“What I know to be true in my heart (God is only concerned with our heart/spirit, not our physical appearance) is in direct opposition to what is in my head (the world says I should look this way, dress this way, etc…). It is a battle I fight all the time. It’s exhausting and binding.”
“I was at the MOPS meeting when you came and spoke. The issue of body image as been, literally, a debilitating disease for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve taken anxiety medications, gone to Christian therapy… Nothing even took the edge off. The words you spoke did! I keep the prayer card in my bible so I remember to keep God the focus. The struggle is real, but the hope is real also!”
Both of these quotes are from Christian women. Women raised in the church. Women committed to serving and following Christ.
A few years ago I conducted a survey of Christian women and body image. And, what I found was astounding. Women in the church struggled with their physical appearance in the exact same ways and at the exact same rates as women in general. (I hope to conduct another study this year and release the results in the Summer of 2017).
Body image is a tricky thing to talk about in church. I get it. It’s awkward to discuss something that feels “shallow” to some or is way too sensitive for others.
But, women in the church–women in your youth group, ladies group, MOPs group, or Bible Study–need to talk about this issue in a safe, Christ-centered environment.
When we don’t discuss these issues in church, women are left with only the advice of culture. “Just love your body” and “focus on what you like about you and forget the rest” are the adopted mantras. Nevermind that they don’t stand up to scripture. . .
Women in your church need help on this issue.
They need assistance in navigating the tension between wanting to take care of their bodies and obsessing over what they look like. They need sound biblical advice as to how to uncover and uproot body image idolatry.
What Can Church Leaders Do to Help Women with Body Image?
Cliches such as “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” and “God made every woman beautiful” will fall flat on a woman who’s struggling. If you are a pastor or a male church leader and you are married, read this post for more personal encouragement on how to handle this issue if it’s present in your marriage.
Second, be purposeful about addressing the issue of body image.
Invite speakers who will speak to this issue with biblical truth not with culture’s self-love rhetoric. Encourage your women who are battling eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder or related issues to find a biblical counselor and not try to navigate these issues on their own. Here are a few resources that may help.
Third, follow this blog.
If you are leading women, you need to be reading about their trials in this arena. On this blog you’ll read stories from more than a dozen Christian women. They’ll talk about their struggles, victories, temptations, and thoughts. Many women do not talk about these issues out loud, with anyone. So, this is your best opportunity for greater insight into the thought life of a Christian woman who struggles with her body image.