Lisa and I had been working together on her habitual anorexia for a few weeks. After looking over her menu from the week before, on which she indicated that she had not eaten more than 200 calories on any of the days, I asked her why she was continuing to starve herself. This was her answer: “If I start eating, I might gain weight!”

“Yes, and then what would happen?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t look good!” she replied.

“And then what?”

“I don’t know, but it scares me to death!” exclaimed Lisa. “What would happen to me if I gained weight? What if I ended up looking like my mom? I can’t imagine myself looking like that.”

“Do you care about what others think of how you look?” I asked.

“No, it’s nothing like that. It’s me. I just can’t stand the thought of becoming fat!”

The beautiful people

Our culture today has influenced many women to see themselves solely in the context of how they look. We are continuously bombarded by image after image of seemingly perfect women with perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect figures. And because we live in a time when we are connected technologically with the entire world, we are not merely competing with one or two women from our own village. We feel that we are compelled to compete with the most beautiful women in the entire world!

Why are so many women driven to compete with one another in this way? Why would Lisa starve herself and then exercise to the point of collapse? Why do thousands of men and women spend billions of dollars every year just to look good?

Our world’s obsession with outward appearance and weight has led many of us to think in shallow terms about what makes for peace and joy. “If I could just wear a size 8 (or if my hips weren’t so big, or if I had a smaller waist, or … ), I know I would be content, successful, or happy.” As silly as that sounds, I know that many women subconsciously think that way. I confess that I have thought that way. (As if there isn’t an unhappy size 8 woman anywhere in the world!) We believe the lie that outward perfection (which, by the way, is an impossible goal) is the key to inner peace and joy. Or perhaps we are duped into thinking that the false happiness and contentment that comes from being satisfied with the image we see in the mirror is the true peace and contentment that we are seeking from our relationship with God. We seek after lesser joys.

Trying to avoid the inevitable

Among unbelievers and particularly those who set the styles, is this worship of youth and beauty just one more reaction against the inevitability of death? The truth is that those who don’t know Christ are charging full-speed ahead to a terrifying and inevitable end. Could it be that this worship of youth and beauty is a welcome deception as they seek to forestall the inevitable for as long as possible, fooling themselves into believing that they are immortal—that they are always young?

The Christian, however, should have a different perspective. Death is not to be feared. It is to be welcomed because its sting—fear of the punishment of eternal separation from God because of judgment for sin—has been removed. In fact, Paul teaches that in death this body of ours, this old tent, will be torn down and clothed with life. He says in 2 Corinthians 5, “We know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens … . For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (verses 1, 4). Only then, as we shine with His perfect life, will we know true, lasting beauty reflecting the glory of the King of heaven.

Living in Southern California, I love to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes when it appears that there might be an especially nice sunset, my husband will drive me down to the beach in the late afternoon. We’ll sit on the grass for an hour or so and observe God’s handiwork in motion. I’ve found that a few clouds make for the most beautiful sunsets. As the sun sinks down on the horizon, it shoots out golden beams of light that make the clouds look iridescent. The effect is spellbinding as scarlet, amber, pink, lavender, and golden skies shine down on a sparkling blue-green sea. Sometimes it just takes my breath away. When I see these spectacular displays, I am reminded that this earth (as magnificent as it sometimes may be) is only a vague shadow of the beauty of heaven. How beyond expression must the grandeur and excellence of heaven be! We will be clothed with life straight from God’s throne! We will shine with more beauty than the most exquisite sunset! Are we seeking to prepare ourselves for God’s dressing room, or are we consumed with the meager rags of this earth?

No biblical command to be thin

Now, I’m going to say something that may seem rather surprising. You know, I’ve read the Bible straight through many times, and I’ve never found any Scripture that commands or even commends thinness! Think of that. I don’t believe that there is any verse in either the Old or New Testament that encourages Christians to be thin or states that being thin is a mark of godliness.

An eternal makeover

The kind of beauty that God desires for you is found in 1 Peter 3:4: “… the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.” It is called the “fruit of the Spirit” (the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life) in Galatians 5:22-23: “love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” The excellent woman in Proverbs 31 is known for her industry, wisdom, strength, confidence, generosity, courage, knowledge, optimism, and kindness. Since we’ve already looked at the beginning of verse 30, let’s see the way the verse ends: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” The fear of the Lord is a defining characteristic of a godly woman. A woman who fears the Lord will be growing in all of the qualities listed above. But what does it mean to “fear” God?

Charles Spurgeon taught the true meaning of this concept when he preached in London more than 100 years ago:

Blessed is the man whose heart is filled with that holy fear which inclines his steps in the way of God’s commandments, inclines his heart to seek after God, and inclines his whole soul to enter into fellowship with God, that he may be acquainted with Him, and be at peace. What is this fear of God? I answer, first, it is a sense of awe of His greatness. Have you never felt this sacred awe stealing insensibly over your spirit, hushing, and calming you, and bowing you down before the Lord? It will come, sometimes, in the consideration of the great works of nature. Gazing upon the vast expanse of waters—looking up to the innumerable stars, examining the wing of an insect, and seeing there the matchless skill of God displayed in the minute; or standing in a thunderstorm, watching, as best you can, the flashes of lightning, and listening to the thunder of Jehovah’s voice, have you not often shrunk into yourself, and said, “Great God, how terrible art Thou!”—not afraid, but full of delight like a child who rejoices to see his father’s wealth, his father’s wisdom, his father’s power—happy and at home, but feeling oh, so little! We are less than nothing, we are all but annihilated in the presence of the great eternal, infinite, invisible All-in-all (emphasis added).

Remember what the Lord Jesus taught: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). Then, let that encouragement spur you on to the pursuit of the inner, godly characteristics that He desires for you. Remember that He is in the process of changing you—a process that will find its completion when you are beautifully robed in His glory in heaven. Don’t settle for a mere 15-pound weight loss or even the good but temporary establishment of healthy eating habits. Submit yourself to His work in your life—rejoice in it like a “child who rejoices to see his father’s wealth, his father’s wisdom, his father’s power”!

Adapted excerpt from Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Copyright © 2005 by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by Permission.