Our culture is constantly bombarding women with messages that tell them their appearance is what matters most. But God made bodies for much more than simply being viewed. Bodies are meant to be used in all sorts of wonderful ways to love God and other people.
As a woman, it's freeing to look beyond our culture's shallow view of your body and start using your body the way God designed it.
Replace lies with the truth. Recognize that the pressure you feel to conform to a certain image of what our culture considers beautiful is based on the lie that you're not valuable unless you look a certain way. Replace that lie with the biblical truth that your value isn't based on your appearance, but on the fact that you're one of God's beloved creations. Stop striving to make your body appear a certain way, and rest in the knowledge that God is willing to bless you no matter what your body looks like. Embrace the truth that you're worthy simply because God says you are.
Accept your body in its natural state. Don't worry about the ways your body might not fit our culture's standard of beauty - from a nose that's too big to breasts that are too small. Instead, embrace the fact that God sees every person He has created as good and accept the natural way He has made your body rather than trying to change it to fit a cultural standard. Let the way you express yourself through your body - the way you dress and carry yourself with posture and mannerism - send others the message that you really like who God has made you to be.
Overcome temptations with trust. You can overcome your body's struggles with cravings and addictions by trusting God to satisfy your needs instead of trying to use quick fixes to try to satisfy them yourself. Realize that nothing you do to your body - from eating sweets or drinking alcohol to try to find peace during stress to dieting to try to feel loved because you're thin - will ultimately fulfill you. Only God has the power to truly satisfy your needs, so turn to Him through prayer when you feel tempted to seek fulfillment through your body.
Stop judging. Be aware of judgmental thoughts that enter your mind when you see people who don't fit our culture's idea of what's attractive. Stop them by reminding yourself not to assign people a value that's any less than the value God has assigned them. Ask God to give you the confidence to make decisions free from the pressure of considering what other people will think of you.
Say "enough is enough." Resist the temptation to satisfy every bodily impulse the way our culture pushes you to do, from eating unhealthy snacks you don't need to buying extra clothes on impulse. As you break free of gluttonous consumption, you'll also break free from a crippling preoccupation with yourself. Then you'll notice other people's needs more often, and be able to respond to them by sharing what you have.
Embrace uniqueness. Stop trying to fit yourself and other people into our culture's mold of what's considered beautiful. Instead, thank God that He didn't create us all the same and ask Him to help you recognize and appreciate distinctive qualities in yourself and in others you meet. Realize that God made people unique because they're worth recognizing.
Look beyond appearance to function. Remember that God's purpose for your body isn't to appear attractive to others; it's to perform useful functions that help you love Him and others. So rather than worrying about what your legs look like, use them to kneel in prayer often, and instead of comparing your hands to someone else with graceful fingers and manicured nails, use your hands to do volunteer work to help others in your community.
Be marked by love. Jesus' body was marked by love because He used it to perform loving actions in the world - including the ultimate loving act, dying on the Cross to save people, which physically marked His body with scars. As one of Jesus' followers, do all you can to mark your own body with love, from giving blood or even an organ like a kidney to someone in need, to cutting your hair to be used for wigs for cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy. A lifestyle of self-giving love will transform you more and more into Jesus' likeness, so that others will recognize Him through your life and be drawn to Him.
Touch others with love. Use your body to express love to others through physical touch whenever you can, from hugging a friend to carrying your kids to bed. Use your facial expression to show others unconditional love and acceptance.
Age with grace. Don't fight the aging process that naturally causes your body to become frail and your hair to turn gray. Instead of trying to hold onto fleeting physical beauty, turn your attention away from yourself and toward others - and in the process, you'll find that God will meet your need for love more than you could ever get it met through looking beautiful.
Exercise wisely. Rather than exercising simply to look good, exercise in order to express love for God and others. For example, run around a park with a single mother's children to give her a break and enjoy God's creation instead of just running on a treadmill by yourself in a gym.
Eat wisely. Millions of people struggle with obesity, while millions more struggle with hunger. Ask God to help you keep a sense of justice in mind when you decide what and how much to eat every day. Don't buy food you don't need, and don't eat when you're not hungry.
Dress wisely. Choose clothes that are modest so you don't invite others to disrespect your body. Instead of buying new clothes every new season, buy clothes only when you need them and buy used clothing whenever you can, to avoid wasting too much money on clothes.
Find a body buddy. Get together with a friend each week to encourage, support, and hold each other accountable in a mutual quest to use your bodies in healthy ways that please God.
Adapted from Unsqueezed: Springing Free from Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights, and Stilettos, copyright 2010 by Margot Starbuck. Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Margot Starbuck is a popular speaker at conferences and retreats and on college campuses. She has an M.Div. from Princeton Seminary and is also the author of The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail (InterVarsity Press, 2009).