By Madyson Mahler
Originally Published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 2
i·den·ti·ty / noun: identity;
the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.
There’s a lot of hearts down here on this earth walking around confused. A lot of girls and women and boys and men searching for who they are and what they were made for. We could search our whole lives and try to come up with the definition of what it means to be alive and who we really are. We could define who we are based on how we feel or what seems best moment by moment, living with uncertainty and fear, always wondering what will define us next. But there’s always something more that seems to be missing when we, broken people, try to define who we are on our own.
Here’s the thing: the One who made us is really the only One who can say who we are and what we were made for.
The way we live is deeply rooted in what we believe about ourselves. When we live from a place of fear and doubt, our lives can be small and boxed up. When we live from the vibrant freedom that we are loved and incredibly valuable, our lives can look full, abundant, and even a little risky. It’s simple: our identity drives who we are.
In the Old Testament, when God asked His people to do something impossible by human standards, they turned aside in terror and disobedience because they didn’t understand one thing: that they were loved. Deuteronomy 1 tells us how they refused to follow God. He told them to go in and take hold of the land He wanted to give them, but they refused to enter the land that He set aside to bless them with. They said, “Because the Lord hates us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”
They said “because the Lord hates us…”
They allowed the enemy to convince them God hated them. They let themselves believe that their destruction was actually what God was after. Instead of believing what God said of them and declared over them, they followed their feelings and decided to assign God a motive based on their circumstances.
I wonder how much of this is like us. Because of the way God made us or where He has us in our lives, our minds are dead-set on the idea that God hates us. We may not admit it or say it out loud, but we feel so very far from loved. The thing is, you can believe that the way you feel is the truth or you can find the truth and center your feelings around it.
We cannot allow our identity to be centered-around how we feel because that is always changing. We have to mold our lives and the very essence of who we are around the unchangeable truth of who God says we are. We can never allow our feelings to be indicators of truth, because often times they are not true. Feelings are not insignificant. They are guides for sure, but in reality, what we feel about ourselves doesn’t have the final say compared to what God says of us. He has the last word.
God asked the Israelites to go and take the land—to go grab a hold of His promise and live in His fullness. The land was inhabited by strong men whose stature shook the Israelites with fear down to their core. They were terrified because they fundamentally did not believe in the identity God had declared over them and in the unchanging character of their God. Instead of preaching truth over themselves when the enemy tempted them to fear, they identified themselves as those hated by God. They got their identity mixed up. If they would have grasped the goodness of God and who they were in Him, they would have been able to take hold of the promised land much faster. Even though God sovereignly used their disobedience in that unexpected season of wandering, those forty years could have looked radically different if they had taken God at His word and believed they were loved by Him. They missed out on all the goodness because they didn’t believe they were who God said they were. The promise was right there, waiting for them to grab a hold of it, but they didn’t think they were capable. They didn’t know who they really were.
What would look radically different in your life if you took God at His Word and believed you were radically loved by Him? That you are in fact fully capable because He is with you? Who would you be if you let the truth of your identity seep into the deepest parts of who you are? If you stopped believing you were inferior and hated?
Yeah, I know there are a lot of us who have missed out on promises God has put right in front of us because the giants our faith was facing looked way too big and scary. We have to fight for our identity because it drives every single thing we do. We have to believe with all of our hearts that we are who He says we are.
What does He proclaim of us? Chosen, loved, secured, treasured, and designed on purpose with a purpose. The identity that liberates us to be who He has created us to be and leave opinions and accusations of people behind. The identity that allows us to look only to His face to receive the approval we need. The identity that says, “No matter how many times you turn away, you will always be radically pursued.” The identity that says you have an incredible purpose— and the identity that declares, in Christ, you are enough. Now that is a redeeming identity.
So often, we look at circumstances in our lives and try to determine who we are by them. We try to see ourselves through the lens of what is happening instead of seeing who we are through the lens of God’s goodness. We see the fact that we are single and conclude we are unlovable. We look at the fact that we don’t have as many friends as we would like and conclude that there must be something wrong with us. We wonder why someone else got the opportunity we’ve been waiting for and begin to believe we’re inadequate and can’t make the cut. We have our eyes on ourselves instead of on our God and the words of truth He whispers over us.
Identity is more than just believing we are loved. It’s letting the fact that we are and that God is incredibly good sink into the very core of who we are and fill us with strength to grab hold of the promises God is extending to us. Those promises we’ve missed for so long because we’ve convinced ourselves we really aren’t cut out for that or that the giants are too big. You see, when we really identify ourselves with Christ, we fall out of the picture and realize it’s all Him. We realize that He does have an incredible purpose to work in us and that we matter more than we will ever know. We realize that we are not hated—we are loved—and that if we wrap ourselves up in who He says we are instead of what we think of ourselves or what the world has to say, we have a secure foundation to build our lives upon.
What’s even greater? You’re stuck with this love forever. You will always be loved. In fact, there is nothing that can shake your identity as a daughter of God. I don’t care how many times you fall down and how many ways you think you’ve screwed up: God’s mercy doesn’t run out. His grace delivers you from living a life of insecurity. It lifts you up to soar on eagles wings. His grace fills you with redeeming freedom to be who you were created to be. It is a secure identity that doesn’t change like your feelings do.
Living out your identity comes down to belief. Will you believe the truth or a lie? Will you believe what the Lord says of you or will you let what you feel tell you otherwise? War is on the second you decide to start believing that your identity is in Christ. Because when you begin to believe He defines who you are and gives you freedom to be who He created you to be, that’s the moment your enemy does anything he can to get you to believe otherwise. Claiming your identity isn’t easy, but that’s only because your enemy knows that the moment you believe truth is the moment you tap into immense strength and unbridled freedom. Don’t let the world have a say in who you are. You are loved and chosen by God, let your freedom and the fullness of who you are be rooted in that unshakeable truth.
Never stop chasing down the promises of God and what He declares over you. Be who He declares you to be. I see it now—a generation of women identified by one thing—the unfathomable, unspeakable, incredible love of God. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s powerful. Powerful enough to change this world.