In my young adult years, I wasted so much energy, so much peace, trying to prove my worth. Driven by a hidden fear of insignificance, I chased after one goal after another and defined myself by external and subjective standards. As a result, I developed a rather shallow sense of purpose and believed the lie that I was what I did. Therefore, my heart inevitably shifted toward pride or insecurity, and it often bounced between the two numerous times each day.
But then, sickness temporarily robbed me of my ability to perform all those tasks I thought defined me. Roles shifted rapidly in our home as the caretaker became the one receiving care. There were days I felt worthless, like a burden and a drain. I hadn’t learned to live anchored in my Christ-centered identity.
It took temporarily losing myself—who I thought I was—to recognize and rest in where my true significance lay. One afternoon, battling pain and fatigue, I asked God, in frustration, why He wouldn’t heal me. After all, couldn’t I serve Him better well—strong and energetic? Just imagine all the studies I could lead, the women I could mentor, the outreach events I could help plan!
But as I sat in His presence, He spoke heart-soothing truth to my soul. He hadn’t created me to launch ministries, raise perfect children, or even to embark on oversea missions. Now, He may indeed call me to do those things, but that wasn’t why He gave me breath. Instead, He formed me by His loving hands for His pleasure and His glory. That’s where my true significance lies—in Him—and I can live that out, no matter my circumstances or limitations.
When I was sick, that meant sitting in His presence every day and connecting, Father to daughter, and knowing in those moments, that was enough. I didn’t have to perform, impress, strive, or to stress. I simply needed to live loved and to love God and others in return.
As a mom, I get this. I’m crazy proud of my daughter, of all she’s accomplished and overcome, but her external achievements aren’t what bring me greatest pleasure. Rather, my heart fills with joy whenever she turns off her phone, sets her agenda aside, and simply sits with me. Those are the moments I cherish most. She doesn’t have to impress me or present a polished image of herself. She doesn’t have to check off numerous sacrificial tasks to enter my presence. She simply needs to come, and when she does, I welcome her near. In fact, were she to forfeit time with me to achieve what she hoped might impress me, I’d be saddened.
I suspect God would say the same. Though He longs for our obedience, of course, and for us to live our lives surrendered to Him, He desires us most of all. He paid a high price—death on the cross—to remove the sin that separated us and to draw us close. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (NLT, emphasis mine).
Can anything be more glorious, more fulfilling, more significant than that—to bring all mighty God, Creator and Ruler of all, pleasure? According to Scripture, that’s precisely what we did the moment we received Christ’s grace.
During my time of illness, as I daily rested in Him, simply connected with Him, I sensed and echoed His pleasure. I received pleasure not from anything God had done or might do but simply through my union with Him.
During those soul-to-Christ encounters, God reminded me of my second yet equally important purpose—to make Him known. Though I’d always assumed I did that best through some grand act of service, perhaps leading Vacation Bible School or speaking from a stage, He helped me see how my weakness, my steady leaning on Him, could provide the purest proclamation of the gospel.
God wasn’t asking me to be a super-hero Christian displaying super-human strength. Rather, He was asking me to demonstrate a super-hero, ever-present, ever-loving God able to carry me through every struggle and triumph. That’s what it means to bring Him glory. The gospel is most clearly revealed through our dependence on Him, and sometimes that dependence shows clearest when we feel as if our significance, at least as our culture might define it, has slipped away.
My identity is in Christ—I am loved by and belong to Him, and that will never change.
My significance is in Christ—He defines my worth and assigns my purpose.
What’s more, my purpose is to know Christ and make Him known, and I can do that when well, when sick, when energetic, and when tired.
Let’s talk about this! In what ways have you allowed your identity, value, and purpose to become tangled? Have you based your significance on the roles you fill or tasks you perform? How might God be calling you to go deeper—in Him? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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What Makes My Life Significant by John Piper
Finding Significance in Christ by Abiding Above Ministries
Who Am I? A New Way to Define Identity by Melissa Crutchfield
Visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page for more faith-building resources