Rejecting Self-Glorification and Embracing God’s Design
By JASMIN HOWELL
As a child, I never thought about my body. All I knew was that it was my means of exploring and enjoying the world.
As a preteen, a friend’s casual comment about the distinctive way I walked (a certain wiggle was mentioned) made me suddenly aware that my body was noticed by others. I started to wonder: Am I pretty? That thought had never crossed my mind before.
As a teen, I was proud of my looks. I was skinny and cute, and everyone said so. Because of the responses of others, I knew I was pretty and that kept insecurity at bay — for a time. As I grew older, my body became more womanly. I wished I had a different body type and questioned my design. I often compared myself to others and managed how I presented my body to others with precision. I craved attention and praise.
As a married woman, I’ve been as thin as 120 pounds and as heavy as 198 pounds, and just about everything in between. I’ve bought, sold, recycled, and reinvented my wardrobe more times than I can count. And even though I’m happily married and complimented often by my husband, insecurity has remained a close companion of mine.
Most recently, my body went through its most dramatic change when I became pregnant. Every part of my body shifted to accommodate a growing child, including the day when I had an emergency C-section to deliver our son. After thirteen years of infertility, I didn’t think I’d ever have a baby, so gratitude initially kept my mind distracted from the fact that there was still about thirty pounds of unwanted weight that was (and still is) on my body. Growing insecurity gradually replaced gratitude. The body that I saw in the mirror was vastly different than the one from before.
This morning I changed my outfit five times — putting on and then discarding this pair of pants, then that shirt. Nothing felt right. As I viewed myself in the mirror, I felt so unhappy. When would I ever be content in this body?
For all intents and purposes, my contentment and peace in life have been largely driven by my weight and body image. Has yours?
Amy Carmichael wisely wrote, “If you would live in victory … you must refuse to be dominated by the seen and the felt.” I would reason that there is not a bigger battleground for women than what we “see” and “feel” about our bodies. Many of us are inhibited from living fully poured-out lives for Jesus because we are fixated on issues related to our bodies — whether we feel hindered by our weight, overwhelmed by a chronic health issue, or consumed by comparison.
Learning to be in my body — to think about it in a God-honoring way and to use it appropriately as I move through my life on earth — has been a struggle. If you are like most women, you’ve probably had your own share of body-related struggles too. We are immersed in a world that doesn’t make it easy to gain a God-centered perspective in this area of our lives, but I take immense comfort in knowing that God didn’t design our bodies to be objects for our glory or sources for our shame. He has an altogether different purpose for our bodies: “…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you … You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20 ESV).
God’s Word tells us that we are to glorify God in our bodies — not ourselves. Maybe we don’t like to admit it, but many times we love getting the glory for ourselves. Self-glorification of our bodies often looks like spending our time, thoughts, money, and energy on efforts designed to garner attention and praise. We must ask the Lord to help us reject the temptation to seek our own glory and instead learn how to embrace stewarding our bodies as vessels for His glory! Seeking self-glory will always leave us feeling empty inside, even if we attain a measure of physical beauty. Why? Because we weren’t designed to be the objects of our worship, but to be worshippers of the one, true God! Living with a focus of bringing glory to Christ — even if we still wrestle with our outward appearance from time to time — will give us hearts adorned with the radiant beauty of Jesus.
But what does that look like practically? Below are a few ways to start!
1. Embrace Your Heavenly Reality
“…In view of God’s mercy … offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1 NIV).
First of all, we need to embrace the incredible truth that if we have come to saving faith in Jesus, our bodies are not our own! As Paul says, we were bought at a price — and a very costly price — that included the substitutionary body of Jesus to be given in our place.
His physical body was sacrificed unto death in order to give us true life! And He calls us to follow His example, laying down our lives for Him and offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Through the finished work of Jesus, we are already free and given access to a heavenly reality, where He wants to minister in and through us until He returns.
However, to access this beautiful freedom, we are called to reject self-glorification. In other words, we are called to deny self and not be dominated by our flesh — what we see and feel. God did not create our bodies to be objects of worship, but rather to be a means of displaying His glory in creation.
2. Regularly Assess Your Motivations
See if you relate to either of these examples. (I’ve had both, by the way.) You enter into a gathering of people and have one of the following experiences:
SCENARIO ONE: After putting in all the effort to look your best, you still think everyone looks better than you. Nobody gives you a compliment, and you spend the night feeling deflated. You can hardly think about anything (or anyone) else.
SCENARIO TWO: After putting in all the effort to look your best, everyone immediately takes notice of you, gushing about how beautiful you look. Your heart soars, and you spend the night on cloud nine. You can hardly think of anything (or anyone) else.
These are both examples of self-glorification. Being overly interested in how we present our bodies to others — whether the result is positive or negative attention (or maybe no attention at all) — sheds light on the fact that we are overly interested in ourselves.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. It’s not wrong to make an effort to look beautiful, to spend some time doing our hair or makeup, working out, buying clothes, or dressing well. I very much enjoy all of these things! But when our primary motivation for doing them is to get attention or when our mood is affected by how much praise we do or don’t receive, then we have to ask ourselves a few hard questions about our motives.
Are we living our lives primarily to minister to others, to encourage them in fellowship, and to point them to the hope and glory of the Gospel?
Or are we living to primarily gain attention, compliments, and praise for ourselves?
We should take our cue from Paul, who said: “…we [did not] seek glory from people … but we were gentle among you … ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves…” (1 Thess. 2:6–8 ESV).
If our motives emphasize us instead of the Gospel, then we need a reboot. And what is the best place to go for a reboot? God’s Word!
3. Replacing Feelings With Truth
Words like “confidence” and “insecurity” are common when we talk about our bodies. If you have an inner script that elevates your confidence or makes you feel insecure or ashamed, know that neither one is God’s plan for you, and you’re likely living in your feelings instead of in the truth.
We are told by our society that what we feel is of greatest importance. If we feel it, then it must be true. Have you ever said, “Ugh, I just feel ugly!” and two minutes later you redo your hair and walk out the door feeling pretty? Feeling ugly or pretty is not the same as being ugly or pretty. Contrary to popular opinion, feeling that something is true doesn’t make it true. Feelings are subjective, based on emotion, and quick to change.
We might feel ugly because of the way our pants fit a bit tighter this morning, or the way our hair frizzed up more than usual, or because we woke up with a giant pimple on our chin — but that doesn’t mean we are ugly. Feelings and truth are not the same, and being dominated by what we feel puts our sinful flesh on the throne of our life, rather than giving God His rightful place and submitting to His Word. Only then can we live in God’s reality and not in the trap of the seen and felt.
The only way to replace a bad script is to read a new one. And God’s Word is the best place to start! Here are some helpful references to help you break through unto truth: Psalm 139:13–18; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 5:1–21; 1 Timothy 4:8.
We are told in Scripture that “…God created man in His own image…” (Gen. 1:27). Each of us were perfectly designed in the image of God to reflect His glory in the world — and He gave us a physical body with which to do so. Our bodies will change over the course of our lives, but by the grace of God alone our struggles and our bodies can be transformed and healed, and we can become surrendered vessels — women poured out for His service. We can strike a balance between having a healthy perspective of our bodies and being dominated by a self-focused, fleshly perspective.
He has a plan for each of our lives that includes bringing Him glory while in these bodies of ours — no matter their shape, weight, color, health, or any other factor. God is not limited by the limitations we perceive in ourselves! He gave each of us a very particular body, and He doesn’t make mistakes.
Instead of wrestling with our insecurities, arguing with God about His ways, and giving in to feelings, let’s trust Him and begin to proclaim this truth today: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14 NIV).