We live in a culture that glorifies bodies. Many of us feel the pressure to make our bodies live up to unattainable standards set up by society. God created us, including our bodies, “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalm 139:14), but that’s something easily lost on us amidst all the pressures we feel, especially, perhaps, in our twenties.
In her article for Relevant titled “What I Wish I Knew about My Body in My Twenties,” Ann Swindell gives a few important insights into how to view our bodies from a biblical, holistic perspective.
We all know that who and what we surround ourselves with will influence how we think and what we do. Once we begin to counter what culture says about body image and immerse our minds in healthy, biblical ways of viewing our bodies, we will likely experience not only greater contentment with the bodies God has given us, but greater spiritual growth.
Swindell provides four main points which are helpful in seeking a healthy, biblical view of our bodies.
First, the primary purpose of our bodies is not to attract others. While this may seem obvious, we often don’t live as if we believe it. It’s good to want to look our best, especially for special occasions, celebrations, or for church where putting in effort to look nice can be a sign of honor and respect to God or to those we are celebrating, but an overemphasis or obsession on personal appearance can actually distract from opportunities to serve others.
Second, says Swindell, your actual health is much more important than a number on a scale. In high school I remember wanting to get my weight down to a certain number. I had very shallow reasons for wanting to have this certain weight. I was placing a lot of my identity on something that didn’t even begin to define who I was. I never reached my desired weight while in high school, but during college, I was introduced to a workout instructor and program that I just really loved, and without trying to lose a specific number of pounds, I lost the weight I had wanted to lose in high school.
While getting fit is not always as anecdotal as this, having a mindset of wanting to be good stewards of the bodies God has given us instead of looking only at our weight is a much healthier, holistic approach that is less likely to occasion depression or negative thoughts associated with body image.
“It’s easy to get caught up in a faulty measuring stick when you feel as though you have nothing else of value. I knew that I had so many qualities and talents that had been hibernating due to my fixation on the physical. I had to take the time to stretch those muscles again and realize that I had so much more to offer the world than my appearance,” says iBelieve.com contributor Debra Fileta in her article “4 Truths to Remember When You Hate Your Body.”
Outward focus instead of inward focus is key: “[Y]ou will be living in this body for the rest of your life,” says Swindell. “Try to think long-term about caring for it and preparing it for a lifetime of work, service and love.”
Third, says Swindell, sex is wonderful, but it’s not “the pinnacle of existence.”Just like our culture is obsessed with body image, it is obsessed with sex. Attractiveness is often boiled down to how sexually desirable someone is.
“But what I wish I had known in my twenties was that the other aspects of sex—the emotional aspect, the spiritual aspect, the relational aspect,” says Swindell. “These are the things that make sex deeply satisfying, over and over again, with the same person, in the context of a godly marriage.”
Fourth, it is important to remember that our bodies are decaying, even at this very moment. While this thought initially seems distressing, it actually helps cultivate a realistic view of God’s plan, involving our whole person.
“Therefore we do not lose heart,” says Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
One day, God’s Word tells us, He will give us new bodies and we will be able to throw off these old “tents” with which we are clothed (2 Corinthians 5:4), but until that day, we have the opportunity not only to be good stewards of our bodies–to treat them as marvelous gifts from God–but to cultivate and exercise our spiritual disciplines which Paul says, “has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
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