Acne Ruins My Life
Q. I have extremely bad acne. I'm seeing a dermatologist and it's helping some, but I still hate the way I look. It affects my whole life. I've prayed God would heal me, but he won't. This struggle has really messed with my ability to like myself—or trust God. What can I do?
A. I wish I could have you sit down with a family friend of mine named Janet. She is an adult now, but during high school and college, her situation was very similar to yours. It wasn't easy for Janet. Her acne deeply affected her self-image. She didn't date or even easily make friends. Like you, she questioned God, prayed for healing, argued, bargained and cried. But ultimately, she was able to make peace with her appearance and God.
I shared your letter with Janet. Here are some thoughts from both of us:
1) Most people struggle with something they don't like about their bodies or appearance. They may not struggle with acne, but most of them are self-conscious about some aspect of their appearance. You can take some comfort in knowing that you're not alone in wishing you could change the way you look. We all have battles we fight when it comes to image. Not only do we face pressure from the media and magazines, but we all just want to feel good about the way we look. During high school, that can be difficult because our bodies change quickly and unpredictably. You're not alone.
2) Keep working with your dermatologist. It doesn't happen overnight, but with patience and cooperation, you can make real progress. A dermatologist I know says that recent breakthroughs are very positive and encouraging. Also, if a dermatologist can't seem to help you, you may want to make an appointment with an allergist. Sometimes what may look like chronic acne is actually caused by some sort of allergy.
3) Focus on what you do like about yourself. You are so much more than a face; you are a precious child of God. You have gifts and talents that can enrich the lives of other people. What do you like to do? What are you good at? What do people like about you? What good things are happening in your life?
4) Think about the future. You won't always be in high school. Sure, there will always be people who judge you based on the way your look. But as you get older, you'll meet more and more people who care more about who you are than how you look.
5) Lean on God. When you're feeling bad about yourself, tell God. Ask him to comfort you and give you strength. Ask him to use this struggle to make you closer to him. Like in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, God may not heal the "thorn in your flesh," but he will work in your life and show his strength in your weakness.
6) Memorize 1 Samuel 16:7. God says to Samuel, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (NIV). God is concerned much more about your inner quality than outer. (That's true of the people in your life who care about you, too.) When I start feeling bad about how I look, I go to that verse to get perspective. By remembering that, I hope you see how much God cares for you and wants to grow closer to you in your struggles.
Jim is an author, longtime youth worker and founder of HomeWord, a group seeking to honor God through strong families.
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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