I love beauty products. One scroll through Instagram and, if I’m not careful, I’m already at the checkout to buy a “life-changing” setting powder or volumizing hair spray. I like to wear makeup and style my hair, especially for work or special occasions.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look my best, right?
The Cost of Mascara
One Saturday morning, I was getting ready for a friend’s wedding. During the carefully planned process of makeup application and hairstyling, I realized I hadn’t packed any mascara. Feeling sulky and irrational, I began ransacking the hotel room trying to find it and speaking unkindly to my husband when he suggested I could go without.
I was so worked up that eventually he went out and came back with a new one from a nearby store. That moment was an idol litmus test for me. My appearance was so important (on someone else’s special day!) that it caused me to treat someone I love badly.
But even when I’m not acting irrationally in a hotel room, I still struggle to know the proper place of makeup and the desire for beauty. Even on a calm Monday morning, I question the value I give to mascara (and nail polish and skin toner and eyeliner). I want to look beautiful, but I feel a vague sense of guilt about this desire.
I want to look beautiful, but I feel a vague sense of guilt about this desire.
It seems to be a struggle for many Christian women. We know that God “looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), but how we look still matters to us. How do the two connect? If I believe the gospel, should my beauty routine be guilt-driven? How would the gospel have changed my response in that hotel room? I need gospel joy to reshape my attitudes.
Here are four gospel joys to redirect our hearts as we go through our beauty routines.
1. God Created Beauty
We can rejoice that God is the designer and creator of physical beauty. In Song of Songs we read many references to the physical appearance of both lovers. The celebration of physical beauty is one of the book’s central themes. Enjoying the beauty of another, in the right context, is natural and good and part of God’s perfect design.
We can rejoice and give thanks for God’s goodness in making us. He designed the contours of our faces, the shape of our eyes, the texture of our hair. It’s okay to enjoy finding a great dress to wear to my friend’s wedding, and styling my hair in honor of her special day. These things celebrate and highlight the unique beauty God has created. This is also why I can experience deep joy as I see the bride walk down the aisle looking radiant, and am able to forget all about how I look. I am free to praise God for my friend’s beauty.
2. All Beauty Glorifies God
We can rejoice that the purpose of physical beauty is to bring glory to God. I was made, fearfully and wonderfully, to glorify him (Ps. 139:14). It’s nice to look nice, but if I’m preoccupied with glorifying myself by wanting to look my best at all times, haven’t I missed the whole point of beauty? I’ve become like a flower in a bridal bouquet, consumed with how I look, comparing myself to the other flowers and forgetting I’m there to adorn the bride.
When God’s glory is my ultimate goal, looking perfect doesn’t need to be.
Instead, knowing we were made for God’s glory, we can celebrate physical diversity among us. The beauty of a bouquet is in the variety of its flowers and the perfect combination of color and foliage working together to create one lovely adornment. So even if my hair is frizzy, my complexion uneven, or my fingernails stubby, I can delight in knowing I still have a place in God’s bouquet of beauty.
Remembering that I was made, in all ways, to glorify God releases me from being enslaved to my beauty routine. If I forget my mascara, or I don’t have time to curl my hair, it’s OK. When God’s glory is my ultimate goal, looking perfect doesn’t need to be.
3. God Beautifies My Heart
We can rejoice that God is crafting a much deeper, eternal beauty within us: the sanctification of our souls. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). We need not despair as our bodies change or our faces wrinkle, since the Holy Spirit is continually working to create in us “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4).
This inner adornment—growing in character and godliness—is the only beauty that lasts past illness and injury into old age and far beyond. This is the beauty in which God most delights. Since these earthly bodies we inhabit are only “tents” (2 Cor. 5:1), we need not be consumed with how they look. As we consider the “unseen things” (2 Cor. 4:18), we will become taken up with the eternal glory that awaits us and the work God is doing within us.
How might this look for me? Perhaps it means sooner skipping my beauty routine than my quiet time when I’m running late. Or it might mean I’m quicker to give money to the church than to spend it on the latest “must-have” beauty product. Behind these small changes is a deep joy found in pursuing lasting, spiritual beauty and growing closer to Christ.
4. Christ Is Supremely Beautiful
Our fourth and greatest joy is gazing upon the beauty of Jesus himself. After all, it’s to him that all other beauty points. Only his all-surpassing loveliness has the power to captivate our hearts and steal them away from the idol of appearance.
But what makes him so breathtaking? It’s not his face shape or complexion (Isa. 53:2). It’s his grace and humility, his kindness and wisdom, his gentleness and strength. It’s his love—the love that took him to the cross and drove nails into his hands. May I, in some dim, shadowy way, reflect this kind of beauty in my love for others.
Mascara or no mascara, I am free, through the Spirit, to follow his pattern of beauty—to act humbly, to speak graciously and to show kindness. I’m free to respond gently to my husband as I’m getting ready in the hotel room, or to pray as I apply my makeup. I’m free to reach out to the wedding guest who doesn’t seem to know anyone, or to greet someone with warmth and interest. True beauty is being more like Jesus.
True beauty is being more like Jesus.
In heaven we will be more beautiful than we can imagine, but we won’t be admiring ourselves. We’ll be too busy gazing at him. An old hymn puts it perfectly:
The bride eyes not her garments,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.