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Trusting God in My Appearance: Part 1

Greg E. Gifford, MA, PhD Student

ggifford@masters.edu

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If you could have plastic surgery and money was not a limit, what would you get done? Perhaps you want a different nose? Teeth? Cheeks? Facelift? Hair removal? What would you get “fixed” if anything? Or, to say it another way: what do you not like about your appearance? What are insecure about? What do you wear certain types of clothing to hide? And what would embarrass you if others saw it?

It is funny because I cannot seem to get away from cultures that highly value plastic surgery. After living in Seoul for almost three years and then living just outside of Beverly Hills, I realized plastic surgery is common—very common.[1] It is common because we have our own opinions of beauty. That is why people go to plastic surgeons in the first place; they have an idea of beauty and are hoping to realize it. Sometimes they do and other times they … almost do.

One thing that we all struggle with is our appearance, no matter our country or age group. This is not a girl thing, or a guy thing—we all struggle with our appearance. Some of us think too highly of our appearance. We think that we are the most beautiful, most handsome, and prettiest person that we know. Just ask us and we will tell you! Others struggle just to creep out of the door in the morning because they are so self-conscious of the way they look. We are trapped to our appearance and our fear of man. But in either case, we are consumed with the way that we look. In fact, we are in many ways trapped to our appearance. Everything we do revolves around our appearance, we spend hours a day exercising to maintain our appearance, we style our hair and clothes to have a certain appearance, and we wear makeup to hide certain aspects and draw out other aspects of our appearance. We are now prisoners to our appearance, a place where many of you are now—trapped to the way that you look (or think you look).

Jumping Into A Conversation

Imagine with me that you are getting lunch and you see some friends talking and sitting down to eat. You walk up to sit with them and start listening to the conversation. Essentially, you are jumping in the conversation, in the middle of the conversation. In many ways, that is what we are doing here with verses 13-16 of Psalm 139. There is a conversation that is taking place and King David is the one speaking.

Where we jump into the conversation in verse 13, which is why we see the word “For.” He is explaining verses 11 and 12 above and is seeking to explain how that even darkness is light to God. Verses 11-12 say, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Even total darkness, pitch black, the deepest cave, or the darkest woods lay totally bare to God: God knows the unknown. David illustrates this by saying that darkness is light to God as seen in the way babies grow in the womb. Babies show that God is all-knowing! The way God makes us shows His power.

David uses five phrases to describe God’s work as Creator here:

  • Formed my inward parts (v. 13)
  • Knitted me together (v. 13)
  • Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (v. 14)
  • Made in Secret (v. 15)
  • Intricately woven (v. 15)

In these verses God is shown as being involved with creating each of us as the most detailed level. He formed our inward parts, you know the stuff that you have never seen: your heart, your lungs, your stomach, your kidneys, or your liver. God made them and David says (twice!) that when God made us, it is like God was sewing us to together. Listen to this verse from Job: “You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.”[2] God is forming you and fashioning you from the first day that you were alive. So, even in the womb of your mother, you too can say that God formed you. Not only has He formed you physically, He even formed the days of your life, before they existed (v. 16). Everything about you is a direct reflection of God’s work as your Creator!

It is interesting to note that for David, pregnancy was something that was still mysterious. He didn’t have the ability to view a chart of the different stages of baby development. He didn’t have an ultrasound machine that allowed for him to see pictures and hear the heartbeat of a baby. (These will one day be important to you!) All he knew was what he could see. So when he refers to babies being formed in the womb, it is something that illustrates great complexity. Yet, God is there in the middle of that complex stage of life—forming and weaving together.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

In the middle of these verses on God’s creative work in people, David bursts forth with praise: “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” After considering the intricate details of life, David cannot help but burst into praise. Be sure to observe that there is an important implication here: When considering what God has done, it should stir praise in us. Look to the heavens, look to the mountains, look to the ocean—look wherever you want. God’s work as Creator should stir in us a deep and robust praise.

David then says, “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” He praises God for the ways in which he was made, but what does David mean by “fearfully and wonderfully”? I, like you, have seen this quoted in many ways: t-shirts, bracelets, necklaces, and any other way that it can be sold. I have seen girls quote it as an affirmation of how special and beautiful they are. I have seen people look to feel better about themselves by saying, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Is that what is being said here though? If so, why say it now?

Here is my answer and then I am going to unpack why I say this: what David is referring to in this passage is not that you are fearful (or awe-inspiring) or wonderful, even though you may be those things. David is referring to the way that you were created as being fearful and wonderful. Think of it in these terms. Suppose we were watching the water fountains in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. We could well say, “that water is beautiful.” When in reality, we are referring to the way the water is being illuminated, sprayed, and coordinated with music as being beautiful. We are not saying the water is beautiful but that the projection of the water is beautiful.

In the same way, David is not commenting on how wonderful or beautiful we are; he is commenting on how wonderful and awesome God’s work is! He is saying that the way that God formed us from the first days of our lives points to the fact that the way we are made in an awe-inspiring and wonderful way.

Just think of DNA, chromosomes, hair follicles, or your eyes: we are truly fearfully and wonderfully made. It does not take long in observing those parts of the body that we too can say that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Yet before we all breakdown and begin to sob at how ugly Greg says that we are, let me clarify my point. I am not saying that you are not a wonderful or great person; you may be a wonderfully great person. What I am saying that this verse is not about you (or me!). I am saying that this verse is not about how awesome you are, but about how awesome God is. Don’t make this verse about you—it is about God! Don’t highjack this verse and tell people how awesome you are! This verse is about God’s work as your Creator. He is the One who has made you and not we ourselves (Ps. 100:3).

Listen to the following verses:

  • “For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God” (Ps. 86:10).
  • “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things” (Ps. 72:18).
  • “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate” (Ps. 145:5).
  • “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” (Ps. 105:2).
  • Or, the verse next part in Psalm 139: “Wonderful are your works.”

A brief survey of Psalm will allow you to see that we have a God who does wonderful things and His work as Creator is just another expression of those wonders.

[1]USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/05/plastic-surgery-top-countries/1892631/ (accessed August 17, 2013).

Keep reading for Part 2 of “Trusting God in My Appearance”

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Job 10:11.

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"God may be looked upon in an absolute consideration, as he is in himself the best and most excellent being, wherein we behold the concurrence of all perfections, the most amiable and beauteous excellences, to an intellectual eye, that it can have an apprehension of." --John Howe, On Delighting in God
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