What do you do if you struggle with self-confidence or find yourself stuck in the journey of “finding your identity”? When you just feel like anything you do isn’t enough, that no matter what you do, someone else will do it better, that you just plain aren’t important?
I have always struggled with self-confidence. A few years ago, I started looking for answers to who I was. Sure, I knew who I was by birth and that I was a child of God since I was saved, but… I guess I wanted more. Something more in-depth or something. The popular opinion out there today sounds pretty good: “you’re strong,” “you can do this,” “you’re beautiful,” “don’t let anyone stand in your way,” “chase your dreams,” and all that sort of stuff. Oh yeah, and “just believe in yourself and have faith in yourself and you can do anything!”
First of all, being raised in a Christian home, I knew that without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Secondly, I am one of the world’s worst (or is it best??) about being hard on myself and being my own worst critic. Telling me to believe in myself is pretty much like telling me to… I don’t know, what’s one of the most impossible things you can think of? Even though I have wonderful friends who tell me that I am such an encouragement, that I am sweet and helpful and all that, I’m still thinking deep inside, Well, you don’t know who I really am!
That is true. But what is also true is that I have always struggled with choosing trust in God’s Word over what I feel like in that moment. And even though I knew what God’s Word said about who I am, I still struggled with accepting it. Something just didn’t feel right about it.
But then, a few months ago, my pastor taught about embracing our identity in Christ in our young adult Sunday School class, and God used that series to help open my eyes about who I am in Christ.
1. Learn about your identity in Christ
Honestly, it’s difficult for me to trust God’s Word when “I don’t feel like it’s true.” Terrible as that sounds, it’s the honest truth. Sometimes I have a really hard time believing and trusting God because my feelings are getting in the way. But God’s been teaching me to press past that, to see that the truth about who I am and how God sees me is founded in His Word, not in my feelings.
It’s not about me. It’s not about how I feel. It’s not something that I obtained, gained, or changed. And even when I’m doubting the truth of God’s Word, it never changes.
God’s Word is TRUTH. Nothing that I feel changes that.
And God’s been teaching me something through His Word. This whole thing with my quest for my identity? My struggle to discover who I really am? Guess what?
It’s not about me. It is ALL about Christ. When I trusted Jesus as my Savior and was saved, I obtained a new identity in Christ—a completely new, unattached-to-my-old-identity identity.
I have to beat that truth into my thick skull time and time again. Because guess what? I’m human—just like you. I fail. I mess up a LOT. But that doesn’t change who we are in Christ or how God sees us.
You know why? Because when God looks at those of us who are in Christ, He only sees Christ. That is why we have to understand what Christ’s identity is—because that is our new identity too. And when we read the Bible and see Who Christ is… wow. We realize that our new identity is not tied to our old identity, because they are completely different. Our old identity is dead. Gone completely. We are a completely new creature in Christ. Our old identity died with Jesus on the cross.
Yes, we still struggle. I struggle every single day. But it’s a battle of my flesh and spirit—it’s not who I am. And in order to daily defeat our flesh when it rises up within us, we have to be able to stand strong.
In order to grow well without toppling over, we need to have a strong root system, and we get that in Christ, not in our feelings or anything else. You will always be tossed to and fro if you can’t take God at His Word and be rooted and grounded in what God has done for us.
(Quote from my church notes on one of the Sunday School lessons my pastor taught about our identity in Christ)
You see, the whole foundation of it is in God’s Word. If we don’t have a strong knowledge of what’s inside of it, we’ll be weak. We have to be rooted and grounded in its promises. When our flesh or Satan tries to tell us that we’re not enough, that we’re no good, that it’s hopeless to keep on trying… that’s when God’s promises come to our aid. If you have a strong root system in God’s Word, then you’ll be able to stand strong in the battles.
Sure, you may fall sometimes. But we have to make the choice every time to grasp God’s hand and get back up, to trust that what He says about and to us are true.
Believe me, I get it. It’s HARD. Sometimes we really don’t want to, sometimes we’re just plain scared to, and sometimes we just don’t know how to trust God. But it really boils down to this: trust is a choice. And today, right now in this moment, am I going to choose to trust God or am I going to choose to be battered about by my feelings? Am I going to battle my old identity, or am I going to embrace my new identity in Christ?
2. Love your identity in Christ
Most times, embracing and accepting who I am in Christ is harder for me than learning about it. When they say “you are your own worst critic,” I can completely relate. I AM. It is so hard for me to believe what people tell me about myself.
I’m not talking about building up my own ego. I deal with pride enough as it is. But when people are trying to encourage me, I am so often guilty of brushing it off. They don’t really mean that, I think sometimes. Or, They might think that, but they don’t know what I’m really like inside sometimes.
I think that an attitude like that is unhealthy. Yes, we’re supposed to be humble… but there is a difference between humility and being negative about ourselves.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10)
That doesn’t sound like God wants us to beat ourselves up, does it? Because honestly, sometimes that’s a form of pride. If I keep abusing myself, especially to other people, then sometimes (for me, at least) I am really asking them to assure me that I’m not that bad, that I’m great and amazing. And that is just puffing me up in pride. But when we’re truly and honestly humble, God lifts us up.
Adrian Rogers, a well-known and respected preacher, said this about the difference between true humility and just thinking negatively of ourselves.
“Have you ever wondered what humility is all about? True humility is not thinking negatively about yourself. It is agreeing with what God says about you. The grace of God will exalt a person without inflating him and humble a person without debasing him. I am what I am because of Christ. In this life, you are not going to be sinless, but as you deal with sin in your life, you can come closer to being free from sin. Sinless? No. Blameless? Yes. As you confess and stay prayed up, you can be blameless.”
That’s an interesting viewpoint. Not sinless, but blameless. That really sums up our identity in Christ, doesn’t it? We’ll never be sinless in this world, but we can be blameless before God, because of Christ in us.
The focus of loving/embracing our identity in Christ isn’t about loving ourselves. We are to embrace who God has made us to be, yes. But ultimately, we are to love Christ in us. I, left to myself, am not a very loveable person. But because of God’s grace, and the new identity He has given me, I can embrace who He has created me to be.
I can, but I don’t always do. Sometimes I allow my emotions to dictate what I believe instead of the facts of God’s Word. When I don’t feel loved by God, when I don’t feel like I’m anything special, when I don’t feel that God is working in me… that’s when I tend to fall apart and get in trouble, because I’m depending on my emotions instead of embracing the facts of God’s Word.
I know the truth. I know that God loves me, that He has saved me and covered me in His righteousness, that He views me as someone really special to Him. But I allow my emotions to take over: fear, guilt, shame, and doubt.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
I have experienced the torment of fear countless times. I am a very fearful person. And most of the time, it’s the fear that leads to the other emotions. I’m scared that I’m not doing enough or being enough. Then I feel guilty that I don’t do more and be more.
The truth is, Satan doesn’t want us to live in the joy of our salvation. He doesn’t want us to love who we are in Christ. He wants to keep us doubting and fearful and ridden with guilt so that we are robbed of a close relationship with Christ and a heart of gratitude. It is a battle to overcome these feelings.
The good news? God doesn’t want us there. He wants us in the exact opposite place. He wants us to live in His joy, His love, His mercy, His grace, and His victory.
And He has given us the victory, even though sometimes we still feel bogged down by our past sin and mistakes.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
If you’ve ever really thought about it, “as far as the east is from the west” is an impossible distance. It just keeps going and going and going, because there’s no end point. God forgets the sins that we have repented of to Him. He has forgiven and forgotten—so why should we keep bringing our old identity, our old sins that we’ve been forgiven of, back to our own minds?
It’s hard. I know. But we have to remember: our victory is not found in what we have done. It’s found in who Christ is and what He calls us to do. And He is calling to us to lay aside our burden and embrace His victory, resting in Him.
“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
It’s not very restful, always finding fault with myself or getting upset with myself over and over again. I have to remember that, if I have confessed my sins to Jesus and asked Him to forgive them, He has. I have to embrace that fact and trust Him. I have to change my mindset from who I was to what Jesus has done in me.
Because I’m not who I was. Christ has made me into a new creature, and every single thing that I learn about my new identity is something to love. It’s a growing thing, a step-by-step journey. And we do have to learn to live in our new identity. It’s a pursuit of Christ, a reaching forth to the things He promises us.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
3. Live in your identity in Christ
Okay, so it’s simple, right? Learn about our identity in Christ, embrace it, and then start living in it. 1, 2, 3, easy-peasy.
It is so hard for me to get things through my thick head sometimes! Believe me, I haven’t perfectly learned how to love and live in my identity in Christ. It is an ongoing learning process with many, many ups and downs. It’s a daily, moment-by-moment choice and journey.
In order to live a fulfilled life in who we are in Christ, we have to learn to receive and embrace His amazing gift, and we have to have the proper perspective. Like I said earlier, it’s all about Christ. I am who I am through Christ… in all areas of my life.
It’s not just a Sunday thing. It’s not even just a morning quiet time or nightly devotional thing. It’s something that we have to embrace every moment of every day. Living a life of surrender to God’s will is a choice we make every second, whether we realize it or not.
“We can’t compartmentalize our spiritual and physical lives. We’ll never experience victorious Christian living that way. Yes, we’re a new creature, but it came at a cost. Now we are completely the Lord’s—His bondservants, His slaves. What people don’t understand is that we’re slaves, but our Master is so good. When we freely surrender everything in our lives to Him, we’ll find joy, fulfillment, affirmation, etc.”
(quote from my notes on one of the Sunday School lessons my pastor taught about our identity in Christ)
Abiding in Christ (John 15) is part of living in who we are in Him. Abiding in Christ is a daily dying to self. It’s a continual consciousness of Him, a daily choice to stop and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit. It’s a continual maintenance job—keeping a short list with God, so to speak. God doesn’t fill a dirty cup, and it’s our job to keep our cup—ourselves—clean for Him to fill with His Spirit.
God doesn’t just want to be a priority in your life, as I’ve heard a local preacher say. He wants to be preeminent. He wants to be Lord of every area of your life.
And the truth is, we can’t accomplish anything for God’s glory without abiding in Him and relying on Him. It sounds like such a sign of weakness sometimes, being dependant on God. It’s like we’re incapable creatures… and that’s because God knows that we can’t do it on our own. We’ll trip over our own feet and fall flat on our faces.
And we have to realize that and accept it. God is always reaching out His hand to us, inviting us to walk alongside of Him. But we have to recognize that we need Him, His grace, His strength, etc. And when we realize just how much we need it, we’ll start living more consciously, more purposefully.
I feel so needy sometimes, so helpless. And all I can do is to pray (a LOT) for God to show me my heart, to show me what I need to do or stop doing, to reveal to me His mighty grace and love. I have to humble myself before Him and beg for His help. I have to take each step as He shows me.
Sometimes I feel stuck. I get really discouraged. I feel so far from my goal. And sometimes, I honestly just set my expectations of myself too high. I feel like I need to have this down, to know perfectly what I need to be doing next.
“The goal is not perfection. It’s simply to be in an intimate relationship with Christ each day, fully embrace who He created us to be, and seek to fulfill the purpose He has for us. He is our greatest strength—and the One who enables us to live out all the other strengths He’s placed within us.”
(Holley Gerth; You’re Already Amazing – this is an amazing book that I highly recommend! It really helped me understand more about who I am and how my personality is special, and how God can use me just as He created me to be. It does have more of a “modern Christianity” vibe, but she does a great job at balancing that viewpoint of “you can do anything” with the Scriptural “you’re nothing without Christ.”)
It’s a continual journey, as I keep saying. Little by little, inch by inch. But God is so merciful and showers us with so much grace. Hold His hand, keep in a close relationship with Him, and He will show you each step to make.
Learn more of Him. Read and study His Word. Pray and ask Him for help. Because the more that we taste the goodness of God, the more we desire it. The more that we desire it and learn from His Word, the more we grow in His knowledge. And the more we learn of Him, the more we love Him.
And when you feel stuck, like nothing is working, and that you’re missing something important… just remember that God loves you and wants nothing more than to be in an intimate relationship with you. He wants you to grow. This rollercoaster journey brings you through both mountaintops and valleys throughout your whole life… but by God’s grace, you will come out of each valley stronger than you went in.
So hang in there—keep pressing on, step by step, in the incredible journey of embracing your identity in Christ. It is so worth it to be able to look back on what He has grown you through!