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.

Risking Failure to Become All God Created You to Be

 

Eyes on God with purple background

How many opportunities have you avoided, how many dreams have you never pursued, for fear of failure? Or perhaps you embraced that new challenge but then spent countless sleepless nights fretting over what might happen or what others might think when you didn’t measure up or succeed?

The summer before our daughter’s senior year in high school, she had some big decisions to make, decisions that could literally cost her tens of thousands of dollars. She’d been working tirelessly for an academic scholarship, and through sheer grit stood a good chance of attaining it. She knew she could take an easy course load and preserve her GPA, perhaps even improve it. Or she could challenge herself by taking advanced placement math and science classes.

Back then, none of us realized she had an undiagnosed learning disability. But we did know how time consuming and difficult school was for her. She often took twice as long as other students to complete homework and taught herself, through online videos, what other students managed to learn through lecture.

So, basically, we all knew, by taking these classes, she could easily fail. Worse, her failure would cost her a regency—a full academic scholarship for all four years. To a seventeen-year-old on a reasonable allowance, that felt like a lot of money. Uncertain of what to do, she came to my husband and I for advice. To her frustration, I’m sure, we didn’t give her any, except to encourage her not to base her decision on fear. Though we understood the consequences, should she fail, and how devastated she’d be, we also knew she’d suffer more in the long run by becoming risk adverse. We didn’t want her to go through life tiptoeing forward, looking for that next drop off or dead end. We wanted her to proceed with confidence, viewing every setback and roadblock as a learning opportunity.

With a lot of tears, an unseen amount of hours, and a great deal of stress, she passed all of her classes and received that long-coveted regency. But this accomplishment, initially celebrated, soon enslaved her. Once in college, she quickly discovered all the adaptations that had carried her through high school no longer worked. Despite how hard she was trying, despite all the sleepless nights she spent studying, her grades were slipping fast.

As a result, she tried harder, acquiring shingles twice in her first two years away from home.

One day, watching her emotional angst, I looked her in the eye and said, “I kind of hope you’ll fail. I want you to see that failing isn’t the end of the world.”

I reminded her of Ephesians 2:10, which says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

She was, and is, God’s “handiwork,” His masterpiece, being molded by her loving Creator, who was shaping her in Christ toquote pulled from post with purple background do precisely what He created her to.

In other words, God had a plan for her, one He set into motion before she took her first breath. A plan He assigned knowing every challenge, set back, and momentary “failure” she’d face. She didn’t have to have it all figured out or tackle every difficulty perfectly. She wouldn’t and couldn’t. Rather, she needed to keep her eye on Christ and her heart surrendered and obedient to Him. I knew, so long as she did that, He’d take care of everything else. He would complete all that concerned her. (Ps. 138:8)

I wanted her to experience the freedom that comes when we learn to view failure differently. I knew she’d still work hard. That’s in her nature. But I wanted her to do so with joy and peace rather than stress, fear, and striving.

She did lose that scholarship, and though at first this crushed her, she recovered. She bounced back. In fact, she’ll graduate this spring with a degree that challenged her every brain cell and last ounce of grit. A degree some told her she’d never earn. And for four years, especially on those days when her learning disability seemed insurmountable, part of her wondered if all those naysayers were right.

I imagine there were many times she debated giving up, doing something easier, something safer, something with little to no risk.

She held tight to God’s promise in Ephesians 2:10 knowing He had a plan for her, was working out that plan, and would perfect all that concerned her.  

Today, less than two months before her graduation, I’m wondering …

What if she’d taken those easier classes in high school? What other “easy” and “safe” decisions would they have led to?

What if, when others tossed doubt on her resolve, she’d quit, midway through college, and opted for her second or third career choice?

But perhaps most importantly, what if the resolve and courage built with every difficult step prepared her for all the uncertainties ahead and all God has in store for her?

What if embracing risk led to her greatest growth and strength?

What if our saying yes and embracing risk does the same for us?

Let’s talk about this! Is God asking you to embrace risk for Him? If so, what? And how can you step into that today?

When has risk initiated personal growth?

If you’re following the Faith Over Fear challenge, congrats! We’ve made it to week eight! Woohoo! (Please note, I noticed I uploaded the wrong questions and notes to the wrong week. You can find all the shownotes and questions, with Bible references, HERE.)

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Additional resources:

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by

Finding Significance Through Surrender

 

Image of stairs with text pulled from the post

Sometimes our greatest assignments, the steps towards our calling, come during the most mundane activities. And I wonder if the converse might be true as well. Is it possible to miss an amazing, God orchestrated opportunity when we’re focused only on chasing after something we believe will be amazing? I suspect perhaps, because whenever we chase a thing, be that dreams or success, more than God, we’ve slipped into idolatry, and Our loving Father cannot bless that, as worship of “self” always robs, steals, and destroys.

As some of you may know, I never wanted to be a writer or speaker. It wasn’t that I was opposed to those roles; I just never considered them. I thought I was going to be a teacher. I don’t know why that career came to mind. I think I just wanted to do something and that seemed like something I could do. So I started attending college. I also began serving in my local church, mostly where I saw a need. 

When our daughter was young, we lived in Southern California, and the church we attended hosted Friday night services. Those often had the most inconsistent childcare, so, wanting to ensure options for parents who worked Sundays, Steve and I covered that time slot . 

That was crazy hard for numerous reasons, in part because we had a large class filled with students of widely varying ages and attention spans. But, week after week, we did our best. 

I soon became involved in other ways. I wrote curriculum, sometimes that never got used, other times that was used for a season. I also wrote dramas, parent newsletters, and short story snippets, almost always with no one, besides myself and the person I served under, knowing I’d written it. But God knew. And He was working in and through me to grow me and lead me to where I am today. In fact, God used those activities and experiences to awaken my love for writing.

I’ve experienced opposite scenarios as well. I sensed God nudging me to launch Wholly Loved Ministries for at least two years before I finally responded. I felt I was too busy with my writing career and pursuing activities I found most important. I wasn’t in outright disobedience as I always attributed those heart pricks to vague stirrings, but I never hit pause long enough to truly seek God’s will in how He wanted me to spend and prioritize my time. I was too busy moving ahead. 

I became overly focused on my career and under-focused on my Savior, my power source, faithful guide, and stabilizer. As a result, my stress and anxiety levels grew, as did feelings of discouragement and disillusionment.

Eventually, out of mercy, God intervened and halted my writing for a time. Long enough for me to launch my ministry and for Him to purge and realign my heart.

Back then, it felt a bit like death, but in reality, God was restoring life to what had become diseased. 

Jesus said “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10, NIV). Our faithfulness in the little things reveals our readiness to takepicture of a wheelbarrow with text pulled from post. on greater tasks. This means those who work behind the scenes, those who show up every Sunday, who do what needs to be done regardless of who else knows or sees, or what accolades they receive, will also be faithful in the big and glorious tasks. Perhaps because their heart won’t be in the accolades or the thank yous, but in serving and glorifying their Savior. Conversely, those who aren’t faithful in the little things—the trash emptying and toilet scrubbing, the baby rocking and phone call making, won’t be faithful in the big assignments either.

Maybe because we’ll make them about ourselves—our agendas and glory—rather than God’s.

We see this throughout Scripture. Moses, an orphaned baby turned Egyptian prince turned fugitive turned liberator, received God’s call while watching sheep (Ex. 3), a mundane and largely thankless job he performed day after day, with no one watching, and probably no one paying much attention to. God called the ancient prophet Elisha, Elijah‘s predecessor, while he was working in a field (1 Kings 19:19-21). God anointed Saul, Israel’s first king, to leadership, while he and a servant engaged in a three day journey in search of a donkey (1 Sam. 9-10). Then there was Joseph, a braggart teen who received a God-sized dream but was “discovered” while serving, faithfully, as an imprisoned slave (Gen. 37-41). 

I could go on. The Bible is filled with men and women who learned of amazing and history-changing assignments while performing mundane and humble tasks. We also see those who became obsessed with certain roles or opportunities, who put their desires for self-elevation and respect or prestige above their relationship with and worship of God, who lost it all. Who not only lost that very thing they so fervently sought, but who traded inner calm for anxiety, significance for futility, and joy for defeat.

May we, myself included, learn from their example.

Let’s talk about this! What are you chasing after most, that next promotion or opportunity or your Savior? What occupies your thoughts most, your achievements and goals or God’s glory? Can you share a time when God redirected you off of an obsession and onto Him? What was the result?

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