Stressed. Depressed. Anxious. Frustrated. Broken.
The labels stick to our hearts, covering our identities until we can’t see who we are anymore. We come to believe that our struggles and circumstances define us. But those are just descriptions, not determinations. Who you are doesn’t change based on the kind of day, week, or year you have. You are a child of God, someone loved beyond all you can imagine, no matter what.
A friend going through a difficult time called me. As we talked, she kept repeating the same phrase: “I guess I’m just the girl who has this struggle.” I finally stopped her and said as gently as I could, “That’s where you’re at right now. It’s not who you are.”
You see, life’s obstacles are temporary. Who you are is eternal.
My husband and I visited Canada a few years ago. Imagine if we had stepped into a coffee shop and the baristas had asked, “Who are you?” and I had answered, “I’m a Canadian, y’all.” They would have taken one look at my touristy tennis shoes and listened to my Southern accent, then shook their heads in bemused disagreement. I imagine you would do the same. Because you understand this: there’s a difference between a visitor and a citizen. And “we are citizens of heaven,” declares the apostle Paul (Philippians 3:20).
When we look at what’s happening in our lives and say, “This is who I am,” it’s much like me declaring myself a Canadian just because I crossed the border. As my friend and fellow (in)courage contributor Jennifer Dukes Lee once wrote me in an email, “We don’t have to be a ‘citizen’ of the ‘place’ we’re standing in right now. I’m not a citizen of Sad City, a resident of Rejectionville, or a townsperson of Trouble Town. I have a citizenship in heaven.” Your circumstances may change, but who you truly are remains forever the same. Your identity is eternally secure in Christ.
What words have you been using to describe who you are based on where you are in life right now? Whatever comes to mind is where you’re at, not who you are. It’s your current location. To help shift your perspective, rewrite those words as phrases that show they aren’t part of your identity. For example, “I’m going through a stressful time right now” or “I have experienced a divorce” or “I’m battling an illness.”
Once you know who you’re not, it’s time to ask God one of the most important questions of all: “Who am I?” Perhaps there’s no more important time for seeking these answers than when we’re in the middle of a bad day or a hard season. We lean into God’s heart and ask, “Who am I in spite of this? Tell me what’s true about me no matter what happens.”
I love how Hebrews reassures us that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). Your circumstances will lie to you. Your emotions will lie to you. Even other people will lie to you. But not God. “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19). Your identity is secure. Nothing going on in your life can change it.
Join me in prayer today: God, nothing that happens to me in this life can change who you say I am. My identity is secure in you forever. On the days when I’m tempted to believe where I am is who I am, remind me of what is true. Amen.