Every woman wants to be beautiful in her own way. She may have smile lines around her eyes, or use a walker to move because she is elderly, but she still wants to be attractive in the way God created her.
What makes you feel beautiful?
When I asked women at my church this same question, the responses varied. Here is some of what they said:
- When answering that question I sensed a distinction between ‘I feel beautiful’ and ‘I feel loved’ and ‘I do not feel embarrassed or ashamed’. I recognized that my sense of feeling beautiful does not come from another person thinking I am beautiful. It comes mostly from God making me beautiful …. although clothing does make me feel beautiful to some extent, it is really extra adornment and means nothing if my heart is not beautiful. I think beauty is inherent, not imposed or a matter of striving or plastering.
- Spiritual – I feel beautiful when someone reminds me of the fact that I am created by God in His image, meaning He didn’t make any mistakes when he designed me!”
- Non-Spiritual – I feel beautiful when I have showered, my legs are silky smooth, my hair is behaving and the face is blemish free – oh, and an added perk is fitting into that pair of jeans that have been stashed in the closet for way too long in hopes of wearing again after a few pounds have been shed.
- . . . when I know I’m loved and appreciated.
- I feel beautiful when I feel skinny. I hate to say that is the truth- I think I feel happy, joyful, and content when I am with my family and outside in nature… but I mostly feel beautiful when I feel skinny/ small . Unfortunately I think that shows a lie that I must deeply believe- for as long as I can remember I have felt like smaller is prettier.
- . . . when I’m playing with kiddos and make them laugh.
. . . when someone tells me I have a beautiful smile.
I also feel beautiful when… a smile is returned… my eyeliner looks even … I put on red lipstick… I stop and thank God for my many blessings. Truly, when you really sit back and realize how much you have been gifted, I truly feel blessed beyond measure.
- …. beauty might be anything that inspires, stirs emotion, thankfulness, imagination; it expresses itself in a way that touches our soul and deepest feelings; [true] beauty is gracious, gentle, fearlessly honest; has a tone of hopefulness even through sorrow; is gracefully varied in tone, volume, and speed; is neither imposing nor timid; and it complements rather than competes with other things that are beautiful . . .
God Made Beauty
It was a pleasure to read such honest and thoughtful responses! After all, there is nothing inherently wrong with the desire to be beautiful. God created the concept of attractiveness in the first place. Anything that is true, good, or beautiful in this world is ultimately a reflection of Him. Within every heart, there is a yearning for beauty. Why? Because God Himself radiates the Light of the beauty of His glory. We are drawn to a beautiful sunset, a piece of music, or the Northern Lights because they reflect His glory, which we can only take a glimpse of now.
For women in particular, we tend to struggle with defining ourselves in terms of our physical looks. The world bombards us daily – even hourly – with messages from magazines, advertisements, and social media that say we must look at certain way in order to be attractive. “Reach this certain weight and you will be happy.” “If you aren’t beautiful like ______, then you won’t be loved.” A woman’s desire to be beautiful is not wrong, but it can become an idol in her heart if that is how she is defining her self-worth. It’s easy to unconsciously accept those lies from the world, but the good news is that you don’t have to believe them. They are false statements; they are promises which cannot truly deliver in a sustaining way, even if they offer temporary pleasure.
On the other hand, the fact is some people are born with good looks. You are walking down the street and … bam, your eyes can’t help but notice that nice work of art that just walked by on the left [Insert whistle]. In the Bible, several women were described as quite lovely: Esther (Esther 2:7), Rachel (Genesis 29:17), Sarah (Genesis 12:11), Rebekah (Genesis 24:16) and even Job’s second round of daughters were known to be the most beautiful in all the land (Job 42:15).
However, our physical appearance is going to change with time. It is vain in the sense that it is not permanent, and will be in a constant state of transition (Prov. 31:30).
Physical attractiveness is also a bit complex and mysterious. This is true on a platonic and romantic level. You may meet someone with the knockout credentials, but as you get to know them, they lose attraction. Conversely, we have all met someone who was perhaps average. However, what happened after you got to know them, and you realized they became more attractive? You learned that the person was extremely generous, or had a joyful spirit, or thought of others more than themselves. Any number of ‘X’ factors can increase a person’s attractiveness, but they are all based in the personality, character, and heart of a person; this is ultimately what God is most concerned with (I Samuel 16:7).
Physical Beauty Complements the Heart
Above all, God cares most about the condition of your heart; in turn, your heart (the mind, will, and emotions) ultimately influences your body. It’s an interdependent relationship for as long as you are in a physical body on planet Earth.
Let’s put it this way: what happens when you eat too much? You feel guilty, unattractive, and uncomfortable. Not only are you in physical discomfort, but your heart (your mind, will, and emotions) are affected by your choice to consume too many cookies. You feel ashamed and remorseful; that is your heart and conscience speaking. Why? Gluttony is actually a sin (Prov. 23:2; Prov.23:20-21; I Cor.10:31), and anytime we sin, it will have a corrosive effect on your soul, especially if it becomes habitual.
On the other hand, when we realize in our hearts (not just our heads) that the reward of pleasing God is far more satisfying than turning to ‘X’ sin, then we will begin to make choices that positively influence your body! What is happening? Our hearts are being fed, nourished, and cared for by the Spirit of God when we choose Him over sin (Psalm 37:3), and this will ultimately help you to make better choices in how you steward your body as the house for the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19-20).
When we do yield to God’s standards, it can be ridiculously hard at first. Sometimes everything within us screams to have it our way and do what we want. But making the right decisions gets easier the less and less we give in to a temptation. Pretty soon, you are enjoying more freedom from sin. And your heart will shine, dear friend, because of who He is – not from anything that comes from you (Psalm 34:5; Prov. 4:18; Phil. 2:13).
Let’s say you have decided that overeating can be a temptation for you. What happens when you don’t give in to the temptation of gluttony for several weeks? You feel lighter on the inside and it has physical benefits. You are walking in the freedom of not being in bondage to a particular sin! There is a kind of freedom that evolves as a result of discipline. And the reward increases your joy, even though the process is not easy.
His Heart Shines Forth the Brightest
The holiness of God is beautiful beyond comparison of anything in this world (Psalm 96:6-9; Psalm 4:4). Christ is attractive in a deeply satisfying way. In the interdependent relationship between physical and internal beauty, the ultimate goal is not looking good, whether that be in your body, heart, or character. The supreme aim is to savor the attractiveness of Christ; any inadvertent benefit of focusing on Christ will be glorifying to Him and attract hungry, lost people who need Jesus. Any Christian’s life can reflect the radiance of Christ when they are walking with Him. Remember the face of Moses when he came down from the presence of the Lord on Mt. Sinai? (Exodus 34; Psalm 4:4). His face was so bright people couldn’t help but notice the difference. And it’s true: your face will reflect the type of thoughts you continually entertain.
That is also why the Bible emphasizes the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet heart, which speaks of an appeal that only grows with time (I Peter 3:4). A quiet heart does not mean someone who is non-talkative; it simply refers to a person at rest on the inside and quietly trusting the Lord – not someone who is continually anxious or wrought up. This sense of peace develops when we are enjoying the perfections of God as our highest and most satisfying ambition.
The Purity and Attractiveness of Holiness
I don’t know about you, but thinking more and more about God, just warms up my heart in all the right places! It’s really quite simple. Your emotions will follow the path of what you continually think about. Here’s a good place to start in thinking about the beauty of holiness in God:
- God has never, ever had a sinful motive in His heart or actions; He is immaculate in His holiness (Psalm 24:3).
- God has never wrung His hands together and started worrying about your life (Heb. 4:15).
- God is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29).
- God has never done anything late or too fast. His timing is impeccable (II Peter 3:9).
- God knows everything. He has never forgotten the exact number of hairs on every person’s head on the entire planet at any given moment (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7).
- God has never lusted – not even a thought (Matt. 5:27-28; Heb. 4:15;II Cor. 5:21).
- God loves so many people while experiencing rejection at the same time (Rom. 5:8)
- God chose you for His own while knowing ahead of time every, single thing you would do wrong (Eph 1; Psalm 139; Heb. 4:13)
- God is never going to abandon you (Heb. 13:5)
- God’s way is perfect; His Word always proves true (Psalm 18:30).
- God’s knowledge, wisdom, and perception are flawless and greater than anything you could imagine or dream about (Eph. 3:20; Rom. 11:33-36).
Doesn’t that just make you sit back and marvel at the holiness of God? No matter what your circumstances are, as a woman, you have the opportunity to reflect the beauty of God in your heart and body in ways that are modest, unique, and glorifying to Him. Your heart’s longing for beauty, friend, is truly a yearning for the transcendent light and beauty of His immaculate Glory! The beauty of the personhood of Christ will feed your hungry soul in a way that no earthly definition or standard of beauty can . . .
A Prayer: God, let the light of Your face shine upon us today, that we may behold the strength and beauty of Your holiness, and reflect your radiance to a dark and broken world.
*If you want to read more on this topic, we would recommend Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre’s book True Beauty (2014).