When a friend is struggling with her appearance, many of us might say something like: “You are beautiful just the way you are. God made you and he thinks you are beautiful. And I do too. You just need to believe that this is true.”
There are important truths embedded in this counsel, to be sure. The dignity of every human being made in the image of God means we all have an inherent beauty. But this glorious truth doesn’t always help us when we feel unattractive or anxious about our appearance.
For me, I can convince myself that I am beautiful for only so long. All it takes is for my scale to register a few extra pounds or to walk past a woman who is younger and prettier than me, and that bubble bursts pretty quickly.
Why doesn’t this truth stick? Why doesn’t this astounding knowledge—that we are beautiful because we are made in the image of God—eradicate, once and for all, our feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt?
One reason is that we often mistakenly turn this truth about God into clichés about us. When we turn the spotlight away from God and onto ourselves, we twist the truth.
So “God is beautiful and made us in his image” becomes “You are beautiful because God created you.”
Herein lies the flaw in our well-meaning advice: it starts and ends with us.
When we focus on ourselves, we’re only compounding the problem. That’s because self-focus is our problem. Sagging self-confidence is often a preoccupation with self; struggles with comparison, measuring up, and fitting in reveal our self-absorption.
“Low self-esteem usually means that I think too highly of myself,” explains Ed Welch. “I’m too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have. The reason I feel bad about myself is that I aspire to something more. I want just a few minutes of greatness.”
Feelings of inadequacy about our appearance often arise because we feel we deserve better than what we have. We aspire to something more.
We may not feel like we’re grasping at greatness—we just want to fit in with the other moms or the popular girls at school—but then again, we never seem to be liked enough or included enough to make us happy. We never get what we think we deserve.
This is why our beauty struggles seem set on repeat: self-is never satisfied.
But there is hope for you and for me. When we accurately diagnose our struggles with beauty, we can beak free from this destructive cycle, and find liberating truth in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2014 at 9:39 am | by Nicole Whitacre
“No one needs to remind us that it is an enormous responsibility to be a mother. How well we know it! One woman expresses it this way:
I seldom feel like much of an adventurer—standing in this kitchen, pouring cereal into bowls, refilling them, handing out paper towels when the inevitable cry comes: ‘Uh oh. I spilled.’ But sometimes at night the thought will strike me: There are three small people here, breathing sweetly in their beds, whose lives are for the moment in our hands. I might as well be at the controls of a moon shot, the mission is so grave and vast.
Though the mission is grave and vast, God’s grace is greater. He kindly reminds us in His Word: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor. 12:9).
Not one of us is equal to this task of mothering, but God will help us today in our weakness. He will provide all the grace we need to love our children.”
2014 at 7:57 am | by Kristin Chesemore
“The mother is the hub of the home, holding all the spokes in place. Without her being at her post, the family spins out of control and falls apart.” Mark Chanski
When school starts, do you find that it gets more difficult to “hold all the spokes in place”? I sure do.
On a typical day I must get my son, Andrew, out the door for school (with homework, lunch and back-pack), clean up from breakfast, homeschool my two younger boys, pay the bills, drive to an afternoon activity, get home in time to meet Andrew and help him with homework, prepare dinner for my family and a guest, do dishes, catch up on laundry and finally clean up my house which looks like it has been visited by a tornado.
Just another ordinary day in the life of a mom. But so often, I go through these ordinary days far more aware of what I am giving than whom I am serving.
I need my gaze lifted beyond my daily duties to my eternal mission as a mother. In his book, Womanly Dominion, Mr. Chanski brings us encouragement right where we need it:
“There she sits exhausted on the edge of her bed, her face in her hands, wondering, “Where’s the glory in this?”
She needs something more empowering to keep her going.
She needs to gain and maintain the deep conviction of the glory, honor, and nobility of selfless service. This she finds at the foot of the cross, looking up to the One who earned for Himself “the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9), by “emptying Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant” (2:7), humbling “Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:8). There she beholds her Savior who mopped up the damning vomit of her own sin with the precious sponge of His perfect life and atoning death. The love of Christ constrains and compels her to press on (2 Corinthians 5:14). The Spirit of Christ empowers her” (pp. 120-121, emphasis mine).
Are you having a hard time being “the hub” today? Then “fix your eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2-3), ask Him for help and strength, and thank Him for the honor of being a mother.
It’s time to conclude our little series on helping children handle their emotions. We’ve put all of the posts together for you in one printable document. Hope you find it useful!
We leave you with this thought from Rachel Jankovic—she’s talking about little girls here but this wisdom can apply to all children. May God give us much grace to teach our children how to handle their emotions!
“We tell our girls that their feelings are like horses—beautiful, spirited horses. But they are the riders. We tell them that God gave them this horse when they were born, and they will ride it their whole life…When our emotions act up, it is like the horse trying to jump the fence…A good rider knows what to do when the horse tries to bolt—you pull on the reins! Turn the horse’s head! Get back on the path!...
There is nothing wrong with the emotions. If we have a little rider who is woefully unprepared to control her horse, well then, we had better start with some pretty serious riding lessons. Talk to your daughters about how they might feel, and what you want to see when they do. Give them some practical handholds; be a coach. Anticipate moments that might be hard, when the horse might bolt, and help them learn to anticipate it too…Encourage. Give lots of praise when you see her overcoming little emotional temptations…The goal is not to cripple the horse, but equip the rider.”
“The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backward in order to go forward. But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead, there are frequent signs that say, ‘The best is yet to come’....all the perplexing turns in our lives are going somewhere good. They do not lead off a cliff. In all the setbacks of our lives as believers, God is plotting for our joy.” ~John Piper
Been thinking about a book club with your girlfriends? If so, consider True Beauty. It is short and easy to read, but stuffed full of biblical insight and wise counsel that targets our beauty struggles. It also includes discussion questions for every chapter, so all you have to do is make yummy snacks (I have a few suggestions!) and invite some friends. The rest is done for you!
We want to make it easier (and cheaper!) for one special group. Get a group together in the next two weeks, send us their names, and we’ll choose one group to receive up to ten free, signed copies of True Beauty (and snack ideas from me if you like!). Winners announced on Friday, August 29 and books will ship right away.
Need any more incentive? Here are some great testimonies from True Beauty book clubs:
“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to lead the women at Immanuel through a study of the book “True Beauty.” Like most believing women, they long to escape the lure of the unachievable and unsustainable beauty our culture offers. They wonder what is appropriate for women of God in all areas of beauty. They also want to know how to protect their daughters from lies about beauty, and how to point them to what is truly beautiful. In our study we are finding that “True Beauty” addresses all of these concerns and more! The book exposes the lies of our culture and our own sinful tendency to be “glory thieves,” and calls us to gaze upon our truly beautiful God. We have found the study guide questions helpful in promoting good discussion about this issue and even repentance of sin. I am confident that the ladies participating in this study will come away with a transformed view of personal beauty and a renewed vision of our beautiful God!”
“I simply love this book! I highly recommend Carolyn’s book to women of all ages. This summer I took a group of young ladies through this book, (which was very easy to do with the discussion questions provided in the back which go chapter by chapter). It was perspective building for many, and a great reminder for me. As women we are constantly getting messages from our culture of all the many ways we fail the beauty test, and I know personally how discouraging this is for us. This book is just the opposite and is filled grace, NOT legalism as some might suppose. This book is freeing! I personally plan to re-read this one regularly.”
“True Beauty addresses the heart of the beauty “problem” or “obsession” women have with their weight, skin, hair, and style. We are “glory thieves,” and desire to place ourselves (our beauty) above God’s eternal, incomparable beauty. As this book uncovers the root sin of the idolization of beauty, I have been challenged to see that true beauty “beholds and reflects the beauty of God.” As a teen, this inspires me to look at others and see His image in them, not their weight, skin, stylish clothing, or anything that would make me covet their beauty. Rather, I see their worth through God’s eyes, and the work of grace He offers them through His son’s sacrifice on the cross. Praise the Lord for his grace to lost sinners!”
As a young woman, and into my adult years, I struggled from time to time with feelings of depression. Sometimes it was triggered by the trials of teenage life and sometimes it seemed to have no source at all.
My parents helped me through. They talked to me about the truths Mom mentioned in the last post. And they taught me how to fight with faith, and see the “way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13) when tempted to despondency. Here are a few practical ways they helped me handle bad feelings that can help your teen too.
Get practical – Of course we must address the spiritual source of bad feelings, but we cannot ignore other factors. Does your son need more sleep? Could your daughter use help tracking her monthly cycle? Maybe they need a break from video games or social media. More time out doors or with family and friends might do a world of good. Or it could be they are bored and need a task or a project to fill their time. Practical changes can go a long way to minimize temptation.
Do the Next Thing – One of best ways to handle bad feelings is to refuse to give into them. When it comes to depression, this means compassionately but firmly helping your teen get out of bed, go somewhere, serve someone. Few things dispel bad feelings faster than simply doing the next thing. Whatever we can do to help our teen forget about how they feel, and focus on someone else for a little while, will strike a blow against depression.
“Try it,” challenges Elisabeth Elliot. “When, in the face of powerful temptation to do wrong, there is the swift, hard renunciation—I will not—it will be followed by the sudden loosing of the bonds of self, the yes to God that lets in sunlight, sets us singing and all freedom’s bells clanging for joy.”
Obey - Sometimes selfishness causes a teen to withdraw, and become lazy and morose. I remember I used to feel so tired after a long day of school and work that I would sit at the dinner table with my head in my hand, barely talking. My parents weren’t having any of that. If they could interact cheerfully at the dinner table, so could I. Of course, I had no idea yet what “tired” felt like, and I’m so grateful my parents did not indulge my selfishness.
Elisabeth Elliot again: “Obedience to God is always possible. It’s a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.”
Persevere – Negative feelings don’t dissipate over night. We need to help our teens to persevere. Just because they don’t feel better right away doesn’t mean they aren’t on the right track, and it doesn’t mean they won’t feel better eventually. God is teaching them to endure, to be faithful, and to live by His Word and not by their feelings. These are valuable lessons in the Christian life. Remember, you are not only solving today’s bad feelings, you are teaching your teen how to handle bad feelings for the rest of their lives.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” ~2 Corinthians 9:8