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Ask Jani: “Body Image, Beauty, & The Gospel”

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Episode Synopsis

Ray joins Jani to discuss a listener’s question about body image. Why do we struggle with body image? The Bible tells stories of stunningly beautiful women, but what is God’s definition of true beauty?

Audio Transcript

Jani: Hello, everyone. Welcome. We’re glad you’ve tuned back in. Ray and I are still in quarantine here in Franklin, Tennessee, because of the Coronavirus. And we’re grateful to be together, but we’ll be glad when we can get back out ministering outside of our home as well, won’t we, Ray?

Ray: Yes, but I’m thankful we have this this mechanism of a podcast to stay connected with our friends and just to speak to them very personally and even intimately in this electronic  way. It’s great. I’m thankful for this.

Jani: Isn’t the Lord kind? Whoever would have thought this? Thank you, Ray, for taking time away from your study and writing to be with our listeners today.  

Our Topic Today: Body Image

Jani: Today we want to take another question from a listener. It’s about body image and beauty. She says, “As a woman, how does God care about my body? What does he think about it? What do we have to look forward to with our glorified bodies”? Ray, I’m going to let you speak to that in a minute.  

Jani: Another listener has also entered in a question that could help with this podcast about body image issues. Honey, you know, even in my own life and being married to me, how women tend to struggle with body issues. I was trying to get my hair to not look so gray at the roots today, wasn’t I?

Ray: I think it’s adorable!

Jani: …and I think it’s awful! But, woman listener, you get that. We’re always thinking about how we’re presenting ourselves to the world, and what others will think of us because of what they see and how they view us.  

Question 1: “What is God’s definition of beauty?”

Jani: I think that as we talk about this, I’d like to refer you to my book called Fearlessly Feminine. Chapter nine is entitled “Unfading Beauty” and in it we look at how God thinks about beauty. What’s his definition of beauty anyhow? He’s the one who created it.

Ray: Yes, beauty matters to God. He created it.

Jani: Yes. What does he find beautiful in a woman? I mean, think Ray of all the times we have stories in the Bible of stunningly beautiful women: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Bathsheba, Abigail, Esther and others. God made us, as human beings, creatures who enjoy beauty; we’re attracted to it. And that beauty has found a place in his word. I love that.

Ray: It’s interesting.

Jani: He wired us together in such a way that, when we see something beautiful, it releases in us kind of an irresistible admiration. I think we were made to be attracted to beauty. It delights and satisfies us.  

Jani: But there is a caution there. God cautions us not to elevate beauty above its proper place…

Ray: …outward beauty, anyway.

Jani: Yes, outward beauty, that’s what we’re talking about in the first part of this podcast. He even warns us in Proverbs 31 that beauty is fleeting, it doesn’t endure! It’s transitory. God gives us his definition of a beautiful woman in 1 Peter 3, and that’s what we want to camp on, his definition. What does God find beautiful in a woman?

Jani: The Bible affirms a beauty that reaches far beyond our human definitions, and it surpasses with any earthbound eye can see. Now that’s the kind of beauty that we want to embrace, build, and acknowledge in each other as women.

Ray: And no matter what any woman’s age is, she can have this beauty, no matter what any culture’s fashions might be as they come and go, every woman can have this beauty. That’s amazing.

Jani: Yes, isn’t that kind of the Lord?

Ray: It’s very kind.

Jani: It’s an unfading beauty. It’s a costly beauty. The Bible says it’s of great worth in God’s eyes. It’s a lasting beauty. It’s unfading. The Bible speaks of a beauty that’s damage resistant and incapable of being destroyed. I like that, Ray, because now that I’m 70 and looking a lot older and my beauty has faded, there’s a kind of beauty that God can give me that wrinkles can’t diminish and age can’t dim. In fact, hopefully my age will enhance that inner beauty and death will never destroy it.

Ray: You know, sweetheart, as I look at you and as I’ve known other women as the years have gone by, it doesn’t even occur to me to notice wrinkles and lines. I don’t even see those. What I see is the obvious. I see the radiance that is the personal inner loveliness that emanates from a woman of God that is so obvious and so unmistakable. It’s what I notice. It’s what everyone notices. It is a glory that God puts in a woman and upon a woman, and it simply transcends and overshadows the outward appearance, whatever that might be. That’s very real.

Qualities of Godly Beauty

Jani: What are some of the qualities that you see in that beauty?

Ray: Wow, that’s a great question. A couple of things come into my mind. Cheerfulness is beautiful.  

Jani: It is. 

Ray: Serenity is beautiful.

Jani: Oh, let me stop you right there why do you think of those other qualities. I think serenity is beautiful because it speaks of a trust in God and that lack of impatience and chafing, which is not beautiful. In serenity (trust) there’s something that glows in a woman who is serene.

Ray: Yes, and wisdom is also beautiful,. Wisdom that knows what to say and knows what not to say. That never fails to be striking and impressive and noteworthy. It compels my attention. It compels my admiration. There is a beauty about cheerfulness and about serenity and about wisdom. Any woman can have that unfading beauty, as the Bible says. In fact, it only gets better.

Jani: So let’s be women who ask the Lord to bring us true inner beauty so that we can be beautiful to others for his sake. I mean I’m all for combing your hair and  looking nice. But who cares how much time you spend on your makeup and hair, if when you go out no one sees Jesus? We really want to be filled with the beauty of God.  

Jani: So let me encourage each one of our listeners that, as he restores our souls, that is a beautiful work of God, the most beautiful work of God.

Question 2: “How do our bodies relate to the gospel?”

Jani: Now Ray, one of our listeners also asked about our bodies in light of the gospel, in light of eternity. How do our bodies relate to the gospel?

Ray: The gospel  affirms our bodies and the gospel includes and wraps its’ gentle arms around the human body. God is not regretting the fact that he made us with bodies. He is not squeamish. He is not having second thoughts. He is not wishing he hadn’t done that. 1 Corinthians 6 says that the Lord is for the body. He has a “pro-body” policy.

Jani: Oh, wait a minute, I love that!

Ray: Yeah, and 1 Corinthians chapter 6 says that, right now the Lord himself, through the Holy Spirit, indwells our very bodies. He is not ashamed to identify with and be present in our bodies. He’s not holding his nose! He is all in and he is now living within our very bodies. So when I shake hands with somebody in Nashville, Tennessee, that is Jesus in his presence bringing his presence to Nashville, shaking hands with somebody. When I walk the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, that is Jesus walking the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, it just means the Lord is present in this world by inhabiting my very body, it’s amazing. And that’s true right now, even in my fallibility and, at times, my foolishness and my mortality. My body is aging. My body will die. I will someday keel over, a battered old brontosaurus and drop.

Jani: Oh, that makes me sad.

Ray: Oh no, that doesn’t make me sad! I’m looking forward to it because I want to be with the Lord.  

Ray: So let’s pivot and let’s talk about our bodies then. Our bodies right now are indwelled by God, and for our bodies then, the gospel is enthusiastic about our bodies. In fact, the redemption of our bodies is the punch line of the gospel. It’s where the gospel is going. It says in Romans 8:23-24 that not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have first fruits of the spirit, we “…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” In other words, the touchdown that the gospel scores is the redemption of our bodies.

Jani: So our very bodies? Our flesh?

Ray: Yes, and so here’s what’s going to happen to you someday, sweetheart, and to every listener who loves Jesus. The Lord is not just going to patch you up a little bit here and there. He is going to raise up your entire being—body, soul and spirit. Your personality will be entirely (like mine someday) rinsed clean of all sin. We will never again experience shame and self hatred and regret. We will finally be unleashed. We will not have to be guarded about ourselves. In our personalities, we will finally be all that God made us truly to be. Each one of us will be an individual and we will be an amazing reflection of Christ himself. That’s our personalities. Our bodies will be raised immortal like the resurrection body of Christ. We will be incapable of injury, fatigue and death.

Jani: Oh my!

Ray: Yes, and my hunch is we’ll all have IQ’s of about 10,000! We will all have sparkling personalities that other people will love to be around. We will all have an amazing sense of humor. We will have intellects undimmed by confusion, sin and darkness. We’re going to go through eternity with personalities and bodies perfected by the grace of God, moving among people in the presence of our King, moving among people from every ethnicity, every nationality, every race and so forth. Heaven will be very human and everyone we meet throughout eternity will like us.

Jani: Oh, now that’s  good.

Ray: Every new person we meet will feel like, “Oh, I just met my new best friend!”

Jani: Oh and we’ll have all eternity to discover that!

Ray: Yes, and we will be in an entirely new universe—a new heaven and a new earth—that will be sparkling with the glory of God. All that we are right now, we will get back in eternity, including our very bodies, but better than ever, perfected and glorious like the resurrection of Christ himself.

Jani: Oh, I’m trying to hold back the tears, that so beautiful, Ray. So what that means to me and our listeners right now is that we don’t have to fuss about our bodies. You know, if we don’t like something about our body, it’s not going to bother us forever. Let it go! Let’s  give ourselves anew to Christ Jesus and let him renew us in our inner man…

Ray: …and just rejoice our fool heads off. It’s gonna be okay.

Jani: It’s going be okay. Oh, may he restore your soul.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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  • Sonja says:

    Thank you 💕
    You both are beautiful examples to us of the Christian life! xo

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    He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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