After the father of lies and popular culture, there is one other voice that can falsely shape our identity; it’s utterly counter-cultural and yet beautifully freeing to realise that we don’t have to rely on this voice to provide the answer in our identity crisis moments.
It is The Voice from Within
Sounds like a dodgy sci-fi episode! But the voice from within is the most common alternative to the Father’s voice that we are encouraged to listen to - encouraged by media, books, academia and those in positions of authority; encouraged by everyone accept Jesus. And actively discouraged by Paul who wrote half the New Testament.
So you may think I’m mad or wrong for saying this but bear with me – take a peek at the Bible for a moment, another look at the life of Jesus and a few words of testimony from me because I believe God is speaking to me through my own blog even as I write...
Mama Mia vs. the Corinthians
In the movie Mama Mia, the main character, Sophie, has an identity crisis – she is getting married. She wants to meet her Dad for the first time but she doesn't know which of three different men is the real father. The end of the movie really bothers me because her fiance's advice is almost true but so unhelpful.
The true part is this: it's not from the affirmation of others (or by intrusive thoughts of condemnation) that we discover who we really are. So for an unbelieving world there is only one other alternative - the inner voice that comes from ourselves. This popular message is the accepted resolution of Sophie's identity crisis - don't get married (avoid the identity crisis), don't worry about who your father is, instead travel the world and find yourself.
In the 1970’s there was a wave of travellers who were on a pilgrimage to find themselves - not that I remember, (I wasn't born then) but I found Floyd McClung's biography and his book 'The Father Heart of God.' illuminating. Floyd's ministry for many years was to the lost young people who set out on ‘The Hippy Trail’ (From Europe to Asia) in order to find themselves but instead found poverty, drug addictions, illness and disillusionment.
Compare this to the church in Corinth.
They were also going through an identity crisis as they sought to define themselves as an emerging, growing, thriving church. The apostle Paul discovered that his personal identity had become the centre of an argument that was heading towards a church-split. 1 Corinthians 1:11 says that there are contentions and divisions due to some people identifying themselves to different apostles: '...each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” '
After several chapters of setting them straight, Paul finishes with this super-intriguing statement:
"I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Not only does Paul point out that humans judge each other wrongly he goes even further to say that when looking within ourselves we are likely to judge ourselves wrongly too.
Two extremes of the Voice from Within
Most of the time, when we judge our own actions we are either too lenient - justifying our own behaviour in a way we would never extend to someone who had done the same thing to us - or we are too harsh.
When you were a kid, were you ever asked to pick your own punishment? Perhaps you tried to get away with less than you really deserved or did you over-compensate and declare a much harsher punishment for yourself than a parent would have given?
In Romans 12:3 Paul advises us to think of ourselves 'soberly' because when we are drunk (So I’ve observed!) we either think the world is going to end or that we are king of that world and better looking than everyone else in the room with the singing voice to prove it!
I know I've been guilty of both these extremes- excusing myself for bad behaviour (regularly, I'm afraid) as well as taking on far too much guilt for something I was only partly responsible for. There was a time when I thought God ought to write me off, and all His plans for me too, because I had done something I knew I shouldn't have. I resigned myself to live a half-life, a mediocre life, believing I wasn't fit to live in the perfect will of God any more. But when I prayed, God was very specific about what I needed to repent of - and what I didn't. Somehow, it was easier to shoulder all the blame and believe I was the only one at fault, than have to face the fact that I too had been wronged and needed to forgive those who had wronged me, even if they never said sorry.
I’m afraid to say, human beings are naturally and historically bad judges of our own character. Our own hearts deceive us. They cannot always be trusted to steer us right. Jeremiahs 17:9-10 says
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”
Proverbs 16: 2 says:
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the spirits.
There is only one who knows our hearts and who we can listen to and trust for our identity and that is the one who designed us (Eph 2:10)
A More Reliable Voice
Paul declared that it is not others and not even himself but the Lord alone who judges him. When the Old Testament prophet Samuel searched for a new king for Israel, God declared that He was not looking for what Samuel was looking for, (the outward appearance of potential candidates) God was looking at their heart (1 Samuel 16:6-7). God alone can see our hearts, God alone knows all angles, all our circumstances, all our flaws and all our good intentions and can tell us exactly who we really are – and still love us and believe in us and persevere with us.
Not having to rely on the Voice from Within
As I’ve been thinking about this, I realise how freeing it actually is. I do not have to rely on my own mind convincing me over and over till I believe I am who I am. I do not have to stand up for myself against the lies of the enemy because I have an intercessor in Christ who stands up for me and a wealth of scriptures that I can use to speak for me. I don’t have to battle the politics of popular culture in order to gain acceptance and approval. I don’t have to risk sinking too low or become too proud by relying on my own deceptive heart. Instead I can trust who Jesus trusted. I can trust my Heavenly Father.
Even if for the moment I don’t know exactly who I am, what I am here for, why I was made or what my future will be I can still find peace of mind. I can trust that if I don’t know, someone greater does. I can rest in a mindset that says God knows me inside and out, He knows what makes me happy and what makes me sad (Psalm 139). He knows what stirs my heart, what provokes my righteous anger and what makes me sad. He knows what motivates me to action and when I need rest. I can trust Him to know me, love me and guide me in good ways – to do good works which He has prepared for me to do, as I walk with Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). He knows both the big plan and the details along the way.
And … God is also willing and able to share that knowledge with me as and when I am ready to hear it. This is what I'll be writing about next. Subscribe below to be the first to read it.
Get Real with God
Have you experienced the stress of feeling insecure in who you are? Was it after a particular change in your life or circumstances? What changes were they?
What are some of the common threads that have never changed?
- Can you trust God to keep you secure even when you feel insecure? What would that actually feel like?
- How do we know what our identity is? Who can we listen to and how can we really know for sure? Keep Reading...