Our culture is obsessed with appearances. There is so much pressure to conform to standards for beauty, and so many of these standards are difficult, if not impossible to achieve. Fortunately, God has a totally different take on pretty.
1 Peter 3:3-4 says:
3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
Embedded in scripture, amidst some pretty sound marital advice, lies the secret to inner beauty…the kind of beauty that God recognizes. The sort of beauty all of us ladies should be constantly striving for.
Now, God has nothing against braided hair, or wearing jewelry or nice clothes, or even make-up. I think he knows most of us girls like to look our best. After all, he made us pretty and put it in our hearts to want to enhance our natural beauty. (And all of us are beautiful, in our own unique ways, whether we fit the mold that our culture demands or not.)
It is definitely okay to look our best. The problems arise when looking our best becomes an obsession. The following are some warning signs that we are crossing the line in our quest to look good.
- Comparing ourselves to others. Wishing we were “her size”, or that our make-up could look as good as “hers”, or that we had “her wardrobe” or “her style”. Such comparisons are seldom helpful, and often lead to being critical of ourselves and others. Whether we feel “not as good as” or “better than”, both attitudes are equally destructive.
- Spending so much time or money…or both, on beauty that we can’t truly invest in others or the Kingdom of God. Do we shop so much we can’t put anything in the offering plate? Or that it causes tension between us and our spouse? Do we watch so many make-up tutorials that we don’t have time to spend time with the Lord? Do we obsess over our figure more than our relationship with the One who created our bodies in the first place? Remember that we’ll be getting new bodies someday anyway if we know Jesus as Savior!
- Thinking that our looks define who we are. If you get really upset, or even depressed when the number on the scale or the size of your jeans goes up (been there, done that…way too many times) or when you see another gray hair or new line on your face. Or you spend your time worrying that you might gain wait, or get gray or wrinkled even before it happens. These are sure ways to exchange the joy of the Lord for misery.
Honestly, I think most of us have struggled with at least one of these issues at one time or another. We just need to remind ourselves that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! (Psalm 139:14) And that people look on outward appearances, but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Finding contentment with who we are comes through the realization that we are just the way God intended us to be. I believe the Lord loves variety. He loves the beauty of His female creation; young and old, large and small, every face, every skin tone…He loves us all.
There have been times in my life when I felt a lot worse about myself when I know I looked a lot better. Satan loves to get us side-tracked, and I think one of the main weapons he uses against women is our looks. He likes nothing better than getting us so tangled up in the pursuit of beauty that we are not effective in being the hands and feet of Jesus. Contentment comes with a healthy relationship with the Lord, and embracing who we are as a daughter of the King of Kings.
Do our lives reflect the love of God? This reflection is so much more significant than the one we see in the mirror. When I think of having a “gentle and quiet spirit”, I think of someone who is at peace with herself and those around her, who is content with who she is and what she looks like. “Gentle and quiet” doesn’t necessarily mean a quiet personality! Our personalities are as varied and beautiful as our bodies and faces. But the spirit…that goes deeper than personality, and the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If our lives produce these kinds of fruit, then our true beauty is sure to shine through.