regardless of your dress size. Regardless of your eating habits (that may or may not be synonymous with your coping habits). He’s enough no matter your waistline, no matter your relationship status, and no matter what success the world’s standards have afforded you. Until we believe this truth, until we fight for it, for ourselves and for each other, we are bound to a vicious cycle of lies, disappointment, and shame. None of which your Heavenly Father desires for you, nor were you created to bear.
Previously published on Biblicalwoman.com