I'm not sure I've ever felt beautiful. And as a Christ follower, especially, that is a huge problem.
I'm one of the rare people who doesn't seem to have much of a body image issue. God made me to be a large, meaty woman, I have a plain Jane face at best and yeah, I could lose a few pounds, but as long as I'm healthy and able to put in a good days work, I'm content with my body. That is different, though, from feeling beautiful. Feeling beautiful is a much more complicated issue.
Our culture has fed us two huge lies about beauty and I've unfortunately bought into both. The first that beauty is determined by your exterior condition...namely, how you look. The second is that either you are born with this intangible quality of being beautiful, or you haven't, and those who haven't have to spend the rest of their life losing weight, working out, learning beauty tricks, and buying lotions, potions and magic goo to get as close to this unattainable thing called beautiful as possible. Even more disturbing, many have confused beauty with sexuality and the ability to get attention from the opposite sex. Some people even go to extremes of becoming addicted to plastic surgery or developing eating disorders, slowly killing themselves in the name of beauty.
I hate to admit it, but there are even times when my feeling not beautiful has kept me or at least hindered me from doing all that God has asked of me. There are people who I've felt like I've needed to talk to and haven't because of my insecurity about my looks. There are times when I panic before I get up in front of the congregation in the praise band because I feel too ugly and don't want people looking at me. There are times where I don't even want to leave the house, even to serve God, because the clothes I have don't make me feel pretty enough.
The problem, and why it is such a problem especially for Christ-followers, is that this exterior definition of beauty contradicts God's truth about beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." While it is directed here toward women, I believe it can be applied to both men and women. A beauty that radiates from our shell is cheap and flimsy. A beauty that radiates from our core, from our inner self, is a far more intoxicating beauty.
One of my favorite Bible verses is from the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8) According to Clarke's Commentary, in the Hebrew culture, the concept of "seeing" something actually means possessing it. So those who are pure in heart shall "possess" God. What beauty could be more intoxicating, more captivating, more desirable, than the beauty of God Himself, radiating out from someone with a pure heart within them? Nothing we can do to our outer shells can mimic or hide a beauty that great. And it is attainable by all. All it requires is surrender to Jesus Christ. When you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you and you let Its light shine, you can't help but glow yourself.
What if we took the time that we spent making our exterior beautiful and instead spent it on making our interior's beautiful? What if instead of using our clothes or jewelry or hairstyles to give us the confidence boost we look for, we look inside and purify our hearts and let the greatest confidence of all, the confidence we gain through Christ, fill us instead? What if we take the energy we spend on beautifying ourselves and take it to beautify and lift up other people?
A dear friend of mine often reminds me to listen to the lyrics of a song by the group Mercy Me called Beautiful. Every time he reminds me of that song, it is the chorus that brings me to tears...you're beautiful, you're beautiful, you were made for so much more than this, you're beautiful, you're beautiful, you are treasured, you are sacred, you are His, you're beautiful. We are beautiful for no other reason than we are His. Regardless of our clothes, our hair, our nose, our belly fat, we are beautiful. We weren't created for this life, we were created for the next and all of this, our bodies included, are temporary. The "you" that lasts forever is beautiful. You are beautiful.