(By Heather Marshall)
“Ooof,” I sighed as I looked in the mirror while getting ready for the day, my gaze focused on the extra pounds that I had accumulated around my middle after having three children. Condemning thoughts filling my mind, like:
“It’s been many years since I had my sons, why haven’t I lost the weight?”
“People must think I’m lazy and undisciplined for not having lost this weight.”
I had tried many diets and exercise plans and had some success but never for long and I found myself on this cycle of obsessing over my body and then in turn neglecting it when I became frustrated and overwhelmed. I had reached a breaking point and I prayed, “Lord, help me to see a way through this, I can’t do it anymore.”
In His loving and gracious way, He answered my prayer and helped me lose this weight. What?! You may be thinking, the Lord helped you lose weight?! Not in the way you might be thinking.
He helped me lose the weight of guilt and shame that I had been living under with respect to my body image. I am still on this journey of freedom from body shame, but I would like to share a few of the truths that the Lord has revealed to me along this journey.
Body image is a spiritual issue.
For years I believed that my body was separate from my spirituality and that it was not something that concerned the Lord. I never even considered bringing my struggles in this area before Him. Did you know that 97% of women struggle with body image? The enemy definitely knows this stat and from our earliest days, we are bombarded with images and comments that shape our perception of our bodies as not being good or enough.
This is a lie straight from Satan.
So, this fact alone convinces me that body image is a spiritual issue. Also, as I looked more into my own heart on this matter, I realized that I was looking for satisfaction in the form of becoming a size and shape that fit with cultural “norms.”
When we look for satisfaction from anything other than the Lord, this indicates that this thing has become an idol in your life.
This was the case for me, the thought “I’ll be happy when I lose weight” was a red flag for me. The verse that the Lord used to speak to me on this was Matthew 22:37; Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.”
I realized that I had put the issue of my body image ahead of the Lord and it had become an idol. I was not loving Him with all my heart, soul, and mind.
Confession and forgiveness are essential.
Once I realized my sin and the error of my thoughts, I had to confess it before the Lord and receive his forgiveness as He has promised. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).
Another exercise that I found helpful as I went along this journey to freedom from body shame was looking into my past at various points when Satan had used either comments from others or misconceived slights to shape my thoughts about myself. I had to extend forgiveness (both to others and to myself) for these times I ignorantly chose to believe comments about my body or when I participated in conversations that may have caused others to feel body shame.
I now realize that the enemy is the enemy, but any time I choose to think or speak negatively about the body that God has given me, I am complicit in his devious ways. I also recognize that any time I participate in a conversation that implies that our bodies are not good enough the way they are, I am also participating in the enemy’s underhanded schemes.
I do not want to be a part of that anymore, instead, I want to lift my sisters up to freedom from body shame!
One of the most important parts of my journey to freedom from body shame has been daily renewal of my mind with the Word of God. As Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
I started looking into God’s Word for what He has to say about my body. Firstly, in Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” In Genesis 1:31, it says, “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”
So, I am made in the image of God and he calls me very good. Who am I to question or not believe this truth? In Psalm 139, the psalmist praises God for the complexity and wonder of how He created him. Verse 14 is one that I have memorized “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous- how well I know it.”
Finally, in the New Testament the writers often refer to our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6: 19 says, “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?”
With the death and resurrection of Jesus and the establishment of the new covenant, a physical temple was no longer needed and now the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, and our bodies are now the temples or vessels that we get to use to bring the love of God to the world. What a privilege!!
I now realize that I am not supposed to obsess over or neglect my body but rather care for it as an act of worship to God. Romans 12:1 reminds us, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable” This is truly the way to worship him.
Maybe your struggle is not extra pounds around your middle, maybe it is a body that is wracked with pain or disability. Unfortunately, our bodies still live under the effects of a broken world, and this brings sorrow to the heart of God. Let me encourage you that it is still a good body, and that God wants to comfort you in your affliction.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
Sister, your body is good. It is a good gift from a loving Father who wants you to honor Him in your body. “For God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Let’s join together in using these good, good bodies to bring His love and truth into this world.