(By Heather Marshall)
Do you have fitness and health goals for the new year?
If I’m being honest, for all of my adult life, I don’t think there has been a new year that has come and gone when I did not have some form of physical health goal. I’ve had goals of losing weight, getting stronger, eating healthy food, etc.
While these types of goals are good in and of themselves, it’s the motive behind the goals that we need to delve into a little further.
Personally, I set goals like these for many years without really thinking about what my deeper motives were. And in looking back, I can see that my motivation was often shaped by the lie that in order to make an impact for the Lord, my body has to look or function in a way that is deemed acceptable by the world.
I don’t believe I am alone in this. I think making women feel shame about their bodies is a strong tool that the devil uses to keep women from stepping into the purposes and plans that God has for them.
As we start this new year, I’d like to encourage you that your body is not a marker of righteousness and it most certainly does not disqualify you from stepping into service for God in whatever sphere He calls you.
The book of Romans reminds us that our righteousness comes only through faith in Christ and His atoning work on the cross. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:8-9).
So, if we’ve been made righteous in God’s sight and we are free from the condemnation of God, why do we continue to condemn ourselves by thinking that we don't measure up or our bodies are not good enough?
Unfortunately, it is human nature to look at outward appearances and make judgments about a person and their perceived ability or lack thereof. One of the most well-known stories in Scripture is an example of this. You remember Samuel, God’s chosen prophet in Israel? Well, God told Him that he would be anointing a new king because Saul, the current strong and handsome king, was not obedient to God.
God directed Samuel to go to the house of Jesse and to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel. Jesse brought forward his eldest son and Samuel took one look and thought this was the chosen one, but God had other thoughts and said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Jesse proceeded to bring forward all 7 of his oldest sons, but each one was a firm “no” from God. Finally, Samuel had to ask if these were all the sons he had and Jesse said that the youngest was out in the fields watching the sheep and the goats. They called for David and he was anointed as the future king of Israel.
This young shepherd boy, someone who was looked over and judged as “not worthy” by others, was the one chosen by God. Why? Because the Lord looks at the heart.
In her book on body shame, Jess Connolly writes, “In Scripture there is no mention of Mary Magdalene’s thighs, Deborah’s teeth, Ruth’s waistline, Anna the prophetess’s forehead, Elizabeth’s stretch marks, Eve’s hair, Lois’s skin, Martha’s tunic size, or the symmetry (or lack thereof) of Miriam’s face. Because the Lord looks at the heart.”
She continues, “These women’s faithfulness was not defined by their bodies, their capacity to be used by God was not defined by their bodies, and their bodies were never the most interesting or compelling part of their story. Because the Lord looks at the heart.”
Friend, when the Lord looks at you He sees a beautiful heart. He sees a heart that has been redeemed by the precious blood of His Son. He sees a life redeemed with a specific purpose that he has for you and He has given you the good body that you have in order to carry out His purposes in the world.
So, let’s be encouraged to put a lens on those physical health and fitness goals that we have for ourselves this new year. Let’s explore our motives, to ensure that we are seeking to care for our bodies in a way that is honoring to God and not because we feel shame or condemnation.
Hear His words to you, “So there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus” (Romans 8:1). No condemnation for the size, shape, mobility, ability or strength of your body! Instead let’s seek to do as Romans 6:13 instructs, “So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”