By Amber Ginter, Crosswalk.com
I was 14 years old the first time I looked in the mirror and hated the reflection peering back at me. As a young girl, I was unaware of the war being waged for my soul. The battle in my mind was quickly becoming destructive. Yet the results that wreaked the most havoc, however, were in my heart.
Quickly turning an obsession to be healthy into anything but that, I was a mastermind at hiding an eating disorder, anorexia, and orthorexia from even myself. While many forms of disordered eating exist, mine included restriction and exercising for hours on end. As a coping mechanism for control, these mental diseases then caused me to become a perfectionistic, rigidly controlled individual in every area of my life.
Although I'd been naturally thin all my life (and still am), Satan had a way of distorting my mind by telling me that if I could control one thing in my life, I would be happy. Surrounded by a family significantly impacted by the opioid epidemic, he convinced me that my compulsions with food, health, and exercise were beautiful. It would not be until seven years later that I realized these addictions were only portrayed that way through the broken glass of a person from the outside looking in.
In my heart, I valued outward beauty over internal. I didn't realize that half the stuff I was feeding myself was starving my soul. Rather than adorning myself with grace, truth, and honor, I spent hours scrolling in comparison when I should have been sleeping. In my free time, I was not running to proclaim the gospel, but running to maintain what my disorders coined as worthy.
A few years into my struggle, I stopped restricting food by overindulging in exercise. In a world that screams flat abs, popping booty, slim thighs, and perfect skin, I didn't understand that no matter what I looked like or achieved physically, the enemy would still cause me to hate myself.
At 21 years old, God broke my foot to break me free of these body-shaming chains and cravings. Today, it's my mission to empower girls and young women with the truth that health looks different for everyone. Mental health is something we especially need to be aware of spiritually, physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Katarzyna Bialasiewicz
While most people believe that beauty and body image are vain struggles and ideals, I also think that dealing with the issues spiritually is of the utmost importance.
In the book of Genesis, Satan disguised himself as a serpent and asked Eve if God really said she couldn't eat from the Tree of Good and Evil. Now, the question applies to us when we hear voices that question His purpose and intention for the lives we live.
If you have abs, you will love yourself.
Once you attain perfection, everything in life will be perfect.
Eating less and exercising more isn't bad for you.
An obsession with beauty and fitness is healthy.
But if Satan can deceive your mind as he did with Adam and Eve, he can destroy your heart. This is why Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). Similarly, Paul in Ephesians 6 coins this war as not one of flesh and blood, but rulers and principalities of the evil world.
"Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage" (Ephesians 6:12, TPT).
If we can recognize that our battle is not against our bodies, those we compare ourselves to, ourselves, or who we see in the mirror, we will be able to restore our spiritual beauty.
In Psalm 139:14, Scripture tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Hand-crafted by our Creator, even Solomon in Proverbs 31:25 tells us we as women are clothed with strength and dignity and can laugh without fear of the future. But we don't always believe those truths, do we? It is so easy to read Scripture and then never apply it.
Especially when it comes to external beauty, we are weak and weary of looking into the mirror and faces of others with a deep inner longing to be someone other than ourselves. Yet the secret, my friends, is those you wish to be like have the desire to be someone else themselves. As humans, we love the comparison game.
Instead of focusing solely on external beauty, Jesus reminds us that while physical exercise and maintenance have value, stewarding the bodies we’ve been given, they are not the most important thing that life offers. Paul teaches Timothy this lesson in 1 Timothy 4:8 when he states, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8, NIV). While it is not wrong to eat right and exercise, it is not healthy to place the value of your life on those sole entities.
Matthew 6:25-30 highlights that while food and clothing are necessities needed in life, you shall always have everything you need if you confess that He is your Father. God wants you to take care of the temple He has given you, but He also doesn't want you to worry about it so much that it takes over your living. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 adds that if our bodies belong to Christ, why would we represent them differently?
Of course, avoiding sexual immorality, dressing modestly, and proper eating and exercising take work, but redefining the bodies God has given us represents His gospel to the world.
"Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT)
Just as we can become weak and weary physically, if we do not take careful heed to what we think, that quickly becomes who we are. Proverbs 23:7 in the KJV notes, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee" (Proverbs 23:7, KJV).
As a battle of the mind, we must fill our thoughts with what is right, proper, lovely, pure, and honorable. Paul talks about these qualities in Philippians 4:8 when he warns believers to only think about such qualities. If we spend all our time analyzing our flaws and degrading who Christ created us to be, we will never measure up to our full potential. We've got to fight for our minds. After all, God's given us the ability to possess His Spirit.
"For who has ever intimately known the mind of the Lord Yahweh[a] well enough to become his counselor? Christ has, and we possess Christ's perceptions.” (1 Corinthians 2:16, TPT)
Sometimes the most brutal battles we face in life are the ones that never leave our minds. The intellects we maintain tend to do a lot of speaking, even if it's in the silence. Gearing up with what Ephesians 6 coins as spiritual defense wear, redefining beauty begins with protecting the mind God has given you.
Once we've rewired our spiritual, physical, and mental bodies, it's then time to address our social circles. While beauty does have to do with you, it's important to note that those around you are not your competition, but sisters in Christ created to build each other up. The sooner we learn that this body image complex is not a singular struggle, the more we will be equipped to stand and fight together.
Proverbs 27:17 defines this stance as iron sharpening iron. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). For this reason, Christ reminds us that when we learn to build each other up in our differences rather than tear one another down in jealousy and comparison, we will encourage a new way of thinking. "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV).
It's time to look our sisters in Christ in the eye, not to tear them down, but to remind them they are not alone in this battle.
These sticky figures called emotions can cause situations to look worse than they are as emotional beings. Especially when it comes to how one sees ourselves, we often represent the characters of the Pixar film, Inside Out, crying one moment and laughing the next. Rather than allowing these feelings to dictate our views, however, we have to remember that Christ supersedes all.
In one of my favorite passages of Scripture, 1 John 3:20 writes that even when our behaviors, feelings, and emotions get the best of us, Christ still knows our hearts. "Whenever our hearts make us feel guilty and remind us of our failures, we know that God is much greater and more merciful than our conscience, and he knows everything there is to know about us" (1 John 3:20, TPT).
Dear Daughter, Christ hand-crafted you in the exact shape, size, character, and personality that He did because it's unique to you. God has called us each according to the task at hand. It's time we start embracing the bodies at war He's blessed us with and used them for the purposes for which we've been made.
Related Resource: Listen to our FREE podcast, Reframed: The Power of Perspective. In each episode, Carley provides practical techniques for identifying and reframing negative thinking patterns. Listen to an episode below, and check out all of our episodes on LifeAudio.com.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/AntonioGuillem
Amber Ginter is an aspiring 25-year-old writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Hoping to become a full-time freelancer, Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic ministry team (Aisthitikós Joy Ministries), and volunteer roles. She is also the author of The Story I've Never Told, which is currently in the publishing process. Amber has freelanced for Daughter of Delight, Kallos, Anchored Passion, Crosswalk, No Small Life, Darling Magazine, Called Christian Writers, Southern Ohio Today News, The Rebelution, Ohio Christian University, and The Circleville Herald. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
Want more interaction with the women of iBelieve? Join our fans, writers, and editors at the iBelieve Facebook group, Together in Faith, for more videos, stories, testimonies, prayers and more. Visit here to join the community!