In our culture, we value healthy bodies. My friend, Matt, has arguably the healthiest body I know. He trained for a whole year to compete in an Ironman competition — early morning swims before work, daily run workouts while his sons went to football practice, Saturday bike rides. He schooled himself in nutrition and physical therapy. As a culture, we value healthy bodies like Matt’s because they allow us to work, play with our children, and live long lives. As Christians, we steward our bodies so we can serve and worship our Lord, but what does that mean for those of us with bodies that aren’t healthy?
I have never had a body like Matt’s. The body God gave me is weak and clumsy. Poor hearing has caused balance issues for me, proven by the scar on my right knee when I had tripped over first base in junior high P.E. Yes, I was that kid. The wheezing sound coming from my lungs was such a concern for my high school P.E. teacher that she feared I’d stop breathing at some point during the mile run and would jog with me the whole way. The only success I had in high school P.E. was holding my breath underwater the longest, although I’ve always wondered if the other girls just didn’t try.
No matter how much time I’ve spent on a treadmill or in a lap pool, I’ve remained the weakest person in every group. It is disheartening and no fun to be that person. Often, it’s led me to question, Does my weakness mean I am unhealthy?
Last year, I collapsed at a park when my body failed me in a new way. The blood vessels in my lungs burst. It took multiple surgeries to save my life. I spent months gaining back enough strength to take a shower by myself and walk to the mailbox. I was weak but alive. I was grateful for the breath in my lungs. And I began wrestling with new versions of those questions I used to ask myself: How do I steward a broken body, and how should I define “healthy”?
What if a healthy body isn’t defined by run times or ideal weights? What if a healthy body is instead defined by how well it reflects God’s glory and how it goes about completing the tasks God prepared for it?
Psalm 139:13-14 reads,
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
God purposefully created broken places in my body. In other words, the brokenness isn’t a mistake. When I accept my brokenness as “wonderfully made,” I can more fully reflect the glory of my Creator.
So, not only was my body created the way it is on purpose, it was also created for a purpose.
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” My body was created for a specific work that was planned for me to do. Whatever the work, my Creator enabled my body to do it, and when I do the work planned for me, I glorify God. That is the very definition of good work.
During the months I spent in bed recovering, I began to see that as long as I have breath in my lungs, there is still work God has prepared for me to do. And since this is the body He created me to do it in, I must be healthy enough to do it. This new perspective changed everything. I redefined “healthy” as being able to wake up each day, no matter how weak, and say, “Get up, Nicole, to do the work you were created to do today.”
My life runs at a slower pace now, a pace my broken lungs can keep up with. Before my collapse, I was leading a Bible study for young adults, but I had to leave that group though my desire to lead didn’t leave. My new pace has given me time to study and practice the spiritual disciplines, something I had always wanted to do. In time, I’ve begun leading friends in the practice of solitude — a way to lead that my lungs could handle.
I also found new ways to worship my Creator. Multiple surgeries left me with a scratchy voice and poor breath control. Before my surgeries, whenever my heart was moved to worship, it was always song that poured out. I loved to sing. After my surgeries, I needed to find a new way to worship and discovered a new-to-me love of flowers. A dear friend helped plant roses in my yard and taught me to care for them. When those roses bloom, my heart stirs in the same way it used to when I’d sing. Gardening has become a new way to worship my Creator.
While I haven’t been able to glorify God on the race course like Matt, I have found new ways to glorify God within the limits of my weaker body. My body may look unhealthy by our culture’s standard, but it is still useful for kingdom work, useful for reflecting the glory of the One who sustains me, and that is what a healthy body truly is.
God purposefully created broken places in my body. In other words, the brokenness isn’t a mistake. -Nicole O'Meara: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Wendy Watkins says
Though I haven’t struggled with the same health issues you have, I have struggled greatly concerning my body image. In high school I was anorexic, feeling fat and ugly even at a size 0. God has long since delivered me from many of the outward manifestations of my brokenness in this area. But I still fight an inward battle to this day. As I read your article, God was bringing up a question. Do I REALLY believe I am wonderfully made? Like you said, God doesn’t make mistakes. Though outward appearance and body image is a much less important issue than our health, it is not unimportant. I want to view every aspect of my life through the lens of truth, so that I can bring glory to God by believing and trusting Him. God used your words to challenge me to look at myself through His eyes. Not to pump up my ego or provoke vanity, but to see my physical body as a beautifully made and useful tool. May God continue to grow and change me, so that I can greater reflect HIS beauty and purposes. Nicole, His strength is made perfect in your weakness. That is glorious! You are putting the power of God on display, and I praise Him with you!!
Nicole O'Meara says
Thank you for sharing your story. Body image, physical health and spiritual health are all so tightly woven together. I love your prayer: May God continue to grow and change me, so I can more greatly reflect HIs beauty and purposes. Amen. 🙂
I developed anxiety after I had children. I suffered from Postnatal depression undiagnosed with my first baby 13 years ago and then with my third baby nearly 9 years ago, this time it was picked up and I went on medication. Since then the depression went away but anxiety remained or re-emerged in different seasons of my life and I chose to go back on medication and stay on it.
I do wonder if I’ve always had these tendencies but what’s important is I’ve accepted my brokenness in this way and manage it. God made me this way and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your post is inspiring cause there’s other ways I need to look after this vessel in order to do Gods work. I’m not keen on the journey ahead of exercise BUT I think I owe it to God to be physically the best me I can be. I’m not too phased about being a certain size but we need to look after ourselves if we are able to allow us to do the work that we were made for.
I appreciate your post and the obvious love and commitment you have to our gracious Father!
I’m so sad about you anxiety. I get. I truly do. But I’m praising Jesus that you found support through medicine and a new perspective. Keep “looking after your vessel in order to do God’s work.”
I’m sad about the anxiety. But praise the Lord you have found support through medicine and a new perspective. Keep looking “after this vessel in order to God’s work.”
Michele Morin says
Thank you for using your God-designed voice here, Nicole, to celebrate God’s sovereignty.
I also do not know what God has in mind when he allows less-than-perfect bodies to stumble our way through life. C.S. Lewis pondered it, too, and this was his conclusion:
“He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all – not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school.”
That is a great quote. I sometimes catch myself daydreaming about that glorified body, with all it’s working parts. Until then, I challenge myself to see this broken one as beautiful because that’s how God sees it.
Thanks for sharing.
Beth Williams says
Your post is spot on! This world looks at outward appearances only. They expect “perfection” tall & skinny. Most people I see are not like that nor can they be. We are made in His image-fearfully & wonderfully. According to Jesus we are ideal just the way we are. “God purposefully created broken places in my body. In other words, the brokenness isn’t a mistake.” He planned each of us long before we were born. He uses our brokenness for His kingdom. I was born with two punctured ear drums. It wasn’t till I was 4 or so that I had surgery to correct the problem. My left ear took another surgery & still no fix. Finally got hearing aids much later in life & that helped. Now my ears are both completely healed. Each of us is broken in some way. We all have flaws. We shouldn’t value ourselves by the world’s standards. We should look at our hearts as Jesus does. He sees the true person. Each of us can glorify God in our own way.
Yes, and amen! God sees our hearts and each of us can glorify Him in our way. I love that you are sharing your story and glorifying him with your ears. 🙂
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Please ladies read on line you get on Youtube the Father Love Letter. It tells you just how much God thinks of you. How much he loves you. No matter what you go through in life. Should it be depression or ill health of some kind. It helped me along with prayer. Plus the promises in Gods word the Bible. That I now stand on. It even says in Gods word the Bible that I am Daughter of the King. God loves me no matter what. God love you the same. You are also a Daughter of the King. No matter what you go through God will heal you and help get the help you need to heal. Even take time. Through his word the Bible Prayer and listing to his Holy Spirit. Amen. Xxx Dawn Ferguson-Little
Thank you for sharing. You have an encouraging voice. May God bless others through you.
Thank you, Sara.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful “eye-opener”! My MS body is in much better condition than yours, but I have had doubts about why did this happen to me? I was diagnosed with ME in 1992. At first, I was still very active. I worked up until 3years ago. My sister and I used to go on vacations, hiking trails, helping raise her daughter and grandkids. But now, that has all changed. I can’t go outside when it is hot because my legs turn to rubber and I can’t walk and I can’t breathe. I can’t be outside in the snow, because when the winds blow, it feels like knives are being stuck in me. I have been asking “Why me? What did I do?” This devotion has changed my thinking. I AM what God created! That I can be useful! That I still have a purpose! That I am worth something! Thank you for that!
Goodness, you have been through a lot. It gets harder when questions plague us, like your questions, “Why me?” But the book of Job has much to say about our questions, right? God is always on his throne, sovereign over all. Today, I am praising God for giving you new thinking! He created you and calls you beautiful. He has given you a purpose. You are of infinite worth. Praises, praises, praises.
Thank you for sharing your story. It blessed me.
Tara (Voralik) Archibald says
This is exactly what God has been laying on my heart lately as well. I grew up thinking that perfection was everything…perfect grades would get me into the perfect college which would land me the perfect job. Perfect behavior would guarantee perfect smiles from my perfect parents which would lead to a perfect record with a perfect God and eternity in that perfect place (heaven). And a perfect body would grant me perfect looks from the opposite sex which would lead to marrying the perfect man, having perfect children and living the perfect dream. Let’s just say none of it happened that way (well except the perfect God part). God seriously blessed me in the husband and kid department, but they are far from perfect. I am far from perfect.
I have been deeply infected with the perfection infection. I just started reading Jill Savage’s “No More Perfect Moms” where she takes a chapter and speaks on exactly this topic, body image. It has been a huge journey and struggle for me to let go of perfect and to see myself through the lens of God. Only He has perfect vision. Only He is perfect. And only Jesus lived perfectly. So why shouldn’t I see my imperfect body through the lens of God, who is perfection defined? Grace-filled, mercy-filled, forgiveness-filled. Perfection doesn’t exist on this planet. So why do we always expect it of others, of our kids, of our husbands, of ourselves? Still a struggle for me but I am learning to thank God for how He made me and to lavish myself and others with grace. This body is His gift to me. How would I feel if a gift I spent hours creating specifically for a loved one, was seen through eyes criticism and disdain rather than gratitude and joy? Cultivating an attitude of gratitude and grace, rather than self criticism, is taking a re-wiring of my brain because it is not natural for me. But God will have His way in me. I am ever a work in progress. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story! I loved reading it! Love your writing and your heart for Jesus! Love and continued prayers for you and your family!
Nicole O'Meara says
Isn’t it crazy how thinking rightly can be so much work? You are on a good and wise path, friend. healing from the perfection infection will only lead to good things.
Thanks for sharing your story. I love it!
Thank you Nicole
I have have been battling with health issues for a long time including lung n sinus health concerns. Your article gave me strength.
Nicole O'Meara says
Praise God. Help comes from him. And encouragement too.
Brooke Frick says
Oh how I love this and you Nicole. You are an inspiration to more than you know! A spiritual version of the Ironman trainee!! Love you! ❤️
I’ll claim that title. 🙂
I’ll claim that title. 🙂
Martha Brady says
nicole, thanks for such an encouraging post:) as a nurse, it is encouraging to read a christian writing about living with a broken body and not continually and anxiously focusing on healing. no, it isn’t wrong to pray for healing, but i often feel that people focus on healing when GOD is asking them, like Paul, to live with a broken body. thanks you for your honesty. so often, as in the case of joni e. tada, we see God glorified by a life that is lived out in all its brokenness.
as a human who has experienced physical brokenness, i can say i learned more from that 4 year period than almost any other period of my life! my epilepsy i had since age 20 and which had been quite controlled, suddenly flared causing me to go from having a seizure once every 7-10 years to once a month, then once a week. No matter what meds were changed or what specialist was changed, the symptoms didnt. of course, i was no longer able to drive. now i had to depend on others to help me drive.
I learned a lot about humility during that time, as well as learning to accept help from people.
as it turned out, i became better. it turned out that menopause and hormones were a big part of my problem.thanks. martha
Thank you so much for sharing your perspective as a nurse and as someone who has suffered brokenness in her own body. You nailed it when you said, “I learned a lot about humility during that time, as well as learning to accept help from people.” I often think through the aspect my health crisis had on my community. About how much further-in they leaned into Jesus as they supported me and my family. We all grew through it, and no doubt, that glorified God.
Thanks for leaving a comment. It blessed me.
Deborah Boutwell says
I just started re-reading the book Choose Joy, by Sara Frankl, and your post reminded me so much of some things she said. All of us have some type of limitations and we go through seasons where we have to change how we worship. But God can use us with our weaknesses if we allow him to. Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging us.
Sara has a wonderful message, “Choose Joy.” I’m thrilled that you find a connection to my story. May God be glorified if people find joy and hope through my story.