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.
Beverly C Bohus says
Thank you I really needed this today. I needed to remember who I am not the pressures I am under define me in Gods eyes.
Beth Williams says
Growing up I allowed my circumstances to define me. Make a mistake or do something stupid then I’m stupid, dumb. It took God a long time & a really great preacher & wife to teach me otherwise. Like so many I was a Christian because I went to church & got involved. It has only been in the last 3-5 years that I learned my true identity is in Christ. I am a beloved daughter of almighty God. He loved me enough to send His only son to die a horrible death & is awaiting my homecoming. Thankful my identity is secure in Christ Jesus.
Melanie Saunders says
Thank you Holley for blessing us with your beautiful words. They made me think of Max Lucado’s book ‘You Are Special,’ with labels being like the dots and stars in Wemmicksville.
I’m so thankful that our identity is secure in our Loving Lord. And that He sees us as we really are: His child whom He dearly loves.
May God bless you.
Ruth Mills says
So we’ll written & well timed for myself & others in my life. Thanks for giving me perfect words to encourage us! Blessings.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Holly thank you for that. I have in the past found it hard to believe what God says about. I have to sometimes listen. I have not done it for a while to The ,”Father Love Letter” on YouTube. It really tells me who I am in Jesus. That he knew me even before I born. That is amazing. Plus even the very hairs on my head are numbered. I love what it says with a love that is so precious. Sure Jesus loves us all. That much he went to Calvary for us. She’d his presious blood for all man kind. That is just amazing. As John 3 verse 16 says. “For God So Loved the World He that He gave his Only Begotten Son that Whoever Believes in Him Should not Perish But Have EVERLASTING LIFE”. How amazing is that. God did that for all us. To prove He Loves us. My Salvation Army Offer once said to me Dawn you remember you are A” Daughter of The King. That king is Jesus”. That goes for all us. So I have to not put that label on myself and say I am no good. It doesn’t matter what People think of me. It is what Jesus thinks that matters. As I am not popular. I don’t want to be. But don’t have many friends. One that lives about 12 miles away from me. I hardly ever see her. But she is just lovely. Plus two that live 86 miles away from me now in Belfast. They used to live on 15 miles away from me. When there late Dad was a Minister. They are brilliant. As well. But at times because I don’t see theses friends that often. To go for coffee or prayer walks and Bible studies together. I sometimes get down. As I would like even though I am Married. A friend to do this with. But I have to remember what God showed me. Dawn you have the best friend of all who will never leave you. He is by yourside at all times. He is my son Jesus. Like the song you get it on YouTube. “What a friend we have in Jesus” That is so true. We have a the best friend of all Jesus. So I do that when God reminds me of that. Stop Grumbling. Plus I say Dawn what more do you want or need. So I have to not put on that lable that why me why does no one want to be my friend. Expect the friends I have. That I hardly ever see. Say thank you God for reminding me of this. That I have the best friend ever. That is his son Jesus. I am so thankful for that. Thank you Holly for what you shared Love it. Love Dawn keeping you all incourage in my prayers. Xx
Oh, how I needed this! This renewed my spirit today! Thank you! My circumstances is making me weary, but God’s word strengthens me. Praise God! Praise His holy name. I will trust in him and him alone. I will lift mine eyes into the hills from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord who created heaven and earth. Amen!
Karen Knowles says
Oh, Holly, thank you for your post today! it was a blessing. My husband and I are in in the middle of covid right now, but the Lord has sustained us thus far and trusting He is continuing to heal completely. So very grateful!
Julie Hennessey says
G’day thanks I needed to read this regarding my circumstances don’t define who I really am thank you Julie Hennessey.
K Ann Guinn says
So true. Thanks for the reminder not to become a citizen of difficult times or circumstances. Lord, show us your truth.