I get a kick out of watching my fourteen year old daughter hover between childhood and adulthood. As she matures, she experiments with clothing and hair styles, slang words, and all those other things inherent to the teenage years. We’ve had countless conversations about outfits, make-up, and jewelry, and have spent hours upon hours perusing clothing racks. Yes, her world revolves around clothes and hair right now.

Had I not spent so much time researching identity issues for a contemporary youth program I’m writing for Christ to the World Ministries, I may be tempted to think her behavior is selfish and shallow. Shouldn’t I be training her to look beyond those things? To focus on things more important? To an extent, perhaps, but I’ve learned to spend as much time trying to understand her heart as I do observing and trying to correct her behavior. Most often, there’s more going on than I first assume.

I’ve realized my daughter’s behavior really isn’t about clothes or hair. It’s about something much deeper. With every outfit, hair flip, and music choice, she’s trying to establish her identity. No easy trait considering how many changes she’s been through over the past three years. Puberty hits, and suddenly she finds herself staring at a stranger in the mirror. Friends change, and she needs to decide which group to “merge with”. She longs to belong but also needs to be unique, longs for closeness and security at home while fighting for independence.

Although most of us move past this developmental stage, I think we all struggle with our identity at times. As Donna Stone shared on Monday, sometimes we allow who we are to get tied up in what we do.

When that happens, it helps to remind ourselves of how God sees us. If you belong to Christ, He says:

You are dearly loved (Col. 3:12)

Redeemed (1 Cor 6:20)

A masterpiece (Eph. 2:10)

Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

God’s child (John 1:12)

Chosen and adopted (Eph 1:3-8)

Complete (Col. 2:9-10)

Secure (Rom. 8:11)

Are you feeling pulled in a million directions today? Like perhaps you don’t quite measure up? Spend a moment reflecting on these verses and ask God to show you how He sees you.

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about what it means to rest in who we are in Christ.

I have a dear friend who is going through some unimaginable difficulties. When we speak, I am often at a loss as to what to say, primarily because I have no clue what it would feel like. Oh, I can imagine, but I know whatever I imagine pales in comparison to the emotions she faces daily. One Sunday, while at church, I stopped to ask a friend to pray for her. During our conversation, I shared a bit of what my friend was going through–the emotions she had shared with me. Not because I was looking for a solution, or advice, but because I wanted friend number two to understand so she could pray effectively.

I was told I “needed to help her…” and was then given instructions on how I needed to help her see truth.

Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Funny thing was, my friend wasn’t failing to see truth. She was sharing what she was feeling openly and honestly. And what she needed wasn’t someone to bombard her with advice, but instead, someone to cry with her.

Through out my life I have had many “friends” speak truth, but few have stuck around when I needed them most. And on my end, I’ve crushed many, many friends by letting my mouth run. After I’ve dealt the painful blows, usually spoken in pride, I am reminded of something our pastor in Louisiana used to say, “Don’t try to be the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life.”

Think about that for a moment. True, we are to speak truth to one another and there does come a time when we must say the hard thing, but I wonder if perhaps that time arises much less frequently than we presume. Often the best course of action is to provide a listening ear and point our friends back to Jesus. Because the goal is not to encourage them to rely on us and come to us for wisdom. The goal is to encourage them to develop a closer walk with God, learning to hear His voice and seek His comfort. Because quite honestly, He’ll do a much better job than we will.

The book of Job is a perfect example. Job’s friends felt the need to correct Job’s thinking, to show him the error of his ways, but what Job really needed was someone to stand by him, to say, “I love you,” and “You aren’t alone.”

So the next time you are tempted to bombard a hurting friend with truth, pause and pray, and point them back to Jesus instead. He is their comfort. He is their friend who sticks closer than a brother. And He alone knows the best way to minister to His children. Then, if after considerable prayer, you still feel the need to speak the words that are burning on your tongue, do so, but do it with gentleness, love and humility.