What is your identity? Your identity is who you are or the characteristics that determine what you are.
To know your identity, you should ask yourself these questions?
How do I define myself?
What do I tie my identity to?
What happens when I lose those things.
People define themselves by several factors and attach their identity to those factors. For some people, their identity lies in their accomplishments. Oftentimes, when you go for job interviews and you’re asked the famous “tell me about yourself” question you are expected to talk about your educational qualifications, experiences, and past accomplishments in your career. Examples include “I am the wealthiest woman alive”, “I am the only black Executive in my company”, I am the CEO of a Fortune 500 company”, “I am the fastest man alive”, “I am a Nobel Laureate” etc.
For some other people, their identity lies in their wealth and net worth. For others it’s in their relationships — I am Mrs “so and so”, I am the daughter or son of “so and so”, I am married to “so and so”, I am best friends with “so and so”, I am the parent of “so and so”. For some their identity lies in their looks and body, while for others, it lies in their reputation or their fame.
This is a non-exhaustive list of how people view themselves. So what happens if you lose all these factors by which you define yourself? What happens if you lose your job and your career tanks? Or you lose all your wealth? Or you’re involved in an accident and lose your looks or fit body? Or you’re stripped of some of the medals/accolades you’ve been given? Or someone else overtakes you as the fastest man alive or youngest CEO ever? These are all very plausible scenarios that can happen.
The first time I attended my California church, the guest minister who came to preach shared his story with us. He was married and had 4 children — 2 boys and 2 girls and lived in Texas. One fateful day when he was driving home with his family, it started to rain heavily and they heard on the radio that there was a terrible flood in the area and everyone was asked to stay put. Right before his eyes, the water levels began to increase rapidly. I don’t remember now whether he opened the door to the car himself but he was sucked out of the car into the flood and ended up unconscious. He was found by the emergency response team and when he came to, he was told that his family of 4 children and a wife had all died in the flood.
How do you expect a human to process such news? In a day, he went from husband and father to widower and childless. Some of us may be familiar with the Job story of how he lost his wealth and 10 children — 7 sons and 3 daughters — in a day and lost his health shortly after. His story might seem far-fetched to us but this was a real-life story of a man losing his family to a natural disaster in one day. But just like Job, rather than turn away from God after such devastating loss, he chose to turn to God and receive comfort from him. And just like the amazing God that God is he restored all the man lost a few years later. At the time of the sermon, he had re-married and get this — he had 4 children again — 2 boys and 2 girls. Ahmean how awesome is that!
And part of what his ministry now does is to speak at various churches about how to hold on to God in times of devastating losses and trust him for restoration because he does restore. I shed a few (let me not lie plenty) tears during his testimony and it was his testimony that made me decide to join the church.
People have ended up depressed or even committed suicide for far fewer losses. I ended up depressed just because I believed I was going to lose my Engineering job in Silicon Valley — I hadn’t even lost it yet. And just like I taught at this webinar in October 2020, the reason I slipped into depression was not just because I was convinced I was going to lose my job, but because my identity was tied very tightly to that job so its loss meant a loss of myself. And I believe that’s the same thing that’s likely to happen to anyone who attaches their identity or who defines herself by some of those factors I mentioned above.
So this begs the question if we aren’t supposed to attach our self worth, value or identity to those factors listed above, how then should we define ourselves? After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the spirit of God descended on him like a dove and said “this is my dearly beloved son in whom I am well-pleased” Matthew 3:17. Of all the ways God could have identified Christ such as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, or Savior of the world, he chose to identify him as his dearly beloved son. That identity I believe is the only identity worth having because it can’t be lost. It’s tied very tightly to God and God is eternal. All those other factors are earthly and can be lost. If Jesus is truly our road-model, then if the identity of “dearly loved son of God” is good enough for him, it should also be good enough for us!
In the story of Job in chapter one, God boasted about Job being an upright man who feared God. God’s assessment of Job was in terms of his relationship with him. It was the devil who came and said the only reason Job was serving God was because of his wealth, children, and health. God couldn’t care less about his possessions — it’s the devil who cares about our possessions or accomplishments because that’s all he has to give. The devil was so sure Job would turn on God when he lost those things because he thought Job defined himself by them and I am sure he was surprised when Job didn’t turn away from God. If the devil knows that you take great pride in some of the earthly factors listed above, then he can attack them to get to you. But if like Abraham, you surrender what is most precious to you or about you to God, then he has nothing by which he can hold you to ransom.
So does this mean we shouldn’t value our relationships or accomplishments- no far from it! It’s God desires for us to prosper and be in good health even as our soul prospers 3 John 1:2. BUT we must not define ourselves by those things and surrender them to God just like Abraham did such that if he demands them from us or we lose them, we don’t turn away from him or end up depressed and suicidal.
Another thing worth noting is that all those factors I listed above are fringe benefits available to the sons of God. Is it children? Ask Abraham and Hannah — God gave them kids. Is it wisdom or wealth? Ask Isaac and Solomon. Is it fame? Ask Jesus! Is it a spouse? Ask Isaac and Ruth/Boaz. God gave all these people all of these things.
Finding your identity in God as his child is a win-win. There’s absolutely no disadvantage to doing this. I pray that we all come to know the truth that our highest calling and purpose is to be sons of the most high God.
If you missed the “Be the light you’re meant to be” event and want to hear more about me sharing on Depression and identity using my story, please check here and start from the 1 hr 3 mins mark.