Comfort & Counsel

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by Jacob Ninan

You would have heard about the term ‘identity crisis’. This happens when someone, typically a teenager, is confused about basic issues like, “Who am I? What is the meaning of my life? Is there any purpose for my life? Does it matter if I am here or not?” etc. In this sense, we identify ourselves with what we consider us to be and what gives meaning and purpose for our life.

What we think about ourselves may be different from what we really are! Only God knows our real identity fully and accurately. He is the One who created us and He has created each of us with a specific plan and purpose for our life. He is also the One who knows everything about us. He knows even our thoughts and the intentions of our heart. No one can fool Him. Many of us imagine we know ourselves pretty well. But the fact of the matter is, none of us is aware of everything about us. But God knows. We need to aim at knowing ourselves better and better, because only then we can see ourselves with respect to what God wants us to be. We all have certain strengths God has given us, and we all have weaknesses because of the fact that we are born with a fallen nature (Psa.51:5). It is when we know where we really stand that we can seek God’s help to become what He wants us to be.

But the sad fact is that most people are not thinking much about what God thinks about them but about what other people think about them. As a result, the opinion of people is what drives their lives. They are always trying to boost other people’s opinion about them and they always do their best trying to avoid other people thinking anything bad about them. It disturbs some people so much if they come to know that somebody thinks badly about them, even to the extent of wanting to commit suicide! Honour killing is an extreme case takes place among some communities when they perceive how some family member’s act may bring shame on them. On the other side, most people are always looking out for ways to impress others and gain a great name.

For some people, a major focus in life is their appearance. They keep buying new dresses, trying different hairstyles and makeup, and they make sure that they keep in touch with and follow the latest fashion trends. For some people, this has become a compulsion. The whole aim is mainly to impress others and so improve their perceived self. One father told me about how his daughter compelled him to buy her an iPhone. He bought her also a case for the phone. But she refused the case saying that after buying an iPhone she shouldn’t have to hide the Apple insignia!

Then there is the other desire to impress others with one’s achievements. They make known to others, indirectly and even directly, about their qualifications, the company they work for, the house they live in, the car they own, the greatness of their children, the great things they have done, etc., seeking to bask in the honour. For some people, their identity is in their work and their designation. So, all their life, their goal is to get higher and higher.

The problem with trying to impress people is that it is very, very unstable. We may feel very great in front of people until someone greater comes along. And there are always those who are greater than us out there! We go plummeting down when we realise we have gone down in someone’s perception when they see some lack or flaw in us. And, believe me, we all have many flaws! Some students take it very badly when they fail or miss the rank they expected. Some people can’t take it when they don’t get the promotion they were expecting. Some others cannot manage it if their relationship fails. Failure in any sense crumbles their self-image! If our whole idea of self is based on what other people think, the devil will get many occasions in our life to suggest that our life is not worth living, and that we might as well end it.

An entirely different category of perfectionistic people is where they are always disturbed because, however hard they try, they can never become what they want to be. They are so disappointed that they are always falling short of their dreams about themselves and that is something they can’t bear. Some people are driven to seek perfection because in their childhood they had parents who were always pushing them on to greater and greater levels and always pointing out where they came short. Now life is almost unbearable because they begin to think they are failures.

A lot of problems come when people compare themselves with other people. They are upset with God for making them the way they are because they see other people who are better off in various aspects of life. Questions such as, “Why was I born with this handicap? Why did God make me so dark, or so short, or so dumb, or put me in this family? Why don’t I get opportunities that others have?” Etc.

This is also a never ending pursuit. We all find that we can’t change many things we hate – our skin colour, our shape, our IQ, our family, our childhood, etc., and it becomes so frustrating.

What some of us do, when we are dissatisfied with our self-image, is to make it a goal in life to prove to everybody that we are actually greater than what they think. So we act tough, overwork, take unreasonable risks, or even do crazy or weird things to get other people’s attention. But at the end of the day we find ourselves frustrated, because no matter how hard we try there are people who are better than us.

Some others try to withdraw from trying anything new because of the fear that they might fail. They have concluded that it is better not to try anything because even though they can handle it if they do not get anything new as a result, they do not want to take the risk of failing.

Still some others give up on life itself, withdraw from normal life and throw themselves into a lifestyle of drugs or alcohol so that they can at least forget about their inability to actually meet their dreams.

But God hasn’t created us to waste our lives by pursuing after foolish or wrong goals. He has a purpose for our lives. Psa.139:15,16 says, “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” God knew all about us and our life even before we were born. He knew the particular combination of our skin colour, shape, hair, face, IQ, family, education, etc., even before we were born. He didn’t make a mistake in causing us to be born in our family even though He knew the mistakes our parents would make. He knew how our skin, face, etc., were going to affect how other people viewed us, but He knew that in His plan those things were not going to hinder us. He knew that some of us might be rejected by our parents, friends or other important people, and some of us might be even abused by other people. But He knew that in the end He was going to turn all these things around so that they would bring out something good for us according to His plan (Rom.8:28,29). God says very clearly that His plans for us are only for our welfare and to give us a future, and not to give us a calamity (Jer.29:11).

If we trust in God and place our life into His hands to lead us according to His plans, and believe that what He says is always true, we will see how He will do what He has promised.

Have you thought about what God thinks about you? He knows every sinful thing we have thought, said and done in our whole life. He could, as they say, throw the book of law at every one of us and find us all guilty. But He has chosen to take our blame on Himself by sending His Son to take the punishment in our place. When we know that there is no other way we can be accepted by Him and then go and receive forgiveness from Him as a gift, God promises us in Heb.8:12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Doesn’t this make us really secure? We may have thought that if anyone actually knew certain things about us they may have a very poor opinion about us and reject us. But God accepts us knowing everything about us and still loving us enough to make us His children.

Since He created every single one of us, we are all valuable to Him, irrespective of our skin colour or shape or anything else. Jesus said, in effect, that even if everyone else was good and we alone were bad, He would have still come looking for us. That is how valuable we are to Him. He has valued us so much that He gave His Son to die for us.

Our real identity comes from what God created us as, and what He has created us for. Now, how should it matter what people think about us? God is the One whose love for us never stops. He is the One who never changes. He is the One on whom we can always depend.

We need to realise that all the things we used to consider as misfortunes in our life are either things God had already factored in when He was making a plan for our life, or things He is going to turn around to produce something good. Did you know that there is no one in the whole world just like you, and that is because God has a unique plan for you that no one else can fulfil! Did you know that the struggles we go through in life facing handicaps and comparison with others can teach us to become better people if we trust in God’s wisdom? If we don’t bring God into the picture, we can, instead, become bitter people!

One important thing we need to recognise is that what God thinks about us is what really matters, and not what people think. The Bible tells us in Prov.29:25 that if our focus is on what people think, we are likely to get into a trap that will destroy our real purpose of life, which is the purpose God has for us. God has a purpose for us in what we do here on earth, but He has a greater purpose for us about what we will be in eternity, forever and ever. Rom.8:28,29 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” God’s ultimate plan for us is to make us like Jesus in our character, and He uses all the situations and challenges of this life to work together so that we can be transformed in our character to become more like Jesus. The glory for us in eternity is not about what people thought about us here, how much money we made, how famous we became or how much we enjoyed ourselves, but how much we used the situations of life to train us for eternity. So, we can understand that if we spent all our life trying to impress people and being bothered about what they would think, we might end up as a poor person in eternity.

Can we stop worrying about people, and turn to God’s opinion about us? Let us train ourselves to live every day thinking about what God thinks about us. If people think highly about us, let us remember they don’t know us fully. If they think badly about us, let us think God has accepted us. If they misunderstand us, let us think God understands. If they treat us badly let us remember our eternity with God will make everything right. Let us stop living inside the trap of people’s opinion and rejoice in God’s love and grace towards us.

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