Are you beautiful? We women especially tend to wonder about this at various times, but even men can be concerned about their appearances. Yet if we base the estimation of our value purely on that which is physical, we might find ourselves increasingly distraught as the years pass, and our features–with which we may or may not have been previously satisfied–begin to deteriorate with age.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)
Some translations say He “makes everything happen at the right time,” but the point is that God structures human physical life so that we are who we are, exactly when we’re supposed to be. You cannot at seventy, sixty or even fifty years old rightly expect to look like you did at eighteen; the increasingly all-too-frequent artificial likenesses of those surgically enhanced to look significantly younger than their chronological age attest to that visual incongruity–it just seems strange when older faces and bodies look too much like younger ones. And while I’m not saying we should give up altogether–that we shouldn’t try to do the best with what we have or enhance our appearance in any way as we age–trying too hard to look like what we no longer are is a bit pointless.
You see, the unique beauty and vigor of a woman’s youth serves a specific purpose above the merely aesthetic–it indicates a capacity for God’s design of procreation. A woman of child-bearing age is physically attractive for a specific reason; to encourage that which her time of life has suited her for–the formation of a marriage and beginning of a new family.
None of which is to arbitrarily restrict or preclude a woman beyond childbearing age from marrying, or adopting or fostering children, or assisting in the raising of her own grandchildren if need be. My point is just that it’s ridiculous to expect fifty-seven to look like twenty-seven because fifty-seven cannot physiologically do what twenty-seven can!
So, what does fifty-seven look like? What can you expect as you get older? More importantly, do we lose value as our appearance changes?
As time progresses and we pass through the natural stages of life, we change. Mentally, we mature; we have the insight and acuity we didn’t at twenty because we have lived through experiences that have (hopefully) caused us to become wiser. But physically, our bodies deteriorate, and as our internal physiology alters, changing hormones eventually impact our bodies’ capacity to maintain our formerly youthful appearance. Even if we’ve lived a healthy lifestyle, we eventually wear down; it is unusual to hear of a person living beyond a hundred, although some rare individuals make it to around a hundred twenty (according to nbcnews.com, “the oldest verified age was 122 years and 164 days: Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997“).
Yet this is not necessarily “bad;” it is just the way it is. And while we should do our best to extend our functional years, we should also recognize that regardless of how others, or even we, ever formerly evaluated ourselves–our true worth never was based on our appearance. To the contrary, God has always looked for completely different qualities in us: qualities that we can not only still grow in, but even also become genuinely abundant in! Proverbs 4:18 confirms that, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18 NIV) We, at the moment of our physical death, should and can be more beautiful in God’s eyes than ever before!
But whether we are young or older, how does God evaluate our true beauty? What does He look for in us? Well, what does He say?
“…What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way…” (1 Peter 3:4-6 MSG)
“Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.” (1 Timothy 2:8-10 MSG)
“…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)
God is looking for who we are inside–at the inner quality of our heart. He is looking for a spirit right with Him–one that has submitted itself to Him and placed its full confidence in the forgiveness we have through Christ; one that genuinely trusts He has our highest good at heart; one that evidences Christ’s Spirit working in us: “…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV) This is what God is looking for; this is what is beautiful to Him, and it is how we can get more and more beautiful as the years progress!
Even more amazingly, the lives we now lead, the decisions we make, who we become through choice and repetition–in other words who we really are, as opposed to how we present ourselves to others–not only impacts our physical visage here in these bodies through an inner serenity and joy that permeates our entire being, it is also what we will carry with us past death to eternity.
Did you catch that? The person we are inside will cross over to eternity! How? Why? Because it doesn’t go away at the moment of death; we really truly don’t simply cease to exist, as some assert. Whether it’s our embracing of Christ in faithful obedience, or stubborn rejection of God’s overtures of mercy and love, our response to Christ is preserved eternally because our spirit is eternal!
And the things we go through–the trials we experience through which we reflect Christ–we know that, “…our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:17-18 NKJV)
So, are you beautiful? Is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” working “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” as you look “at the things which are not seen?” Is your path “shining ever brighter until the full light of day?” Let’s hope so, because that’s the beauty time cannot steal!
Dear Lord God,
Thank You that You have made everything beautiful in its time, and that You have set eternity in our heart! Please work true beauty–a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory–in us as our physical lives progress. Amen.