I looked in the mirror and truly didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me. She was gaunt and disheveled. Depression had stolen so much from me: joy, peace, energy, motivation, zeal. I hardly seemed like myself anymore.
As a neuropsychologist, one of the biggest problems I see in patients who come through the door to see me at my neuropsychology practice, a problem I see in many relationships, comes back to not knowing our true identity.
We are told in Scripture that, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
When it comes to depression, the thief attempts to 1) steal our joy, 2) kill our peace, and 3) destroy our identities.
One thing the enemy tries to do is destroy our view of ourselves. There’s no greater way to do this than by getting us to compare ourselves to everyone else. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Essentially, when we compare ourselves with others, we focus on all God is doing in and through and for others, rather than appreciating all God is doing in and through and for ourselves. It leaves us feeling less important than those we compare ourselves to.
The enemy studies us to make us feel worthless. This is in direct opposition to God’s truth: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).
I remember as a new mother, when friends or family would look at my newborn baby then comment on how much he looked just like my husband or me. It thrilled my heart to hear that he bore our resemblance. There’s hardly a greater compliment to a new parent than being told your child resembles you. God feels the same way. He created us in His image and likeness, yet so often we forget.
The first time we read of God blessing anything was in Genesis 1:28, when “God blessed them” (Adam and Eve) and then told them to be fruitful and multiply. God deemed all He made good, but said man was very good (see Genesis 1:31). Since the beginning of time, God has looked upon us, his masterpiece, and declared it good. God is incapable of making anything other than good! Not only are we good, but Paul said that all we who believe in Christ have been, “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6 KJV).
From the beginning of creation the enemy has worked hard to distract us from God’s view of us as good and to convince us otherwise. So often we are unaware of our imperfections and flaws until the enemy points them out to us. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
In Revelations 12:10, the enemy is referred to as “the accuser of the brethren” because he is constantly accusing others to us, accusing God to us, accusing us to ourselves, or accusing us to them.
Either the enemy accuses us and points out our faults, or he uses others to do it.
When I was three years old, I became deathly ill and went into anaphylactic shock. The illness led to physical deformity of my legs and one of my feet, and left me with one leg almost two inches shorter than the other. Ever since that time, walking is more difficult for me and I have a noticeable limp, especially the more tired I get.
When I was in elementary school, I joined the girl scouts. One weekend we went on our annual Girl Scout campout and hike. Many of the girls complained throughout the hike regarding the physical challenge of the event, blistered feet, sweating, and dry mouths. Growing frustrated with our troupe, the leader drew the troupe’s attention to my physical limitations and said if I could manage the task, they had no excuse. That event has forever been seared in my mind because up until that time, I didn’t realize I was any different from my able-bodied peers, and since that leader pointed it out, there was no way to un-know it.
That’s just what the enemy does: he watches us, waits for us to mess up, then broadcasts our faults and failures.
That’s what he essentially did in the Garden of Eden. He convinced Eve that if she wanted to be like God, she needed to eat the fruit from the one forbidden tree. If she had truly known her identity, she could have told the enemy that she was already like God because she was made in God’s image.
But instead, she fell for the enemy’s bait and ate the fruit. Then she shared it with her husband. He wasn’t secure in his identity as the spirit head of their marriage or he would have resisted her offer and taken her before God to ask forgiveness. Instead, he went with her and ate the fruit.
Until that time, Adam and Eve roamed the garden naked and unashamed, and walked in the garden every day with God. After they fell for the enemy’s tricks, God came into the garden to walk with them as He always did, but they were nowhere to be found. God called out to them, but they didn’t answer. He called out to them again, and finally, Adam replied. He admitted he was hiding because he was naked and ashamed, to which God asked, “Adam, who told you that you were naked?” because, you see, up until that point, being naked was nothing to be ashamed of.
But at that point, the enemy had tempted them to sin, and once they did, he delighted in taunting them with their sin, and calling them their sin. The same enemy who told them they were naked gladly points out our faults to us today in an effort to destroy our identity.
Just like he twisted the truth with Adam and Eve, he does the same with you and me:
- “Do you really think God can love you with your flaws?”
- “You really messed up big time. Surely God cannot forgive that.”
- “Why would God love you/bless you/forgive you/use you when everyone else is better than you?”
The truth is, we all sin. We all make mistakes But our identity has nothing to do with what we do, but everything to do with whose we are.
God declared his works wonderful, and that includes us. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14). “Fearfully” in this context means to be honored. This verse is praising God because God made us not only wonderful but also worthy of being honored!
We tend to equate others’ identity with what they do and the parts of them we can see. But God does not use the same measuring stick. He looks at the condition of the heart. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Scripture repeatedly validates our identity. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6 KJV). In the original language, accepted means “to be highly favored,” and beloved means “love” so it means that we are highly favored in His love. Put another way, our identity comes from being His. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Sol. 6:3).
When we don’t know what God says about us, we are more apt to believe what others say. Before long, we say those same things about ourselves.
He isn’t looking for us to be perfect or even productive. Jesus explained that the work God desires us to do is “to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). When we believe in Jesus and accept him as our Savior, God sees us through the perfection of Jesus and calls us both holy and righteous—not because of what we do but because of who Jesus is for us. That’s our true identity.
Do you know your true identity today? Do you believe it?
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Dr. Michelle Bengtson is an international speaker, and the author of best-selling “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com
For more hope, stay connected with me at:
To order Hope Prevails: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)
To order Hope Prevails from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Prevails-Insights-Personal-Depression/dp/080072707X/
For a Free eBook on How to Help a Depressed Loved One, click here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/how-to-help-a-depressed-loved-one-ebook/
For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/10-things-to-know-if-you-have-a-depressed-loved-one/
For more about what not to say to a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-not-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/ while here are suggestions about supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/