We live in a culture fascinated by and obsessed with the external. Commercial after commercial, ad after ad; too many weight loss diets and work out programs to count. There are nearly 10 makeup aisles at any given department store. Gyms, salons, tanning centers, and body wrap stores are at every shopping center. This isn’t just the “world” who is sucked into this; it’s us, sons and daughters of God. We’ve bought into the lie that pursuing these things will somehow satisfy our longings or bring us gain.
Go to any big church in any big city, and you will see the issue of prolonged singleness. I believe one of the major causes of this is the unrealistic expectation and desire for a spouse who will meet every attraction factor you’ve placed in your head. Godliness, humility, friendship, integrity, gentleness, strength, courage, and leadership are no longer the primary marks that measure beauty or attraction.
It’s really fascinating studying this in Scripture. If you look at the number one passage of Biblical Femininity (Proverbs 31), you will not see one mention of her physical beauty. Instead, you will see the mother of King Lemuel describe to her son what an excellent wife looks like. She’s rare, humble, precious, trustworthy, diligent, wise, dedicated to prayer, hard-working, compassionate, kind, light-hearted, a servant, dignified, praise-worthy, excellent, and a God-fearer. She even warns him about the futility in charm and beauty, saying, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (vs. 30)
Another common passage in Scripture referring to a woman’s godliness is 1 Peter 3:2-4. Here, Peter is exhorting wives to be respectful and walk in pure conduct. He tells them to avoid adorning yourself with the external. That doesn’t mean we must avoid makeup or never dress up; but he’s saying this, “That isn’t what’s important; that isn’t true beauty. That doesn’t last.” What does last? “Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Having a heart that loves and serves her Savior; a gentle and quiet spirit that trusts and believes in His faithfulness and care; that is what is beautiful in a woman. So beautiful that God deems it “very precious.”
I think my favorite passage referring to this found in Song of Solomon. I love that book. I love the story of friendship, courtship, marriage, passion, and love. I love how drawn to each other these two were. What’s fascinating about all this is that Solomon’s bride did not consider herself beautiful. It says in Song of Solomon 1:5 that she was “dark, but lovely.” Tanned skin was unappealing in that culture. Pale skin was beautiful and appealing. Tanned skin meant you worked outside and did not have the luxury of protecting your skin by lounging around inside as was the custom. That was feminine. Dark skin was not. Yet, it was her work ethic; it was her character; it was her friendship; it was her heart that Solomon’s soul loved. Over and over and over he told her she was beautiful. In each of her insecurities and fears, he kept reminding her of her beauty.
Psalm 34:5 says that, “Those who look on Him are radiant, and their faces will never be put to shame.” In my life there have been several men and women who have (almost quite literally) shone and radiated with the love and grace of God. And it’s beautiful. I find myself watching them, almost staring, because there is something so profound that I am drawn to them. And they are appealing and beautiful; because of Christ in them.
Men and women, brothers and sisters: this is what we ought to aim for. We exert so much time and energy trying to impress and gain the affection and attention of our peers and significant others that we miss it. Please don’t buy into the lie that you have to look a certain way to gain affection or attention. Don’t get so ingrained in the world that you neglect a beautiful heart for a beautiful body. It’s not worth it and will only end in disappointment and pain.
By the power and grace of God, may we be a broken generation who strives for godliness and Christ-likeness before and above.
“While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8