What God Says About Body Image

Written By: Jennifer Slaughter-Govan


July 12, 2023

I was 16, and we had just wrapped an intense dance rehearsal that left me desperately needing some affirmation. My teacher approached me to chat, which was great; she would have been the perfect person to receive encouragement from. She leaned forward, grabbed my legs, and said: “We really need to catch this early before it gets out of hand!” She was referring to my weight, which I never saw coming. These words resounded like waves in the recesses of my overly critical mind. I wasn’t super thin like a ballerina, nor was I overweight. I was healthy, active, and strong — building muscle and stamina like most dancers and athletes should.

I’d love to share how I’ve overcome my struggles with body image, but I haven’t yet. Maybe writing this will help me and perhaps someone else reading. I don’t need a catchy saying or someone to compliment my looks; I need TRUTH. A straight-up word from God about tearing down the idol of self-image and escaping the prevalent vanity culture we live in today.

I believe she meant well — my teacher. Her intent wasn’t to harm me. She was only echoing what she had learned in the Big Apple and trying to protect me from any harsh criticism or missed opportunities if I pursued a career in dance. A vicious, systemic hindrance on self-esteem if you will. Unfortunately, her attempt to protect me failed, and the criticism came in excess.

For the last 20 years, I’ve worked in a few facets of the entertainment industry, so take a moment to imagine all the heightened body awareness. Hundreds of costume and wardrobe fittings, constantly seeing yourself on camera, comparing yourself to the talent next to you, or the over-asked question of, “Did I not get the job because of my size?” Sure, I’ve gotten to a place where it’s manageable, but I still struggle with seeing my body the way God created it and what it was created for.

Both men and women have negative thoughts about how they view their bodies. While women are the primary gender leading the statistics, one study reported that 53% of young American girls struggle with body-image issues. That’s a huge problem. Studies have even shown a frightening increase in these numbers since the age of social media began.

So, let’s see what God has to say about all of this since our body was made by Him. I’ll start with the fact that all things were created by God, through God, and for God.

Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.”

Romans 11:36 states, “For from him and through him and to him are all things, not just now, but forever.”

If this isn’t a solid start, I don’t know what else is. These verses address so much of what plagues our generation today. God created us with purpose, which is to glorify Him, not ourselves. God’s glory is unmatched and beyond comprehension, so it’s a big deal to exist for this reason. That’s it. That’s the message. Goodnight.

I mean, I could end there, but clearly, God has more to say, so let’s keep going as far as this blog will allow.

God does not look at us the way we do. He sees our hearts. In 1 Samuel 16:7, there’s a liberating truth:

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”

Honestly, I find this just as frightening as it is freeing. We obsess so much over how we look in photos, clothing, and online that we neglect entirely the soul-gym, where we work out the parts of our character that matter most and have lasting impact. Now, don’t get me wrong, honoring and caring for the health of our bodies is very important. Eating right and doing physical activity to maintain our health and well-being is practicing wisdom and good stewardship. But it shouldn’t become this idolatrous practice of trying to look a certain way — whether for us or someone else.

So, what do we do with this?

Well, community has been one of the most helpful things for me. By community, I mean a few solid people who love and care about you. Many body-related issues stem from verbal hurts or lies we’ve been told. Being vulnerable about how this might be affecting you allows room for healing. They could also result from what we’ve seen in the media, so you need people to point you back to those truths. It was a close friend that helped me recognize how this had become a stronghold in my life. She shares the same struggle, so we get to tear it down together. I honestly don’t know where I would be without her support.

Once you’re pointed in the right direction, it’s time to fight back. So, let’s fight fair and use words, but this time, God’s words. Trustworthy, true, living, and active — fighting words. Write verses on your mirror, make them your screensaver, and write them on index cards to pull out in the fitting room at clothing stores…wherever you need them. It’s harder to win in battle if you leave your weapon at home.

I believe these are simple steps that can have a real and lasting impact, and I thought I’d leave you with the truth on how to get the perfect body; you have to die first. Sorry, but in 1 Corinthians 15:42–44, those in Christ are promised new, imperishable bodies. God cares so much about our bodies that one day He is literally going to raise them from death to glorified perfection forever. That’s too much of a big deal for us to hate or dislike our bodies. So, what if caring for your body included how you thought or spoke about it? Would this affect your approach? I’d like to think so. Let’s take steps together towards a positive body-in-God’s-image.