Identity is all we have. It is who we are, what defines us, how we see ourselves and how others see us. It is the sum of all that has been and all we can be – EXCEPT when we are in Christ and Sons and Daughters of God. We all know that we become a new creation in Christ when we acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour. It is a journey that takes place revelation by revelation, restoration by restoration as we grow into our true identity in Him.
Today I want to talk about some identity snares that we can that can trip us up on this journey of walking into our new identity in Him. Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate what that can look like.
My growing up didn’t contain any serious physical abuse as such. Mostly it was emotional wounding that ate away at my sense of self-worth which hindered me from having a healthy sense of self-identity. It led me to become controlling in my adult life, judgmental and easy pickings for those who wanted to take advantage of my need to be loved and affirmed. When I became a believer, obviously there was a great deal of healing and restoration needed in my heart and soul. For many, many years my frame of reference for everything negative I felt about myself or what happened to me I consistently would bring back to those wounds in my childhood. My old identity as an unbeliever was still very much active and became an excuse, albeit unconsciously, for some of my continuing negative behaviours. My identity was firmly connected to my past and my pain.
Trauma too, can leave huge scars on our psyche and soul but at the same time we can be an incredibly gifted person (because the gifts are without repentance) who is recognised for their gift (and even their calling), and who does a lot of good with that gift to the extent that it can camouflage subtle destructive behaviours and attitudes. The need for affirmation of identity can cause the gift to be used as a tool that feeds a deep need within but can blind us to our true state. We may be mature and whole in some areas, but still need healing and restoration in others. This is why God is more concerned about our character than He our gift.
Many of us have very powerful or spectacular testimonies that are full of huge victories over darkness, personal circumstances, or traumatic events. These may still have very evident ongoing effects upon our lives. Here too, our testimony of what happened to us can become our identity and in our minds, it is the framework or filter through which we see ourselves. Our testimony can be used to meet a deep need for affirmation, recognition, a place of belonging or a sense of worth, and affect our outward expression of our identity.
The broken walls and damaged gates in our lives may become strongholds through which the enemy can function, but we are to remember that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, and those with deep wounds are in much need of our love, acceptance, and prayer. That may also mean we still need to place healthy boundaries around our relationships with them.
Revelation 12:11 says ‘they have overcome by the power of the Lamb and the word of their testimony’.
Paul says, ‘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 KJV
God encourages us to let go of the things of the past, moving forward into our future and our new identity in Him. In Hebrews 10:23 he urges us to ‘hold fast to our confession of hope without wavering, for He who has promised is faithful.’
OUR TESTIMONY IS A TOOL
Our testimony is a very powerful tool for building hope and bringing salvation into people’s lives. What we have been through builds empathy in new relationships and tells the story of a God who has helped us to overcome. Our testimony deals with who we were, but I often feel that it should be proportionally more about our new identity in Christ than the things that have happened to us. Our testimony is never meant to continue as our identity. As a believer, it is a tool we can now use when we are encouraging someone, sharing the gospel, building hope or evangelising. I am reminded of that old song ‘it is no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me’.
The ongoing effects of our trauma, our illness, our past circumstances may still be very real in our lives, but our framework for our identity is now in what Christ says about us and who He is calling us to be. When we journey for a long time with continued pain or difficulty it can be life-consuming to the extent of being your daily challenging existence. I am reminded of a dear, dear friend who for most of her life had lived with lupus, an ongoing extreme heart condition, excruciating pain, massive infections, mini-strokes, blood clots and more. She lived with it daily and had a very low quality of life, but her confession was always one of hope, of faith in her God, cheerfulness and much love and concern for the well-being of others. Eventually, God opened a massive door of favor that allowed her to receive for free the unavailable and expensive treatment she couldn’t get where she was. Her quality of life is now around 80-90%. Her identity was not in her condition but in who Christ was calling her to be in her challenging daily life. In God’s grace and mercy, He does not restore us all at once because we would not learn anything and we wouldn’t be able to handle it. Strength and maturity is gained in the journey. It is gained by our confession and walking out in the faith of who we are now positionally as believers.
My turn-around was the revelation that I was never going to heal and grow if I constantly kept framing up my present with my past. I took a big step of faith and decided one day that I was not going to keep examining my pain, thinking about the things that were done to me or blaming the people concerned. I couldn’t change that, so why keep being miserable and living in that space. Every time I spoke about what life or the Devil had done to me I was not confessing faith, but allowing the enemy a place to land on because of my negativity. I trusted God to bring up the things from my past that needed healing when He wanted to do it but it required me to be vulnerable and honest with Him. That wasn’t easy and it was very painful and self-confronting at times. I had to forgive myself, forgive others, forgive God and repent sincerely. I had to read the word and actually apply it to my life intentionally. I only bought up my past if I was having a conversation with someone if I could testify of who the new me was.
WE AREN’T JOURNEYING ALONE
We are so much more beautiful than our past. We are so much more valuable than anything we can think about ourselves. We are so more impacting on this world than we could possibly think we are, and there is a place of wholeness and freedom that is beyond our imagination. Papa God does this journey with us. Nor is there is now any condemnation or shame that the enemy can bring upon us when we are seated in Christ and He is our confession. We have Jesus our champion cheering us on, fighting for us to attain that place of overcoming and wholeness.
Look out for those snares the enemy sets to keep us trapped in who we were and not who we have become. We can trust a loving, living God to hold us gently and securely when we make ourselves vulnerable to Him, allowing Him to come into those secret places and weave His beauty and healing around our hearts.