Our culture idolizes beauty, strength, and productivity. Women want to be attractive, men want to be powerful, and everyone wants to be successful. (Of course this is a generalization of what men and women tend toward; I am aware that men want to be attractive too, and women strong.) We want to feel wanted, important, and in control of our lives. We want to be loved, and safe, and living a life of purpose. Unfortunately, the devil takes these desires and twists them with his lies; he makes us think that exterior beauty, strength, and productivity alone will fulfill those desires, when they will only leave us more empty, yearning, and anxious. The only thing that can fulfill those desires is a relationship with God. Only He is perfectly beautiful, strong, and creative. Only He can teach us how to obtain the spiritual beauty, strength, and productivity that we need most: virtue.
Part 1: Woman’s Desire for Beauty
It’s especially easy for us women to get caught up in the desire to be beautiful, to be noticed, to be loved. And it’s natural for women to want to be desirable to the opposite sex, for God intentionally made woman the most beautiful creature and to be a partner alongside man. We were made to be attractive to our partner, to complement our role as nurturing wives and mothers. Beauty is good—and one of the ways that women reflect the image of God. He is Beauty itself, and Goodness and Truth and Love itself.
The problem occurs when we become obsessive about external beauty at the detriment of the beauty of the soul—when “beauty” comes at the cost of Goodness or Truth or Love. Our external beauty can become an idol in which we put too much of our worth. If we become too focused on this, we can lose sight of what’s much more important. Even worse, this external beauty can be used in the wrong way, to selfishly attract attention to ourselves and even tempt others to sin, rather than to point others back to God’s Beauty. In this case, the beauty given to us by God is abused; beauty itself is still inherently good. When the devil tries to twist the idea of beauty and the value of our bodies, we must remember Psalm 139:
You formed my inmost being; / you knit me in my mother’s womb. / I praise you, because I am wonderfully madePsalm 139:13-14 (NABRE)
Nonetheless, the Bible clearly states that God desires us to focus less on external beauty and more on the internal beauty of the soul. In 1 Peter chapter 3, it says:
Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.1 Peter 3:3-4
In other words: If you want to be beautiful, be virtuous! This is the beauty of the soul. It is the wisdom and the choice to love God and neighbor above ourselves because God first loved us. For a virtuous woman, this outer beauty will highlight and add to her inner beauty, not attempt to replace virtue or distract her from practicing it. Furthermore, this inner beauty greatly pleases God and is incredibly attractive to a godly man. The value of a virtuous woman is praised all through Proverbs 31, which details how a husband appreciates his wife’s wisdom, hard work, generosity, respect for God, and confidence in her own worth.
Who can find a woman of worth? / Far beyond jewels is her value. / …. She is clothed with strength and dignity, / and laughs at the days to come. / …. Her children rise up and call her blessed; / her husband, too, praises her / …. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; / the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. / Acclaim her for the work of her hands, / and let her deeds praise her at the city gates.Proverbs 31:10, 25, 28, 30-31
In the end, it is virtue (being loved by God and thus loving Him in return) that fulfills our desire for beauty, love, and relationship. If we desire beauty because we want to be loved, then we must pray for acceptance that God loves us just as we are (not based on our outer beauty nor even our virtue—though He wants that for us to grow and prosper). If we want beauty in order to please someone, then we must seek to please God, for He is the ruler of all and the lover of our souls. And we must remember: external beauty will pass, but the beauty of the soul has eternal value.
God bless you and keep you!