“Identity confusion is ongoing and everywhere,” write brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick in Defined: Who God Says You Are (2019). “We live in a digital generation that is being constantly bombarded with random and opposing messages about who we are and what we are.”
Indeed, in a world that is quick to assign identities to us – based largely on cultural whims and arbitrary measures of success – it can be difficult to find an identity that sticks, one that isn’t subject to the oscillating opinions, desires and feelings of ourselves or others.
And the problem with identity, the Kendrick brothers suggest, is that what we believe about ourselves not only informs our worth, but influences our behaviors, choices and actions.
They write: “The core beliefs in our hearts lead to the thoughts we think in our minds, which guide the words we speak with our lips, which leads to the ways we live out our lives, the daily deeds we do, and the resulting fruit of our impact on the world.”
Accordingly, the further our internal beliefs drift from the truth, they explain, the “more havoc our distorted interpretation of identity will wreak on our behavior.”
What, then, is the truth? What is our identity that remains true and unchanging?
Start with this:
“If you want to understand your true identity – your monumentally more important identity; your lasting identity – then you need to take your eyes off your present circumstances. How you feel, what people say, and any titles or roles attached to your name will eventually blow away with the wind. But God sees you and knows your future. And His Word teaches that you can discover, believe, and set your heart on your true identity – your identity in heaven. The real one. The one at the very heart of you.” (see Col. 3:1-4)
What exactly does “your identity in heaven” mean?
It means learning to see yourself the way God sees you – the way He made you. Not how others see you. Not what your feelings dictate. Not what our circumstances say. But what God sees – what He says, declares and promises.
You are a unique creation:
“Not only did God personally create you; He made you amazingly unique…on the dawn of your conception, you beat the odds among 300 million rivals, racing to become you. And you won. The billions of miracles at the cellular level successfully occurred over months, enabling you to develop and stay alive. In your mother’s womb, God was interweaving and interconnecting a wide variety of complex systems so that they could not only function properly and communicate to your brain quickly but ultimately unite into the tapestry of your life.”
And you were created on purpose:
“A brilliantly creative, lovingly intentional, powerfully capable God designed and crafted each one of us (Ps. 139:13). That’s why your identity is excellent and not a walking accident. God is the One who made your heart to beat and your brain to think. He is the One who lovingly chose your race and your gender, connected your bones together, and networked every one of your organs as precious gifts to you. He chose your height, textured your hair, and timed your birth. He is the One who seasoned your face with expressions and your personality with your own palette of emotions.”
You are extremely valuable – made in God’s image:
“God chose to do something expansive in human beings that flies to the heart of your identity. The Bible says that unlike the plants or animals, you have been made ‘in the image of God’, recognized by the Latin phrase, imago Dei. It’s like finding out your motorcycle has been upgraded to a luxury jet. This blueprint advancement substantially increases your capabilities, relational potential, and eternal value.”
You are beloved:
“In Christ, you are loved. Let’s just start there. You are unconditionally loved. This is who He says you are in Him. You are God’s beloved child, chosen ‘before the foundation of the world…to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will’ (Eph 1:4-5). You aren’t just given love, you are given the title ‘beloved.’ It is now your identity and it is rooted in the Greek word agape, which is God’s unconditional…all-encompassing, all-enduring love. Beloved basically means, ‘one who is unconditionally loved by God.'”
But, you might say, you don‘t feel loved…
That’s because “…those earthly, human, conditional ways of striving to be loved, of trying to earn acceptance and hoping to clean ourselves up and become worthy of loving approval – they are not the ways of God. His way is grace!”
What is grace?
“Grace is an unearned, undeserved gift that is freely and generously poured out on a chosen recipient…it is not purchased, earned, or deserved…it is never bought; it’s bestowed.”
Think of it like this:
“When you think of God’s grace, you should think of a river. It’s not a potful, a puddle, or a swimming pool that could run dry. It’s an endless supply. Unlimited capacity. Constantly flowing from a faithful source.”
In fact, it’s less about our character, and more about God:
“So when this river of God’s grace pours out truth on us, it’s not because we’ve earned the right to be trusted; it’s because God is always completely truthful. He doesn’t forgive us because we are so cuddly and forgivable, but because He is so merciful and forgiving. He doesn’t love us because we are so lovable, but because He is so loving. The word lovingkindness is one of the core ingredients of grace!”
So we need to remember to separate the ways of the world from the truth:
“And so when you walk around feeling unloved as His child, it’s because the ‘ways of this world’ are speaking more loudly in your heart than God’s loving ways. If you feel unloved, it is not because you’re not loved; it’s because you are not believing by faith and receiving from Him the love that He is pouring out on you even now.”
The key concept here is “chosen”:
“God simply chooses to graciously give [His love] to us as His children. God chooses. […] He didn’t require [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph] to earn [their] distinction, any more than He demands you to prove yourself worthy of His love.”
Said another way:
“Consider this: the sun doesn’t shine on us because we are so deserving of its light; the sun shines on us because its nature is to shine. And it will continue to shine whether we request it, want it, or deserve it.”
God’s love is immeasurable, boundless and unchanging:
“God is unlimited and eternal. So His love is the length of eternity, higher than the stars, wider than the universe, and deeper than any ocean. It flows out of the identity and heart of God.”*
It’s different from any kind of “earthly” love we’ve experienced:
“Love that is this deep and wide simply goes against what we’ve all experienced and observed, to some degree in life – people who said they loved us, promised they loved us, but didn’t end up loving us like they said they would. God, however, is a faithful God who has no problem keeping His word. Being who He is comes so easy for Him.”
So remember, when it comes to your true identity...
“One of the greatest ongoing revelations for your life is that, in Christ, you are a beloved child of God. This truth far exceeds any earthly titles or positions. It should minimize the pain of the insults and failures of your life. It should fill you with faith and assurance that you still have an eternal purpose in the midst of your pain, and value in the face of the vicissitudes of life. It should energize you and strengthen you.
During every trial, during every dark day, let the Holy Spirit whisper the Father’s voice in your heart that ‘You are my beloved child.’”
*As it says in Ephesians 3:17-18, the love of God extends in length, width, height and depth: “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.”
- Zim Flores on Reclaiming Your True Identity in God
- The Secret to Self Acceptance
- “The Four Agreements”: Why We Shouldn’t Take Things Personally
- How to Conquer Rejection — or Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected
- Claiming Responsibility for Our Lives: Thomas Merton on Discovering Meaning and Purpose Within
- Anne Lamott on Joy, Contentment and the Value We Have Within
- Yielding Control: Irenaeus of Lyon on What it Means to be a Created Being