How to Apply the Gospel to Body Image

Kyra Riley Daniels
Staff Writer for the Daily Grace Co.

In the beginning, God designed the human body to reflect His divine authority and creativity. He breathed life into and blessed the bodies of the first man and woman. God specifically created Adam and Eve to spread the kingdom of God throughout the world, and their whole being was a testament to that commission. But, in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobeyed this call by using their bodies to rebel.  They sinned against their maker and suffered the consequences. They looked at their bodies with shame and hid from God. Under the curse of death, their bodies would experience pain, weakness, aging, and disease. We still feel the weight of disobedience that our first parents committed. The sinful nature we inherited and the fallen world in which we live continues to damage how we view our bodies. But the gospel of Jesus Christ provides a freeing and comforting message to us who struggle with body image. In addition to sometimes needing to seek medical help for severe body image disorders, we can look to Scripture to see how the saving work of Jesus has redeemed our broken bodies to be vessels for God’s kingdom.    

Cultural Pressure
You may struggle with body image because of pressure from family or society. Maybe your mother confronts you with endless questions about your size. As a result, you feel the burden to conform to her expectations. Or, culturally, your body may not fit what is deemed attractive. You may feel the pressure to match what everyone else looks like around you. This standard leaves you feeling insecure and anxious, always striving to measure up to prove your worth. But you were called to live set apart. God chose you before the foundation of the world to be His adopted child. Your body now belongs to Him and not to the world. You do not have to prove your worth to those around you, for Jesus has given you His righteous record and forgiven you of your sin. Your body can rest in the love of God. 

Verse to remember: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2 CSB).

Turning to Idols
You may struggle with body image because of idolatry. Idolatry is giving adoration and reverence to something or someone not able to satisfy. Our celebrity culture and social media often expose our misplaced trust and desire for idols. We seek images of perfect bodies to worship. We follow attractive and fashionable people to obtain their beauty. We compare ourselves to them in the hope that we can one day realize this desire. But idols will only let us down, leaving us empty. God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has enabled you to truly worship Him. Through your faith, the indwelling Holy Spirit leads you to center your heart upon seeking the satisfying presence of God. And as a result, rather than gazing on false idols or outward appearances, you can trust the true God to define beauty. 

Verse to remember: “Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes, but rather what is inside the heart—the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4 CSB). 

Aging
Perhaps you struggle with body image because of aging. As the years go by, you see more gray hairs and wrinkles. You encounter weaknesses in your body. You face the fact that your body is not youthful and energetic like it was once. But know that each year is another year of walking with the Lord. The signs of aging are evidence that God has carried you throughout your spiritual journey and is bringing you into maturity in Christ. Even though your body is aging, the passing time signifies your sanctification and the renewing of your spirit into the image of God. 

Verse to remember: “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 CSB). 

Disability, Injury, Disease
You may struggle with body image because of disability, injury, or disease. You encounter the limitations of paralysis. You are dependent on medication to relieve the debilitating aches in your body. You have recently received a serious diagnosis from your doctor and are fearful of what your body will endure as a result. We live in a fallen world, and spiritual evil, knowing that our bodies are designed to live fully for God, has sought to stop that calling. But Jesus was victorious over spiritual evil. When He gave His life on the cross, He defeated sin and death forever, and He will come again to fully end Satan’s destruction on our bodies. Until then, Jesus continues to sustain and preserve you through hardship. He has ordained whatever you are going through for His good work—for declaring the gospel. Through your disability, injury, or disease, may you still proclaim the strength of God.  

Verse to Remember: “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first” (Galatians 4:13 ESV). 

Physical Abuse 
You may struggle with body image because of physical abuse. You look at the scars of your past as reminders of the turmoil you have experienced. You grieve the attack of evil that stole your beauty and confidence. You may feel shame toward your body and hide it from the view of others. Beloved, please know that Jesus, your Savior, has also mourned your scars. Jesus identified with the unjust abuse you encountered, for He was cruelly beaten and hung on the cross for our sin. But after this suffering, Jesus resurrected in honor and majesty. His body, with scars where nails once pierced his hands, was glorified. Through faith in Jesus, you too will be resurrected and transformed, reflecting His radiance. Your scars will be images of beauty and reasons to give God praise.     

Verse to Remember: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (ESV Philippians 3:20-21).

Additional Resources
More Than Anything Bible Study
Prayers for My Body Image Card Set

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