Girlfriends in God - November 18, 2011

November 18, 2011
Measuring Up
Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).

Friend to Friend
My girlfriend Denise is a knockout. She’s got the whole beauty package going on. She’s tall, slender, athletic, bright, and funny. To know her is to love her. But she is so pretty that if you didn’t know her, you might love to hate her. Kind of like the supermodels.

Denise is a former model and gymnast who lived much of her life in the shadow of perfection’s impossible measuring stick. She grew up in a small town just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and made a decision for Christ as a child. Though she was a believer, Denise still struggled with common issues of measuring up.

“It was very important to me to be well-liked and to be very successful in every aspect of my life,” she said. “My family strived to be the ideal, all-American family. I worked hard to have great grades, be a great athlete, and wear the right clothes; to overachieve. As a model and gymnast, body type and strength were very important to winning, as well as to my identity.”

By nature, Denise is competitive. Most would refer to her personality as type-A. A go-getter. A perfectionist. She’s the kind of girl you want on your team: determined, focused, and disciplined. Her quest to be the best, however, left Denise feeling helpless and unsuccessful. Even though she was a fierce competitor as a gymnast, she never felt she was good enough. For years, Denise tried to control the circumstances and the people in her life in an attempt to make things perfect. Eventually, her pursuit of perfection got Denise into a heap of trouble. As Edwin Bliss has said, “The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.”

As a high school gymnast, Denise dealt with the pressures to measure up in a destructive way. She became bulimic. She wanted to be in control of her body and manage her weight but she became enslaved to an addictive and damaging behavior. She was a Christian girl who knew that God loved her. She had been told that she was beautiful to Him, but for a season of her life, Denise didn’t consider that enough. At first, to her delight, Denise’s bulimia resulted in weight loss. Keeping extra weight off allowed her to be competitive in the gym and to look good. She wasn’t alone. Most of her teammates had eating disorders too.

“What I thought was just a phase became my way of life,” Denise remembers.

Her destructive behavior followed her to college. Denise thought she was in control of the bulimia, but eventually realized that bulimia was in control of her. It consumed her thoughts. It swung the gates of deception wide open for the enemy to stroll right through. He laughed all the way, because he had her right where he wanted her.

Negative self-talk filled her head. A thought as simple as, “I’m a little bit nervous about teaching this fitness class,” would snowball into, “You are so fat. You should never have eaten all that food this afternoon. You’re such an idiot! You won’t even be able to get through this class.” The voice in her head constantly told her she didn’t measure up.

“If I heard ninety nine positive comments about myself and one negative comment, I couldn’t let the one negative comment go,” she said. “I illuminated my failures and shortcomings instead of celebrating my successes.”

During that time, she constantly talked about her body…about how awful it was. Denise says it was as if a ticker tape was filling her mind with a steady stream of negative thoughts and beating her down.

She prayed, “Lord, help me find a way to cut that ticker tape. I need a reprieve.” God eventually did cut it with truth, but it took a while for Denise to learn to recognize Satan’s lies for what they were.

The Lord placed many Christian friends in Denise’s path who encouraged her to see a counselor. She went, though she still wanted her way more than God’s way. The counselor told her that she must want to be healed of her eating disorder. She needed motivation to change. Denise lacked the motivation until she went home for fall break and finally hit rock bottom.

A Time for Change
Denise was consumed with being fit. Each day of break was another opportunity to strive for physical perfection, and she trained hard. . She had been fasting for a few days—something she relished because of the dramatic physical results, not for the spiritual benefits the Bible speaks of—and then ate something. The ticker in her mind told her that she should feel terrible about eating, so Denise went upstairs and made herself throw up. Her body had grown so weak that she fell to the floor before making it to her bed.

Her brother found her on the floor crying and completely out of it.

Denise’s brother, who suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy and has struggled to overcome the challenges of his disability, was alarmed and angry. Once Denise was able to get up from the floor, her brother confronted her with strong words that became a catalyst of change in her life.

“I have worked all my life to overcome my physical deformity,” he said. “And here you are intentionally destroying yourself.”

It was true and she knew it.

In that moment, Denise felt the weight of truth, and finally crumbled. Her previous casual attempts to allow God to intervene were now replaced with sincere cries for help. She needed to change and she needed God’s help for the change to happen. She needed Him to consume her thoughts and transform her mind. She needed Him desperately.

Denise had known the truth from the beginning. She just resisted it. She knew that bulimia was destructive, but the pressures of the world had a greater hold on her.

When she turned to Jesus for help, He began to transform her from the inside out. As a child, Denise gave her heart to Jesus. As an adult, she surrenderedher life to Him. There’s a big difference. In the surrendering, Denise found healing for the bulimia and emotional freedom from the need to measure up to the world’s standard of perfection.

Her healing took time. It progressed slowly. God used His Word, Christian counseling, and friends to replace lies with His truth. Denise has experienced full healing through the strength of the Lord and now regularly shares her story with women and young girls.

Healing begins when we hold tightly to the truth of God and allow the truth of God to hold tightly to us. God gives each of us the freedom to accept or reject His way. When we lean into His truth, we are less likely to conform to the world. His truth, His Word can be the light for each step we take. It illuminates the path that leads to His heart. God’s Word transforms. The apostle Paul said, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a).

We live in a competitive world. The pressures to be thin, beautiful, fit, smart, sexy, funny, rich, and popular trap us in a relentless vise-grip. Denise’s story isn’t much different from yours or mine. You don’t need to be a model or a gymnast to get trapped in a disorder or an addictive lifestyle. You could be a college student, a businesswoman, a nurse, a mom, a dance instructor, a retail clerk, or a Sunday school teacher. No one is exempt. Feelings of inadequacy and inferiority ravage hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike.

Our attempts to measure up are all-consuming traps. They focus our attention inward verses upward, just as they did with Denise. When we get caught in the trap of striving to measure up, we focus on ourselves. That was never God’s plan. We were designed to focus on Him. Shifting our attention from ourselves to God will change our perspective. God longs for our obsession to be Him.

“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Let’s Pray
Dear God, please renew and transform me from the inside out! When feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and self-doubt creep into my heart, help me to see myself the way you do. I want to be held tightly by your truth.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn
There’s a line in the song “Broken into Beautiful” that says: “We live with accusations, sometimes heavy expectations that tell us we can never measure up. And yet You repeat with mercy that in Your eyes we are worthy, ‘til at last we see how much we’re loved.”

How does this speak to you today? Do you really know how much you’re loved? Pray about it and journal if you’re the journaling type… then let’s meet on my Facebook page to talk about it and pray through it together.

More from the Girlfriends
If this devotion resonated with you and if you would like to learn more about how your brokenness can be reworked into a picture of God’s beauty, don’t miss Gwen’s book Broken into Beautiful. Every step of transformation begins with the heart of God. Broken into Beautiful will take you there. To order the book, go to Amazonor, for a signed copy, visit Gwen’s website:

LOVE MUSIC? Check out Gwen’s new CD, Uncluttered. Now available oniTunes! The songs of Uncluttered are purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ.

[i] Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, (Word Publishing, 1988) page 39.

[ii] Featured on Unsearchable, and also on the Because CD by Gwen Smith ( © Sunday Best Music/ (ASCAP) Newspring, a division of Zomba Enterprises, Inc. (ASCAP)/ CCTB Music (ASCAP). All right OBO CCTB. Music administered by New Spring. Used by permission.


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Originally published Friday, 18 November 2011.