“Scripture speaks truth about beauty for every one of us, whether we have failed to stick with our new diet or been conned into buying another worthless anti-aging cream; whether we feel guilty for our weekend shopping spree, or embarrassed by a bad hair day; whether we are vain and self-absorbed, or fed up with our insecurities. In all our struggles with beauty, whether nagging or consuming, God has provided the wisdom that we need in his eternal Word. Scripture shows us what beauty is and how to become truly beautiful. Above all, Scripture reveals our beautiful Savior, who had ‘no beauty that we should desire him’ (Isa. 53:2) but who hung bloodied on a cross for the ugliest of our sins.
The gospel of Jesus Christ really does redeem everything, including beauty. It really does reach into the heart of ‘if only I could get this taken care of’ and takes care of it. Our beauty crisis is no match for the truth of God’s Word.”
The girltalkers are welcoming a new baby this week! No, you haven’t missed any pregnancy news. But this delivery was preceded by many months of aches and pains, and quite an arduous and lengthy labor. Today, I am super excited to announce her arrival. Her name is True Beauty and she is 128 pages long.
We hope and pray this book will help many women to see through our culture’s lies about beauty and to find freedom, joy, and true beauty in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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.
God uses words to tell us about beauty and we must use words to tell our children about beauty (Deut. 6:6-9, Prov. 31, Eph. 6:1-4).
We need to tell our children of the beauty of God. Let’s talk to them in simple terms about the beauty of God’s character. Even a small child can begin to learn about the beauty of God’s sovereignty over the planets and the seasons and the seas, the beauty of his wisdom in directing our lives, and the beauty of his goodness in the daily blessings we receive.
Even more important than telling our daughters how beautiful we think they are is telling them how beautiful God is.
Sure, it can be helpful to counteract the degrading messages about women in our culture with biblical teaching about the dignity and beauty of every human being as made in the image of God, but most of all, we want to direct our daughter’s attention outward toward God’s beauty.
In fact, an overemphasis on our daughters’ outward appearance—no matter how affirming—can reinforce their sinful tendencies to vanity and self-focus.
More than confidence or security in their own beauty, we want our daughters to be enthralled with God’s beauty. When our daughters are captivated by the gospel, they will find freedom and confidence that will rise above all insecurities.
Secondly, we should talk to our children about the beauty that is pleasing to God—the hidden beauty of the heart (1 Pet. 3:3-6). Let’s tell them about the importance of putting their hope in God, like the holy women of the past.
And point out examples of true beauty. Go on true beauty hunts! Teach them to be keen spotters of true beauty in Scripture, in literature, and in the godly women they know.
As we talk often of true beauty, we will be shaping our daughters’ aspirations and our sons’ opinions of beauty.
Up Next: Talking to Our Children About Beauty, Pt. 2
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.