When Change Brings an Identity Crisis

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Change is hard. When new seasons of life begin and when other seasons end, we experience change. Most people do not enjoy change. Why?

Change requires adapting to the uncertainty and challenges of new seasons, which can be very difficult if we are not steadied in something, if our identity is not grounded in the One who never changes. If we do not recognize Him as our constant when life as we know it changes, our identity will be shaken and so will our lives.

A great example of this is played out in the gospel of John. Jesus had just been betrayed by two of his friends, his life was traded for that of a thief, he was beaten and mocked and hung on a cross to die. His precious body was placed in a tomb. Peter was one of those friends who betrayed Jesus, and life, as he once knew it, as well as life as he hoped it would be with Jesus as King was now over. In John 21 Peter states, “I’m going to fish.” Everything he put his stock in, everything he worked for and left his career for was now over, and his world had been turned upside down. He forgot his identity and turned back to his old way of life.

A few chapters prior in John18, Jesus began facing a series of changes as well. Just a few days before, people placed palm branches on the ground and praised his name as he came riding into town on a donkey. Now we see him being betrayed, denied, arrested, tortured, and eventually led to die on Calvary. However, Jesus knew his purpose. He knew who He was and He knew whose He was. Yes, the changes and trials He faced were tough, but He stood strong and was able to carry out what He was called to do- to glorify and obey His Father. His identity was embedded in God.

We graduate from high school, begin college, join a club or sorority, graduate from college, begin working, get married, start a family, stop working, raise kids, work again, become empty nesters, retire, become grandparents, etc.

Each season mentioned above, when mentioned by itself, would be considered a happy season. However, when put before or after another season, things can get a little uncomfortable. Memories of the past or fears of the future can arise. We’ve all been there. Beginning college is an awesome season, but it means leaving the comforts of high school, our family, and friends we love dearly. Getting a job in a different state and moving to begin a career is so exciting, but it may mean leaving the state we grew up in or went to college in and not constantly getting to be with our sorority sisters anymore. When our kids grow up and move off to college, it’s a beautiful thing to watch them spread their wings and become the people God created them to be, but it means our homes become quieter and the time we get with them becomes shorter.

Why are these seasons of change so hard? Could it be that our identity was in a season instead of the One who creates the seasons?

Often times, when the seasons of our lives change we experience an identity crisis without even realizing it. Change is often a lot harder than it has to be because we’ve made where we live, where we go to school, what sports we play, what sorority we are in, who our friends are, what job we have, and what our children do our identity. When those things are taken away, we lose sight of who we truly are.

Our identity was only ever designed to be in one thing: Christ.

When Christ is our identity, we are never alone, we always have purpose, we never feel empty, and we are always lavished with love.

When we find our identity in anything else, when those things fail, end, move, or change in any way, we experience an identity crisis. We have lost our safety net, our meaning, and where we get our worth. We have lost what we identify with. We may claw and fight to hold on to tangible identity gods that we think will give us our sense of identity, but all that ends up happening is that we become emptier and emptier, more deceived with the devil’s lies that our worth comes from earthly things rather than heavenly. When Christ is our identity, we are never alone, we always have purpose, we never feel empty, and we are always lavished with love. Even when everything about life as we know it changes, we can have peace in the midst of it because we know that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” and that “He will never leave us nor forsake us.”

The second you became a Christian, your identity left the fallacies of this world and you were identified in the eternality of the maker of Heaven. However, the devil wants you to believe that your identity is in the things of this world, because when you begin to believe that lie, it immediately sets you up for failure. And He’s all about trying to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3-4

Your identity is not the sport you play.
Your identity is not who your parents are.
Your identity is not what grades you make.
Your identity is not your social media likes.
Your identity is not your children.
Your identity is not your sorority.
Your identity is not the car you drive.
Your identity is not the health fad you are invested in.
Your identity is not the neighborhood you live in.
Your identity is not your best friend.
Your identity is not the school you go to.
Your identity is not the church you attend.
Your identity is not a political party.
Your identity is not the vacations you go on.
Your identity is not the job you have.

The above things are not inherently bad things, but when they take precedent in our lives, when they become all we talk and think about, when they become where we gain our worth, when they become what we invest most in, and when we begin to believe the lie that without those things we would be empty and lost, they have taken an unhealthy place in our lives and we are setting ourselves up for a future identity crisis. The only way to prevent potential heartache that emits from an identity crisis is to place our identity in Christ and allow everything else in life to be seen, not as who we are, but rather as a “good and perfect gift from above” (James 1:17).

I must also add that your identity is not what others think of you, and your identity is certainly not your past. Your identity is also not how you see yourself compared to someone else. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 3:13-14)

You are good enough. Your mistakes don’t define you. Your past does not have to dictate your future. Your hurts don’t have to control your heart. God always has been and always will be able and faithful!

Even after Peter forgot his identity, Jesus met him where he was and gently reminded Peter of His love for him! Through Peter, Christ built his church!

Life is fleeting. Things change. People change. Careers change. Seasons change. Mistakes happen. If we do not find our identity in Christ alone, we will experience identity crisis after identity crisis with each new season of life.

When you are 95 years old and can’t play sports anymore, your days of formals and date parties are over, your children are grown and have moved away, your husband has already left to be with Jesus, you can’t drive your nice car anymore, and your home is now a nursing home, will you know who you are? More importantly, will you know whose you are?

I challenge you to honestly think about where your identity currently lies and if anything that comes to mind has the ability to change or eventually not exist, I encourage you to renew your mind and place your identity in the only thing that will never change, the only source of consistency that will every exist- Jesus.

I also encourage you to get out of your head and into the Word. When we are not in the Word, the lies the Devil feeds us are harder to recognize and extinguish because we are not filled with truth. The foundation in which we build our identity must be strong. When life changes, and the uncertainty of new seasons seems shaky, a foundation built on God will stand.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. – Matthew 7:25

Take step back, fix your eyes on Jesus, set your heart on things above, remember whose you are, and press on! He will never let you down.

Anna Doyle
About Anna Doyle 5 Articles
Anna is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University. She and her husband currently live in Jackson, TN, where she teaches art at Jackson Christian. She enjoys playing sports, creating art, and helping others. Mother Teresa is one of her biggest role models and she believes that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

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