Identity Theft––Combating the Fear of Insignificance: Guest Post

Quote from Tim Keller on Identity

Can you imagine the confidence and impact we’d have, the “offense” we’d avoid, the ministries we’d launch and opportunities we’d embrace, if we learned to live in who we really are? Who God says we are? And if we fully grew in to all He created us to be?

I’m pretty sure we all struggle in this area. I have moments of living fully anchored in Christ and others where I give other people’s voice and opinions way too much weight. Perhaps you can relate? My guest today, Caroline Powers, can. Read more to see how a shift of roles revealed a much deeper hole God wanted to fill, and consider how He might want to do the same for you.

Identity Theft: Combating the Fear of Insignificance

By Caroline Powers

Something was wrong with my life, but I had no idea what it was. I was thirty years old and the mother of a precious eleven-month-old son. My husband of eight years and I were returning from a Christmas visit with friends when I confessed. “I don’t know who I am. I feel like a hollow center surrounded by mirrors that reflect back to people the image they expect to see.”

At a time when I might have been enjoying our life, I felt only emptiness. We both had careers, we didn’t fight or treat each other badly, but my husband must have been feeling unsatisfied as well, because by the next Christmas he had moved out and was in another relationship. My heart was shattered by his betrayal, but the message my heart received from this was worse. If I meant nothing to the one person who supposedly loved me, I must be insignificant. The person I am must not matter at all.

Years later, I understand that fear of being an insignificant person drove me to perform for others. But even success left me feeling hollow because my achievements were a facade to hide behind. No matter how much I might impress someone, my true lack of self-worth remained untouched.

Whether our needs were neglected, or we’ve had hurtful, bad experiences, life sends messages about our worth. Without a secure foundation those experiences can come to define us. In the absence of truth, we conclude that our needs are trivial, our wants must be wrong, and that we ourselves are so flawed that we are not important. This is what happened to me.

Once my heart adopted the “insignificant” label, it was as if I put on glasses and interpreted everything through that lens. Before my life could change, I needed to take my filters off and learn the truth.

Psalm 139:13-14 assures us that God created our inmost being. He knit each of us together in a fearful and wonderful way (NIV). He gave us certain genes. He caused our birth into a family, a country in the world, and a time in history. None of those things were up to us, but they provide the set-up for our journey. Our very uniqueness makes us significant. Because each person originates from God, people do not define us. Only God has the authority to define and assign our significance.  And no one can take our place in God’s plan.

Verses 16-17 continue, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” The Amplified Bible says, “the days that were appointed for me” and King James uses the word, “fashioned.”  From this we know that God continues to order our days and sovereignly oversee each one. So, whether our lives appear to be convoluted and messy or focused and right on track, one thing they cannot be, and we cannot be, is insignificant.

Our significance is also found in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61 when he began his earthly ministry by declaring that he was sent to bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to the captives. (61:1). His earthly life ended on a cross where he took our sins into himself and died. But God raised him, and our sins were left in his grave. We gain a new life by faith in Christ. You and I may feel helpless, even hopeless, and unworthy at times, but considering the lengths Jesus went to, we are never insignificant.

Receiving Christ exposed my fear of insignificance as a lie. Now, I am guided by the truth that I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for the works He prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Are there labels you need to reject and filters you need to remove? I encourage you to spend some time with Psalm 139, Isaiah 61, and other Scriptures. Compare God’s picture of you with the one you would paint of yourself.

Let’s talk about this! Where do you need to agree with God to conquer your fear insignificance? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments below.

Get to Know Caroline:

Caroline's author photoCaroline is the unpublished writer of a novel that speaks to the themes of grief, identity, and significance. For writing, she draws on her own experience as well as those gained serving in healing prayer ministry for individuals with emotional issues in her church. She became a Christian through the trauma of her divorce and has been remarried for thirty-five years. God has given her a daughter, two stepsons and four grandchildren in addition to the son she had before. Each of her children is unique. They are in various stages of faith in God and understanding their value to Him and other people. She prays for them daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more encouragement on resting in your Christ-given significance, make sure to check out my Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled Moving Past the Fear of Insignificance. Find it HERE.Faith Over Fear podcast episode logo

 

 

 

Our Only Objective Source of Identity

I’ve tried to define myself a lot of different ways—to nail down who I am, or at least, who I’m supposed to be. But I always came up short. Initially, I tried to prove myself through education. I’ve attended eight different colleges in five different states and have pursued—not completed, mind you, but pursued—nearly as many degrees. And though I eventually graduated with a 3.96, my academic achievements ultimately amounted to little more than marks on a page.

They didn’t fulfill or define me.

I attempted to find my identity through sports, through parenting, through marriage. But though I found momentary fulfillment, even my most precious moments could not fill up all my empty places or my God-created need for significance.

I can’t measure myself against others or by temporary goals, as lofty as they may be. God wants me to go deeper, to ground myself in that which is eternal. Unshakable.

A while back, I praised my daughter for her integrity, revealed through a series of behaviors. Her response, “You’re my mom. You have to say that.”

Though I hope my accolades have more validity than she implied, I understood her sentiment. My affirmations were subjective, because they were just that—mine. And though I believe they encouraged her, they couldn’t reach the same place within her heart that Christ’s validation could.

Scripture begins with, “In the beginning God …” That’s where we begin as well—in God. We discover our value, identity, and purpose in the One who made all things, including our beating hearts. Colossians 3:3 puts it this way, “For you died,” –to our old way of life— “and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Only God, the Creator of all things, has the authority to assign our identity and define our worth.

He says we’re treasures worth dying for. That’s an identity worth protecting.

If you struggle with feelings of insignificance, or find yourself making decisions based on a fear of insignificance, I encourage you to check out episode 6 of my Faith Over Fear Podcast: Moving Past Fear of Insignificance. You can find it HERE. Life Audio also dropped my latest episode, recorded with a friend and theologian, Dave Montoya, titled Courage to Face Our Doubts. Listen HERE.

Anchored and Secure cover imageAnd make sure to grab a copy of Wholly Loved latest devotional Anchored and Secure: 60 Days of Resting in Grace:

Thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection, we don’t have to stress, strive, or perform. We simply need to rest in what Christ has already done. That is when we begin to come alive and find the power and courage to live as He intended. That’s when we experience true and lasting freedom. This sixty-day devotional helps women reflect on God’s grace and the freedom of living deeply anchored in Him.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Growing in Grace

Woman praising and paraphrase of 1 Cor. 3:18

Imagine the peace and growth we’d experience if we truly learned to live in grace. If, instead of wallowing in self-condemnation, we moved forward in the hopeful anticipation birthed in intentional growth. Imagine if we viewed every failure, setback, and step forward through God’s eyes.

Growing in grace

By Matthew Romano

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Co 3:18, ESV).

“Beware of looking back at what you once were, when God wants you to become someone you’ve never been” – Oswald Chambers.

Before a sculptor begins shaping his masterpiece, he has a vision of what he wants to create. He begins with raw materials, such as a block of stone or marble. He starts chiseling the substance to mirror what he sees in his mind. As he crafts his vision, he’s not frustrated because it’s not yet completed. He takes joy in the work of his hands as art begins to take form and reflect the image he envisioned.

It is the same process for God.

God has a vision for us to become like Christ. In Him, He sees us as perfect, without spot or blemish in Christ. He is gradually molding and chiseling us to reflect His Son. He works on our hearts with joy and He’s not angry or upset throughout the process of our spiritual formation. Rather, He takes delight in doing the work that He knows will eventually be completed.

Unfortunately, we often fail to see ourselves as a work in progress. We tend to focus on our sins and imperfections. We cannot press forward we’re continually contemplating our present shortcomings, or reflecting on the pain of our past.

Perhaps we have listened to careless words spoken over us – and unknowingly embraced them. I remember one of my high school teachers yelling at me in front of the classroom, “You’re never going to amount to anything!” At the time, these words didn’t seem to bother me and I just laughed at him. But looking back in retrospect, a few months later I made the decision to drop out of school. If we take these words to heart they will begin to shape our self-image.

Words can create worlds for us. Every word we’ve digested internally has greatly impacted who we are today. That’s woman holding heart shaped snow and text pulled from postwhy it’s imperative to meditate on what the Lord says about us. When we welcome Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, He grants us not only forgiveness, but also the gift of a new identity. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Co 5:17, ESV).

As I focus on the goodness of the Lord and the words He’s spoken to me within the Bible, He transforms me to become what He created me to be. I may not be all God intends yet, but I know Him who creates beauty from what was once nothing. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jer 18:6). If we allow His hand to shape our lives, we’ll be led into a glorious destiny of purpose.

What must you put behind to become what you’ve never been?

Check out his book, The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation:

The atmosphere within the United States and most of the world is ripe for another great spiritual awakening. The current state of affairs is one of profound division, even within the church. The saints themselves have a difficult time distinguishing what is right and what is wrong because we have abandoned our first love and have embraced the love of the world.

In this season, the Lord exhorts His people to prepare themselves like a bride adorned for her husband and beckons the church to answer “The Call” toward revival that will spread like a holy fire in the hearts of many. Who will answer “The Call” to battle this present darkness with weapons of righteousness? Only when God’s own people are revived can we expect to see transformation in America and throughout the world.

The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation takes the reader on a journey of spiritual awakening alongside the author. Each chapter inspires the reader to answer “The Call” of God toward freedom, holiness, and purpose. This book will mentor people to hear the voice of God, think with the mind of Christ, be alert to the tactics of Satan, engage in spiritual warfare, learn to pray and meditate on the promises of God, and much more.

Buy it HERE.

Grab the study guide HERE.

Watch the trailer HERE.

Get to know Matthew!

Matthew J. Romano is an ordained deacon of Christ Church New Jersey. He has been walking with the Lord for over 25 years. His passion is sharing Christ with the lost and teaching believers to walk passionately with the Lord. He currently serves the body of Christ as a deacon, altar ministry to pray for the needs of God’s people, life group leader, guest teacher and speaker of the Word of God, and as a certified teacher in the School of Prayer. He is the author of The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation and The Call: A Study Guide to Revival and Transformation.

Find him online HERE.

Connect with him on Facebook HERE. 

Before you go, for those who are local and want to participate in the live teaching of Becoming His Princess Bible study, hosted this winter by Wildewood Christian Church (Papillion), registration is now open! To sign up, go HERE.

Grab your free e-copy HERE.

Grab your print copy HERE.

About the study:

Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.

As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

Won’t Be Defined

Photo by makunin taken from pixabay.com

Photo by makunin taken from pixabay.com

What if we viewed ourselves through God’s eyes? Imagine the peace we’d have. And what if, maintaining that vision, we then zeroed in on what He was calling us to do, and pursued that with everything within us.

What might we accomplish?

This is something God has been encouraging me to do. If we’re Facebook friends, you likely read my post this morning with the quote from Real Women Leading With Proverbs 31 Values (an awesome book!). I’ll post the quote I pulled from the book here:

Speaking of influencers, the author said, “They are driven to do something that matters. They seek God for what His call is on their lives, and they are focused on what He created them to be.

Focus. Unwavering. Obedient. Surrendered.

Todays post, by a sweet sister in Christ who is pursuing God’s call with everything within her, shares her journey from the beginning of a dream to full pursuit.

GIVE-AWAY ALERT! As a special bonus, Jessica is giving away 3 of her albums. Winners will be randomly selected from the comments and shipping is only available to those living in the continental US.

But first, I want to announce last week’s give-away winner. Jennifer Hallmark, congrats! You won a copy of Cherie Burbach’s latest release, 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. I’ll message you shortly to chat about getting that to you.

Won’t Be Defined by Singer/Songwriter Jessica Angelique

“I won’t be defined by what other say. I won’t be confined. They won’t get in the way of God’s love and His perfect plan. I won’t be defined in His strength I’ll stand. I won’t be defined.”

-from the title track “Won’t Be Defined” on 14-year-old Jessica Angelique’s album “Won’t be Defined.”

When I was a young girl there was this inner joy inside of me that made me happy. I never could imagine my life without God. I always remember believing in God. In the years before I started school I had no trouble being defined by God and not what others said about me, even through challenges I faced.

I have an eye condition called Duane’s Syndrome and I have trouble seeing and reading. The good news is that it’s hardly noticed, but I still struggle even today to read, but I am overcoming it.

photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by Ambro

photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by Ambro

My first few years of school were challenging. I was in Dual Language spending half the day speaking English and the other half speaking Spanish. Halfway through third grade I went to a different school without Dual Language. At my new school, I was bullied at the young age of nine and I had no friends, no hope. I felt alone like an outcast. I was being me, and that wasn’t accepted.

In school you’re supposed to like sports and dance, but I loved to sing and instead took piano and guitar lessons.

When I went into fourth grade I moved schools again because of the extreme bullying. I left the school so I would never have to see that bully again.

I was the new kid again. I felt excluded, but not as bad as at the other school.

When I started middle school in fifth grade, it got a lot easier and I made friends. I felt like the same kid I was before I started school, remembering I’m defined by God and not by what others say. A huge bJessica Angeliqueurden was lifted. I did not have a care in the world– except math class.

I’ve always loved music and singing. When I was very young I would sing songs at the top of my lungs and my brother would scream at me to shut up, but I never did. I always knew I wanted to be a singer, like every other girl in my class. Instead of just daydreaming, I decided to do something about it.

I started doing talent shows and playing for family and friends. Participating in a national talent competition gave me the inspiration to do this for the rest of my life. One day I attended a Christian concert featuring Moriah Peters. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a Christian singer. I started in the Christian music field and I don’t think I could do anything else.

I was encouraged to write songs and then wrote enough to make an album. My dream became a reality. Your dream can too with God’s guidance and with the help of those who nudge you in the right direction.

If I didn’t know God, my life would be hopeless. I’ve just started, and I have a lot more to do to make a difference and inspire people to be defined by God, not by what others say. My goal is to inspire one person at a time, follow God, and see where He takes me.

Like Brandon Heath sings, “He’s not finished with me yet.”

Jessica Vogt_021
14 year old, Jessica Angelique has a God-given gift beyond her years to write music that helps others going through doubts and insecurities, inspiring people to love Jesus and love themselves.
Through her own struggles with bullying she wrote the title track to her debut album,”Won’t Be Defined,” telling the story of a young girl learning that God defines us, not what others say. It’s a story every Mom will want their daughter to embrace.

Visit her online HERE.

Let’s talk about this! First, for those of you who joined me at Reality Church’s Women’s Connection Weekend last weekend, hopefully,  you’ve been prayerfully asking livingbygracepic.jpGod to help you do as Jessica encourages, which is to allow God and God alone to define us. (For those who weren’t able to come, I may be posting all three main sessions online. I’ll let you know…)

In what ways have you allowed others to define you? What inner lies are you clinging to, regarding your identity, and what Scripture can you meditate on and pray to center your heart and mind in God’s truth? Are you pursuing God’s call on your life, and if so how? If not, what’s holding you back? Share your comments here below or on Living by Grace on Facebook.

 

Who Are You (Part II)

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.

Remember Who You Belong To

In Paul’s letters to the early church, he always starts with an identity proclamation and often closes with a declaration of association.

In Romans and Philippians he is a slave of Christ. In 1 and II Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians he is chosen by God to be an apostle. In Galatians, he says, “I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ Himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.”

Each time he penned a letter, this proclamation saturated his mind: I belong to God and am surrounded by a body of believers. This provided an emotional and moral compass with which to sift through the events of his day. No matter what he faced–no matter how painful, frightening, or traumatic, he belonged to God, the all-powerful Creator of the universe. What’s more, surrounded by a family of believers, he was never alone.

How might our day, our lives, look different, if we started each day with that core knowledge: I belong to Christ, the Creator of the universe, and I am not alone. And what if we allowed those thoughts–that core identity–to expel negative thinking that threatens to keep us in bondage.

If we belong to the God of hope, there is always hope.

If we belong to the sovereign God, our lives have purpose.

If we belong to the God of love, we are lovable.

God formed you. God sees you. God loves you. God surrounds you. God is with you. God is in you. God has adopted you and placed you in a family of believers.

Stop and think of the implications of each of those statements. What false identities need to be expelled in light of God’s truth?

On Saturday our daughter went to her first homecoming dance, and she brought a friend. Earlier in the day, I spent hours dolling our daughter up–curling her hair, painting her nails and toe nails, applying make-up. When I finished, she looked in the mirror and said, “I feel pretty.” My heart brimmed with joy, knowing she’d walk into that high school gym with her head held high.

On the way to the dance, we picked up one of her friends who struggles to see her worth. At school, she often hangs on the outskirts, never quite feeling part of the group. Although our daughter tries to usher her in, the girl’s core belief that she doesn’t belong keeps her standing on the outside. Even amidst a group of friends, she feels alone.

As we drove to the dance, I encouraged her to change her thinking–to expel the lies and grasp hold of truth, like Paul did when he wrote his letters.

Although she felt insignificant, she was a radiant child of the King, created anew in Christ Jesus.

Although she felt unlovable, Christ Himself died for her.

Although she felt like she didn’t belong–didn’t fit–she belonged to God and a family of believers united in Christ.

As we talked, and the truth of what I told her began to sink in, her chin raised a bit higher and a smile tugged on her lips.

When we picked the girls up three hours later, they clamored in the van all smiles and giggles. They’d had a wonderful time and that night as my daughter’s friend shared stories and pictures taken on her phone, I realized the girl who felt like she never measured up and never quite belonged, felt beautiful and accepted.

Again I ask, how might remembering who you belong to and who you’s standing beside you change the way you look at your day? And as you focus on your identity in Christ, what false thinking must you let go?