“When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to himself. We would almost think that God loved us more than he loves his Son! We cannot measure such love by any other standard. He is saying to us: I love you this much.
The cross is the heart of the gospel. It makes the gospel good news: Christ died for us. He has stood in our place before God’s judgment seat. He has borne our sins. God has done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that he loves us.”
We all have songs that we grew up hearing—in the car, at home, at concerts—that if we put together into one album or playlist would be a kind of soundtrack for our lives. Well, the new Sovereign Grace Music album 30: Three Decades of Songs for the Church is just such a playlist for me. I am so grateful that in the kindness of God this is the music I grew up on: songs of Christ-centered joy, faith, and celebration for the church. Here’s the heart behind this new album:
For thirty years, Sovereign Grace Music has been producing Christ-exalting songs and training for the local church. To celebrate God’s faithfulness, we asked a few friends to record 14 of our most well known songs. This album is the result. We’re incredibly grateful we get to write songs for the church and hope these fresh renditions will lead you to glory in the Savior whose praises will never end.
Learn more about 30: Three Decades of Songs for the Church at the album page.
“In today’s culture, youth equals beauty. This means that one day, we will all fall short of the standard. Sure, we can try to forestall the effects of aging and fake the appearance of youth with creams and tucks and lifts, but Paul’s description of aging is as blunt as it is inevitable: ‘Our outer self is wasting away’ (2 Cor. 4:16). Aging pries loose the fingers that have so tightly grasped onto the physical beauty of youth, one by one. The aging woman no longer relies on her looks for happiness or friendship. She can’t bank on her figure to get or keep a husband. She isn’t striving to gain beauty, and she has stopped worrying about keeping it. While she doesn’t look as outwardly attractive as she once did, it doesn’t matter like it once did.
God’s Word doesn’t deny or mask the effects of aging (as do so many of our beauty treatments). Instead, it declares that growing old in God is a gift, a blessing….
Scripture looks at aging from the perspective of the finish line and rejoices with each milestone of maturity: congratulations, you are getting closer! From this direction, even the outward, physical signs of aging are seen in a different light: ‘Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life’ (Prov. 16:31). God’s Word celebrates aging, an we should celebrate it too. For every day brings us closer to the day when Jesus Christ ‘will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil. 3:21). Even though our physical beauty will inevitably fade, we have the hope of the resurrection where he will change our lowly body to be like his glorious one. We will don a beauty beyond anything that we can imagine.
Though many women become hard and bitter as they grow old, a woman who trusts God, who pursues a gentle and quiet spirit through the many trials and temptations in her life, grows more radiant and lovely, even as she wastes away. Her beauty is an imperishable beauty, after all. This is the powerful, living paradox of true beauty.“
My daughter was hosting a baby shower for her sister-in-law, and I showed up at her house at 9 a.m. to help out. Thinking I would mainly be entertaining the grandchildren, I had already showered and was dressed for the event, although I planned on at least being able to freshen up before the guests started arriving around 2 p.m. Five hours later, sweat threatening to make its ugly appearance onto my clothes, I closed the storage room door behind the vacuum as the first guests arrived. Slipping into the bathroom, I ran my fingers through my hair and dealt with the sweat the best I could with some toilet paper! No time to run home for make up, perfume, or the curling iron. Years ago, this would have upset me. Now, in my sixties, I left the bathroom with an “oh,well” attitude, looking forward to connecting with people I hadn’t seen in years and to celebrating the upcoming birth of twins to a couple who had been praying for children for years.
Many of the women there were former neighbors whom I used to see when our children were all on the neighborhood swim/dive team. One particular woman arrived with her grown daughter, and my mind immediately traveled back in time, as this woman was always the most put-together, beautiful woman ever at any event, whether it was a 7 a.m. swim meet, when the rest of us all looked as though we had just crawled out of bed (which we had), or a neighborhood Christmas party. She was stunning no matter when or where I ever saw her. I had always imagined her as the woman who could vacuum in high heels without missing a beat and never sweating, of course. Now in her early fifties, she was still that put-together woman with perfectly applied make up and fashionable clothes. She was and still is easy to talk with and very kind, not intimidating at all, despite her appearance.
At the point we found ourselves in the same group of gabbing women, she began talking directly to me, asking those questions one asks to get caught up on another’s life happenings, as it had been ten or more years since I had seen her. As others in the group turned to direct their conversations elsewhere, I noticed her staring at me. Wondering if, perhaps, I had a poppy seed stuck in my tooth, I began to experience some embarrassment, even though I had no idea what she was staring at. Suddenly, she started questioning me as to how it was possible for me to look younger and more beautiful than the last time she had seen me! Knowing I had tried to give myself some semblance of eyebrows early that morning and had applied a bit of mascara as my only make up that day, and having a flashback of wiping the sweat from my brow and elsewhere just a short time before, I literally laughed out loud. Thinking she was simply being kind, I replied with some compliment to her looking beautiful as always, and I tried to change the subject. But she was not to be denied! She continued to ask me what it was I was doing to achieve my “youthful beauty,” as she called it.
I was dumbfounded. She was serious. She wanted to know my anti-aging regimen. Was there a certain product I was using? Was it a combination of things? She wanted an answer. She wanted to know the “secret.” Mind you, I had just completed two months of grueling 14-16 hour work days and was going to physical therapy twice a week as therapy for an autoimmune disease causing significant pain in my body. The doctors told me to stop my daily exercise program for the time being, so I had gained back the ten pounds it had taken me the last three years to lose. For someone to actually ask me about beauty secrets had to be a joke. But there she was in my face, actually staring at my face, demanding an answer. No joke here. She was obviously afraid of growing old and was looking for a clue to the fountain of youth. No clue here!
I have no anti-aging regimen or physical beauty secrets, I assured her. Gravity is affecting my aging body just like everyone else. Drooping eyelids testify to it. Wrinkles abound. Age spots are evident. The last time I really looked closely in the mirror, I made the decision not to do it again! Recently wanting to join in the fun of taking “selfies,” I immediately trashed the one I took as the woman in the picture was old and scary looking! No, there is no “youthful beauty” here. What in the world was that woman talking about?
It was actually that very night that I received and read your new book, True Beauty. I obviously could not and did not allay the fears my old friend was experiencing. But I do realize now that I do have a secret, shared by other Christian women, unknown to the aging women of the world who do not know the one most beautiful, our Lord Jesus Christ. The beauty she was seeing was Christ in me, the hope of glory. Yes, my life has been fraught with times of serious trials through which I have learned to trust my Lord and Savior, everything from a child with cancer, cancer myself, infertility, miscarriages, losing my husband to cancer, being a single mom of teenagers, financial struggles, to name a few. I have not felt beautiful through any of it, but I have felt and been loved by the one most beautiful. He has never left my side nor forsaken me. No, he carries me even now as I face losing my job. But in reading your book, I am excited about a new opportunity I will have to grow in godliness as my time opens up. I want to throw myself into those deliberate acts of kindness. I want to devote myself to good works and grow more beautiful doing so. As you wrote in your book, I want to do all the good I can, by all the means I can, in all the ways I can, in all the places I can, at all the times I can, to all the people I can, as long as I can…for the glory of God…and with all the wrinkles and age spots I acquire along the way!
Recently I was talking with a group of people about our book, True Beauty, when a husband and father of daughters asked me: “How can I convince my wife that she is beautiful?”
“She stands in front of the mirror and points out her flaws” he explained, “and no matter what I say she still doesn’t seem to believe that I think she is beautiful. And then she gets a haircut! Talk about a lose-lose for me! No matter what I say it is the wrong thing. You need to help husbands know what to say when their wives get haircuts,” he laughingly concluded.
I laughed too. Men probably do need a few pointers on what to say when their wives get haircuts. But as a loving husband, his concern ran deeper than that. He wanted his wife to live in the good of God’s truth about beauty and of his husbandly love and admiration, but he didn’t know how to help her believe she was truly beautiful.
As we were writing, Mom and I often said to each other: “If only men got it! If only men understood a woman’s struggles with beauty. If only men had biblical convictions about beauty.”
Of course we want women to read our book, but we almost want men to read it more. We bandied about ideas for a new cover with sports motif or neon “Men, Read This!” stickers. In the end we settled for this blog post.
What Men Need to Know About Beauty
For one, we wish men understood the pressure women face to conform to a cultural ideal of beauty. Our worldly culture is obsessed by an illicit and elusive ideal of beauty and daily bombards us with images and messages telling us what that beauty should look like—or else. It promises happiness to the few who attain this impossible standard and shame and rejection to those who fall short of its ideal. The pressure on women to attain and maintain an impossible standard of beauty is, as one author put it, “more tyrannical than ever before.”
We also wish men understood just how susceptible they are tothe lies about beauty. The world doesn’t just tell women what they ought to look like, it tells men what to look for. After speaking about beauty, my mom had a woman approach her: “God’s perspective on beauty is all fine and good,” she said, “and I believe it is true. But the reality is, that’s not the message my husband receives from our culture about beauty.”
She’s right. Every day, men are blasted with messages about what kind of beauty they should desire, and all too often Christian men are unaware of how much this shapes their opinions and desires about beauty. Can we appeal to you? Don’t look at, long for, or buy into those messages. And be quick to tell your wife and daughters why you don’t.
Finally, we wish men understood what God’s Word says about beauty. If you really want to help your wife or daughter or the women in your church to overcome their struggles with beauty, you will study God’s Word. So often Christians have accepted partial truths and platitudes in place of a robust biblical vision about beauty. But these “solutions” don’t satisfy, which is why your wife returns to the mirror and ask you the same questions again.
Gaining a biblically informed understanding of beauty will help you the next time your wife gets a haircut or asks if she looks fat—not because you have a carefully crafted comeback, but because you understand what she is going through and have truth that will help.
3 Practical Ways to Encourage Your Wife
So what can you do?
First, start by asking your wife or daughter about the beauty pressures they face. Granted, some women may be more affected than others, but beauty issues touch us all.
Second, study Scripture. Labor to read good resources on this topic so that you can encourage, cherish, and lead your wife and daughter.
Third, encourage true beauty. Lavish your wife with affection and adoration. Be your daughter’s biggest fan.
Men who take the time to understand—or at least try to understand—the pressures women face will be able to help them resist the lies from our culture and pursue a biblical vision of beauty. Even if you don’t feel like you get it, I guarantee the effort will be greatly appreciated.
We know you may not want to be caught dead reading a book with a girly cover called True Beauty, and we respect you for that, but learning about true beauty in order to serve your woman is one of the most masculine things you can do.