As a parent, we must do our best to protect our children from the influence of our culture’s false and destructive messages about beauty. But how? Here are a few suggestions:
Guard their heroes.
Children collect heroes: people or characters they want to be like. This means that we as parents must watch over and wisely supervise our children’s affections. Who are our child’s heroes? Who do they admire and try to imitate? Often, children’s first heroes are the characters they see on television or the toys they play with. As they grow older, they may look to athletes, actors, or musicians. These personalities can shape the development of their desires and beliefs in profound ways.
As our children identify with these “heroes”—wanting to dress like them, talk like them, be like them—they imbibe the messages about beauty that these characters display. Consider: what do the TV, music, and toys you allow in your home say about the beauty of God and the inner beauty he requires? Do the characters in your children’s favorite television shows flaunt their immodesty or vanity? Do the toys they play with promote an ungodly perspective of physical beauty? As parents, let’s wisely help our children choose their heroes.
Guard their childhood.
Children are beautiful, largely because they don’t know it yet. A young girl is fascinated by the world, not trying to fascinate others with how she looks. This lack of self-awareness is a gift from God and meant to be enjoyed. But sometimes, as parents, we prematurely interrupt our daughters’ blissful ignorance by paying excessive attention to how they look.
Let’s seek to guard our daughters’ childhood instead of following the cultural trend to prematurely rush young girls into womanhood. Be discerning about your daughter’s unique temptations to vanity and self-focus. Intentionally limit the time, money, and conversation you spend (or allow them to spend!) on their appearance. If necessary, consider delaying certain beauty enhancements such as jewelry or cosmetics. Focus their attention on God and others. Start out as you mean for them to go on.
Guard their friendships.
True friends teach us to love true beauty. Conversely, vain and self-focused friends may encourage those sinful tendencies already at work in our hearts. A wise mother will carefully watch over her daughter’s friendships. Consider: what do your daughter and her friends talk about most when they are together? What are their favorite hobbies and activities? Does time with friends make her more consumed with herself, with the latest styles, with being physically beautiful? Let’s help our daughters choose friends wisely and to become the kind of friend who influences others to serve and to obey God. This may mean limiting the time two girls spend together, or taking a more proactive role in choosing their activities when they are together.
As moms we should seek to create a culture of friendship between our daughter and her friends that promotes and cultivates true beauty. Friendships that are built around trusting God and doing good works will help our daughters grow up to be truly beautiful.
Our children are desperately in need of discernment. We must train them to recognize the false beauty messages of the world that assault them on a moment-by-moment basis.
This means, in age appropriate ways, we begin to talk to them about the unattractiveness of immodesty or vanity that they may observe and encounter. Our words should counteract and undercut our culture’s deceitful messages about physical beauty.
Finally, there are words that are better left unsaid. Drawing our children into negative dialogue about our appearance, “Do you think Mommy looks fat in this dress?”“Mommy wishes she was young and pretty like you,” etc., will only give ungodly shape to their developing beliefs about beauty.
Commenting about others to them, “Can you believe what she was wearing?” or “That girl really needs to lose some weight,” is not only unkind but teaches our children to judge others based on outward appearance.
Not only do we need to be careful how we speak to our children about beauty, we also must be careful how we speak in front of them, even when we think they aren’t paying attention. Little children have big ears. Conversations with our husband, with a girlfriend, or mutterings to ourselves that communicate an unbiblical message about beauty can all make an outsized impression on our children.
Also, we do not serve our daughters by dropping subtle hints (which are never as subtle as we think) about their appearance. If we observe that our daughter needs to change her eating habits or care for her appearance in a more God-glorifying manner, then we can provide practical diet help or graciously show her how Scripture should influence her beauty pursuit. But nagging and carping will only stoke discouragement or resentment.
By contrast, as our daughters grow older, humble and age-appropriate admission of our own struggles with beauty can go a long way toward helping them make progress in their own pursuit of biblical beauty. As we help our daughters see how we are seeking to apply God’s truth, we can impart to our daughters the discernment and conviction they need.
Last week we asked the question: How do we raise our children in this world of beauty gone bad?
First, we must show our children what true, biblical beauty looks like: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—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” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Example is essential. We must not merely point at beauty like a distant mountain peak, we must dwell with our children as a vibrant model of the beauty which is precious in God’s sight.
Humanly speaking, no one will make a deeper impression on children than a truly beautiful mother. And yet we often underestimate the effect of our example.
Ask yourself: What am I teaching my children about beauty through my actions, words, priorities, and life?
Sadly, our children will absorb our self-absorption; they will vainly follow our vanity. If we are consumed with what others think about how we look, our daughters will learn that self-focus is the way to fulfillment. If we spend exorbitant time and money on our appearance, we are teaching our sons to prize physical beauty above all.
But if we faithfully seek to adorn ourselves with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, we will be a beautiful example to our children. If we spend our days gazing at the beauty of God, beholding him in his temple (Ps. 27:4), we will show our daughters how to find true joy and satisfaction. If we devote our lives to serving others (1 Tim. 2:9-10), we will encourage our sons to love and respect people and to look for a wife who fears the Lord (Prov. 31:30).
Oh, but you say, I fall so short. Yes, so do we all. This is cause for repentance, not resignation. The gospel offers forgiveness for our failures and makes true and lasting change possible.
None of us will ever be a perfect example of biblical beauty to our children, but as we grow in godliness, we will make a beautiful imprint on our children’s lives.
Here are a few summer time activity ideas from the Apostle Paul. Even though these were originally written about a specific group of women, they should describe us all:
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Tim. 5:9-10)
These good works don’t comprise a checklist; they describe the godly woman’s character. She has a reputation for good works.
But some may be concerned—if we focus on good works do we run the risk of taking something away from the glory of the gospel?
Scripture says the opposite: good works bring glory to God and adorn the gospel.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” the Savior instructed in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:16).
When people see our good works: “They will ask, ‘What is it? Why are these people so different in every way…?” writes Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “And they will be driven to the only real explanation which is that we are the people of God, children of God…We have become reflectors of Christ.”
In fact, in 1 Timothy 2:10, God tells us that good works are “proper for women who profess godliness.” Robert Spinney explains that this phrase means:
[T]o make a public announcement or to convey a message loudly. Our lives make public announcements. The godly woman’s public announcement must consist of good works, not questionable clothing….The implication here is that both good works and improper clothing have a Godward element: one provokes men to praise God while the other encourages men to demean Him….God’s reputation is at stake in our public professions. God’s glory is more clearly seen when we abound in good works, but it is obscured and misunderstood when we make public announcements with improper clothing.
Good works do not distract from the gospel or undermine the gospel, they are essential to our gospel proclamation. They promote Christ’s reputation and they bring glory to God.
Doing gospel-centered good works means that we don’t rely on those good works for our righteousness before God or our forgiveness from him. We are accepted before God only because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We are able to stand before God only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
We do good works, not in order to receive the gospel, but because we have received the gospel. Let’s consider what specific ways we can reflect Christ this summer!
(We’re back! Project finished today. Thanks to all of you who wrote in to say you missed the posts. And thank you for your prayers! Here’s our first post for the summer from Carolyn)
We see them when we walk into a room or stroll through a crowd: the women who are prettier than we are. They are everywhere, aren’t they?
Women have special powers of observation that enable us to instantly spot a woman with a prettier face, a skinnier figure, cuter clothes, or more of a flair for style than we do. We tend to rank everyone we meet on our own private beauty scale—placing them somewhere above or below ourselves.
Comparison is a common trap for women, and it can quickly turn into complaining. I wish I had a gorgeous head of hair like she does. I wish I were as skinny as her. She always wears such attractive clothes. I wish I could afford to dress like that. If only I were tall like her. If only I had her pretty face. Obsessive comparing and complaining leads to envy, and envy, as we know, makes us bitterly unhappy.
Why are we so unhappy that we don’t have so-and-so’s figure or that other girl’s face? It is most likely because we want the attention she receives for ourselves.
Instead, we must repent and choose to trust God. We must recall that it is God has decided what we look like and what every other woman looks like too. When we remember that He has ordained our beauty “lot” we can receive it as truly pleasant (Ps. 16:5–6). We can cease stressing, striving, and comparing.
In 1 Peter 3, God teaches us to trust him by giving us a different group of women to look at. Instead of picking out the prettiest girls in the room and marking them for resentment, we are to look to the godliest women:
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:5–6).
These are the heroines, the company of holy women of the past who trusted in God. Instead of comparing our physical appearance to other women, we should be measuring our hidden beauty next to these women, and striving to be like them.
Here’s the good news: while most of us will never be the prettiest girl in the room, we can, by the grace of God, become like these holy women. When we cast off comparison and clothe ourselves with a gentle and quiet spirit, we can become beautiful children of Sarah.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—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.” (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV)
If we adorn ourselves with a gentle and quiet spirit by responding to trials, temptations, loss, and fear with an unshakeable trust in God, we will achieve a rare and real beauty.
This beauty is “precious” in the sight of God. The word means “costly” and it is set in sharp contrast to the costliness of extravagant outer adornment.
Our trust in God truly costs something, and is truly worth something. It shows forth the worth and loveliness of the gospel. It demonstrates the power, trustworthiness, and beauty of God in Jesus Christ.
And this is beautiful in God’s sight:
“Here we have a picture of God’s ideal woman…Faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God… It is a beautiful thing to watch a woman like this serve Christ with courage.” ~John Piper
Hey, Nicole here on behalf of Mom. We’re pluggin’ away on the beauty book and we’ve got another question for you. You’ve been super helpful already and your responses are helping to shape the topics Mom covers in the book. So we’re asking for your assistance again.
Today’s question is:
Do you think the Bible’s approach to beauty is primarily positive or negative? Why?
As always, specific stories, examples, and verses are best. If we feature your response in the book you’ll receive a free autographed copy. Send us your thoughts.
After some delays, we’re back to working on Mom’s beauty book. God has given us much grace and guidance in the past few weeks. And y’all continue to send us very helpful thoughts and questions. Keep ‘em coming! We have another question for you today. And again, if we use your story or comments in our book, you will receive a free autographed copy of the book when it is published. Thanks for your help and prayers!
How has the gospel transformed your perspective and pursuit of beauty? (Specific examples, stories, and Scriptures are most helpful.)
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10 ESV)
The latest news here is that Mom began work on a new book last week!
Her topic is “true beauty” from a biblical perspective. She wants to help women see through our culture’s false standard of beauty and false promises about beauty, so they might be free to pursue a beauty that is attainable, enduring, and precious in God’s sight.
I get to help her with this project, and we want to ask for your help too.
For us, book writing involves a whole lot of talking. We bat around ideas, consider all the angles, and even have a friendly debate or two.
And we want you to join our book conversation! We’ll post questions, and we’d be so grateful if you’d write in with your thoughts. (Please note: we may use your first name, so let us know if you want to be anonymous.)
So, are you ready to help us write this book?
Here’s our first question:
What questions or struggles do you have that you would like to see addressed in a book on beauty?
And can we also ask you to pray? Our hearts desire is that God be glorified in the process and content of this book. You’ve prayed us through one book already and we’d be most grateful for those prayers again. Thank you friends!
Spring is here and among the many blessings it brings is an opportunity to worship God for one of the many aspects of His character: His beauty. Not only is God “the perfection of beauty” (Ps. 50:2), He takes great delight in beauty.
All we need to verify this fact is to consider the beauty He has created all around us.
Think with me for a moment about the world God has created. Whether it is an elegant flower, or towering trees, or a meandering river, or billowy clouds or the majestic night sky, or the first purple crocus of Spring. Every time we stop and take in one of these breathtaking scenes on display in God’s creation, we can’t help but be convinced that He delights in beauty!
All because we are created in the image of our Creator, each of us has a propensity to make things beautiful.
This means that when we decorate our homes, or we plant a lovely flower garden, or add some form of beauty to enhance our surroundings we are actually imitating and approving the works of our Great Creator. We are imitating God!
Now granted, these activities can be sinfully implemented, but we must not overlook the fact that the essence of our desire to beautify comes from God.
John Angell James in his book, Female Piety, offers this helpful thought:
This taste [for beauty], however in many cases it may be altogether corrupted in its object, wrong in its principle, or excessive in its degree, is in its own nature an imitation of the workmanship of God, who, “by his Spirit has garnished the heavens,” and covered the earth with beauty.
Thus we shouldn’t automatically dismiss our “taste for beauty,” even though it is tainted by sin, because our “taste for beauty” is an imitation of the workmanship of God.
Rather, we must discover from God’s Word how to regulate and steward this desire to bear good fruit. How can we use our “taste for beauty” to glorify God?
This week we’re going to consider one small way to imitate God’s delight in beauty. So come back tomorrow to find out more.
Consider with me our culture’s physical beauty yardstick—for women then and women now as explained by author David Powlison:
A hundred years ago women might have compared themselves with the other ten girls in the village. Today, women compare themselves with pictures of the cream of the worldwide fashion industry.
And what ideal image does the worldwide fashion industry put forth as the standard for beauty by which today’s woman is to measure herself?
Well, take a look at what a group of professional hair stylists, make-up artists, and photographers in cahoots with computer graphics were able to create:
To think that women are striving to look like someone who doesn’t even look like herself. It’s absurd!
The Dove Campaign got it partially right—the fashion industry has certainly contributed to a distorted perception of beauty. And yet, their solution—“every girl deserves to feel beautiful just the way she is”—is well-meaning and yet fundamentally unbiblical.
You see, women believe that physical beauty will make them happy, successful, popular among the women, desirable to the men – so they pursue it with a fury!
Physical beauty, however, does not deliver as advertised. Proverbs 31:30 reveals the falsehood and the futility of this quest for beauty: Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.
Even if every girl did “feel beautiful just the way she is,” it wouldn’t bring her true joy or lasting happiness or solve even one of her problems.
Truth be told, what we all deserve is not to feel beautiful but rather to be condemned to hell for sinfully seeking to attract the worship of our fellow creatures instead of living to bring glory to God.
God did not send Jesus to this earth to die so that women could get over their self-esteem problem and feel better about themselves. No, He sent his Son to die to rescue us from our sinful, futile quest for physical beauty and to reveal to us the satisfaction that comes from knowing God—whether we are beautiful or not!
What freedom and hope is found in Christ! We don’t need to feel beautiful about ourselves to find happiness! In fact, we’re better off not even thinking about ourselves. Rather, God has offered us in Jesus Christ forgiveness, hope, freedom from sin and a joy that never ends.
So while this little video effectively exposes the false front of beauty presented by our culture, let’s not look to Dove’s advertising executives for the solution to the beauty crisis. Rather, let’s join the campaign to tell others of the true freedom that is found in Christ!
Eating, thinness, and beauty are pressing issues for women. Bombarded by our culture’s image of the beautiful women, we can be obsessed with our appearance and preoccupied with food. Countless women struggle with eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.
Whether you are obsessed with your appearance, or discouraged by constant dieting, or trapped in a cycle of bulimia or anorexia (or know someone who is)—this message contains vital truth for you! In fact, Dr. Welch’s wise, gentle, and prescient counsel is for all of us, regardless of our temptations. As we look to Christ, we shall be truly changed.
“Those who look to him are radiant,?and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Psalm 35:4
Happy Wednesday everyone! For Q & A this week, we want to comment on a question from a woman who begins by describing her experience:
“It just starts with some thoughts that you are unattractive and fat, then it took me to a place where I started to eat less and less, sometimes not eating for days at a time. When that wasn’t enough or the scale didn’t change, then I would use pills or make myself vomit. Now, sometimes I can go months without struggling this way but once I’m there again it seems hopeless, and I already feel defeated…I can never find any resources or books that are Christian on this type of thing so I was going to see if you knew of any or had suggestions.”
I respect the honesty communicated in this question. I have talked with different girls over the years who face serious temptation in the area of eating. Their desire for food or lack thereof has been an ongoing, difficult, and often discouraging battle. Many women struggle with sins of this kind, which reminds us once again of the truth in Scripture, that: “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”
This verse goes on to renew our hope because: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond you ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” 1 Cor. 10:13.
While this temptation is indeed common, more help and truth is needed than I could possibly provide in a brief post. However, help is available, and I do want to recommend an excellent resource on this topic: Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick.
In this book, Mrs. Fitzpatrick provides biblical hope to those who feel “stuck” in ungodly patterns of eating by diagnosing the problem: remaining sin in our hearts. Eating “disorders” are not a disease from which we need to be healed, but rather sin from which we must repent and turn away.
But the good news is that Jesus died to free us from the power of sin and ungodly eating habits are no exception. His sacrifice makes it possible for us to fight our sin and experience the grace of forgiveness and change. As we humble ourselves before the truth found in Scripture, we will find joy and freedom.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:22-23
Our good friend, Dr. Al Mohler, writes with characteristic insight about cosmetic surgery on his blog this week. We thought it would be the perfect follow-up to Monday’s post on beauty. Make sure to read Dr. Mohler here.