Devotions for Times of Crisis ~ Day 11: “I Don’t Even Know Who I Am Anymore!”
Our sense of self, of who we are, comes from a complicated interplay of our past, our dreams for the future, our health, our body image, our intricate web of social relationships (past and present), and our relationship with God. When we lose any of these things we experience a loss of identity, a loss of who we are, a loss of our worth. That loss if identity brings with it feelings of anxiety, depression, lovelessness, and in some cases self-loathing.
As an example, women who have gone through mastectomies have reported that the loss of one of their intimate body parts has left them feeling like half of a woman. They look in the mirror and they don’t see the same person that they once saw. The experience leads them to question who they are now, what their relationship with their spouse will be like now, what their friends will think, etc.
It is not uncommon for people to become depressed as they reach higher ages. The loss of reflexes and of health brings with it a loss of independence and a concomitant dependence on others for even simple things like getting to the grocery store or the pharmacy. Such loss if independence creates a sort of crisis of identity, a need to redefine one’s place in the world. That is unsettling and literally de-pressing.
The loss of a job, whatever the cause, means the loss of a “family” – the loss of relationships and friendship. While former co-workers go on with their lives, the unemployed person now feels like an “outsider” and cut off from significant friendships and daily conversation. Loss of work also means loss of a regular, stabilizing daily routine. All of this in addition to the loss of income and the uncertainty of the future (and the recognition that when work is finally found it means the stress of creating new friendships, finding a new nitch in the office pecking order, etc.).
Loss of a loved one feels like the death of part of one’s self. Our relationships with spouse and/or child are so much a part of who we are that the loss of that significant other (either through death, or through divorce) feels like a significant part of “me” has died. The whole orientation to the world that defines existence has now been lost. People who experience this type of loss feel numb, saying that they just don’t “feel” at all. A gray pall or fog seems to settle over their entire lives so that they can’t feel, they can’t think straight, they can’t make even simple decisions, they can’t think about the future. They are not sure how they will “deal” with the loss, and they are not sure who they are any more.
Crisis makes us feel vulnerable. It makes us feel like we’re standing on one leg, just sort of teetering and ready to fall over at any moment. It makes us feel threatened at the most basic level – our sense of “self”, our very identity.
Into this emotional upheaval God speaks to us: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1b).
Our self-worth doesn’t come from our ability to “do” anything. It doesn’t depend on our health, on our age, on our career, on our employment status, on our relationships. Our worth comes from God. We are His unique and good creations. He spent time and care in forming and shaping us individually, as a potter shapes and forms a piece of pottery with great care
(“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place” – Psalm 139:13-15a).
In addition to being a unique creation of God, valued and treasured by your Creator as a work of His own hand, you are also the focus of His love. He loved you so much that He sent His only-begotten Son into human flesh and bone, and then to the cross and through the empty tomb, to have you before Him for eternity. You are valuable to God, worth the price of His own Son!
Likewise, your identity comes as a gift to you from God: You are one of the Redeemed! You are one of His children! You are holy and precious in His sight. You are a brother or sister of Jesus Christ! Your identity is God-given, and no loss here on earth will ever be able to strip that away from you! True, your sense of who you are is impacted by your relationships with others and by your health, etc. But as a Christian these are not the sum of who you are. Your identity is firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, and that identity (“child of God”; “redeemed”) is what shapes all of the other things that give you a sense of “self.” That identity can never be taken away, for it is sure and firm, secure and certain in Jesus Christ. As God’s Word says, “…your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3b).
So mourn your loss. Shed your tears. Experience the grief that is your right. But remember through it all that you are loveable – that you are loved by God with an unfathomable love. Remember that you are valuable and valued by God – so much so that He sent Jesus to buy you back. Remember that “you” are one of the Redeemed, one of God’s dearly loved children, and nothing in all of creation can change that! Your loss does not mean that “you” have changed. It means living life in different ways now, but always with your loving God by your side. You are His and He is yours!
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, the thoughts and feelings of my heart are always laid bare to you; you know me fully. So you know the terrible loss that this crisis has brought into my life. You know the ways that it threatens me, at the very deepest level. Father, remind me every day through this crisis that I am valuable and loveable to you, that my identity and my sense of self are rooted in Christ’s cross because of your grace, and not in the things that I’m able to do or accomplish in this life. What comfort it is to me to know that I am Yours and You are mine through faith in Jesus. Bring me that comfort everyday, dear Father. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.