Let’s be honest.
As kids, we spent a lot of time figuring out who we are. We did our best to discover where we ‘fit in’. Which piece of the puzzle we were. We wanted to know what unique strengths and personality traits we had to offer.
And we did all of this, with the help of, you guessed it- the people around us.
Our friends, and our family.
In some ways, this could be helpful. Especially if you were able to find friends who appreciated you for who you are. We all need supportive people in our lives to cheer us on. However, there is a major flaw with using this as your only method to receive validation. Especially for those of you who struggled to maintain healthy relationships early on. You may not have had much accurate or encouraging feedback from others.
See, the problem is, sometimes people get it wrong. That is, they are mistaken about the kind of person you are. Sometimes they are right, but lack the compassion necessary to help you. They may also misjudge you or assess you based on first impressions. Impressions that are unreliable to say the least. In fact, some people will simply never give you the chance to show them what you have to offer. Often times, it is very difficult to change someone’s opinion about you once they have already made mind their mind up.
When left unchecked, this can sometimes lead us to struggle with feelings of rejection, and even confusion about our own identity.
Growing up, I was soft-spoken and a little bit, well, for lack of a better term-strange.
I was introverted, withdrawn, and a little bit moody. This was often perceived as ‘unfriendliness’. But I never saw it that way. I could be very pleasant with people who bothered to see past my ‘other worldliness’. But this rarely happened. Sure, I occasionally mingled in some circles. I had a few on and off friendships/relationships. But more often than not, I was written off as a stuck-up loner with issues.
Maybe there was truth in that, and maybe my reputation was a little bit exaggerated. But either way, it was hurtful.
Nonetheless, I often masked the amount of pain I felt from these seemingly personal rejections. This ended up worsening my already existing depression, and eventually caused me to give up on myself completely. (If I can’t win, why even try?) I began to seek validation in ways that were unhealthy, and even destructive.
If my story had ended there, it would be a tragic one. Fortunately, it was not the end of the road for me. Even at my worst, God had a plan for me. Unlike people, Jesus knew the real me. Even with all my flaws, he saw potential in me. Although he knew that I was far from innocent, he chose me anyway.
I say all this to point out that your identity is not defined by the world around you, or the circumstances you were born into. Not at all. Your identity comes from something much more meaningful.
I believe that we are all born with an innate sense of purpose. To what degree we choose to pursue God’s will for that purpose is ultimately up to us. At the same time, I also believe we will always retain intrinsic value and worth regardless of the choices we make.
That being said, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of finding our identity in all the wrong places. We may look to specific people, places, jobs, or things to complete us. We may turn to any addiction of our choice to fill that void that we feel powerless to fill. That void where our sense of worth and identity is supposed to be.
All the while, we have a savior who is patiently waiting for us to turn to him. Waiting for us to find him. Waiting to invade your heart and flip your life upside down. He desires to show himself, and set you on the path he planned out for you.
While our actions are important, and our choices will no doubt affect the trajectory of our lives, it is ultimately our relationship with God that will shed the most light on who we are. And, it is through this relationship that we are able to discover our unique purpose.
Think 2020 was bad?
I would argue that 626 BC could give this year a run for it’s money.
Jeremiah (a.ka “the weeping prophet”) lived during a time of rampant war and destruction. During this time, Israel had given themselves over to idolatry. They were worshiping fake Gods and sacrificing children. They were promoting violence and listening to false prophets. In fact, this was not just one bad year, but a timeline of terrible events that lasted for over 100 years. Safe to say that these were not enjoyable times.
Having been called as a prophet before the age of twenty, Jeremiah had his work cut out for him. He had to deliver a difficult message to Israel and other nations. To be clear, this wasn’t a message of sunshine and roses either. This was a confrontation. Jeremiah had the burden of unloading some bad news to his people.
They need to change their ways.
As you can imagine, this did not go over well. In fact, the words of Jeremiah went largely ignored. You could say that he wasn’t all that popular…And yet, at the start of his calling, God has this to say about this young prophet-
Jeremiah 1:5 ~“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
In other words, God had Jeremiah’s life mapped out for him before he was even born. He was created with this exact purpose in mind. He was set apart for this very reason. All of it was planned and intentional, which means that he had everything he needed in order to fulfill his calling. Despite all of his feelings of inadequacy, his creator believed he was nothing less than adequate for his calling.
Considering the less than favorable response he received, one has to wonder; Just how did Jeremiah make it through those dark years?
Well, I’d like to believe it was the intimacy he shared with God, coupled with the message of hope he received. In addition to his messages of doom and gloom, he was also given the promise of a better future. It was a message that encompassed both justice and mercy; truth and love.
Jeremiah 29:11-13- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
These are the words God had for the Israelites after they were exiled from Jerusalem. These are also words that Jeremiah spoke in order to combat the comforting but misleading lies that the false prophet Hananiah had been telling his people. This wasn’t his first challenger, either. In fact, there was a whole string of people who attempted to discredit him over the course of his ministry.
Needless to say, Jeremiah needed to be firmly secure in his identity as a messenger of hope; as a man who was loved and chosen by God.
We aren’t all prophets like Jeremiah.
But, we are all loved and chosen. That is, we were all formed in the womb, and set apart for a purpose that is completely unique to us. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, emotional or pragmatic, you are chosen. Whether you are smart, athletic, tall, short, easygoing or intense...you were designed with intention in mind.
Even if you were nothing more than a man or woman who is loved by God, that is enough. That would be all you need to make you significant, and give yourself a reason to keep moving forward in your journey.
You don’t need to search for approval. You don’t need to turn to external sources in order to satisfy your need for validation. All you need to know is who you belong to, and who is guiding you toward a better future.
If you struggle with rejection, or confusion about your identity, don’t give up. Know you are not alone, and you are not hopeless. If you will seek God for your purpose and your identity, He will fill that void inside of you. He can give you support when you need it most, and He can help you find and nurture relationships that are healthy for you. If you will only let Him.
If you feel an emptiness inside you, don’t despair. Take a moment to reach out to your creator. Read his love letter to you and allow him to speak into your life. Let him influence you choices; you’re direction. Let him take you on an adventure that will reveal who you are, and even more importantly...
Who He is.
Did you know that in addition to Sunday services, we offer a complete Pre-school through 12th grade Christian education program?