Written By Audrey Wierenga, USA
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)
Our twenties are full of uncertainty. I never really realized this until I graduated college, and the structure of my life was disrupted. I spent several months through my last semester and beyond job-hunting, manically applying to anything that popped up on employment sites, just to see what would stick. I had no idea where I would be in six months.
On top of that, I began to lose touch with my college friends. It’s easy to see friends in class or in the dorm; but after graduation, when everyone disperses, I had to be more intentional.
I had gone to a Christian college, so I had been in an environment constantly saturated by worship and biblical contemplation. One minute I was being spiritually fed daily, and the next I wasn’t. I transitioned into “adult life,” where I had to intentionally seek God and seek friends. It wasn’t going to just happen on its own.
And in that uncertainty, I had an identity crisis. For almost four years, I had the role of a “college student.” That was my moniker. That was how the world saw me. I flashed my ID card to get discounts at restaurants and movie theaters. I holed up at coffee shops with textbooks strewn around me. I went home on school breaks. My year was punctuated by semesters and summer break. That was who I was.
Then suddenly, I was an adult. I got an office job and an apartment. Now my life is punctuated my weekends, paid time-off, going to work at nine and leaving at five. Paying rent, paying bills, trying to catch up with friends when I could. My identity changed in the drop of a hat. One day I was a student, the next day a young professional.
The year after college was one of the hardest years of my life. After spending almost all my life in Christian education, my faith took a backseat. I would go through seasons when God seemed very near, and those seasons were full of blessing; but more often He seemed very far away. At 22, I had a quarter-life crisis. Who am I? What was I put here for?
What’s our identity?
Of course, our world gives us a narrative of our purpose. In fact, it gives us many narratives. For some, our identity is in the title on our business card or the zeroes (or lack thereof) on our paycheck. For others, it’s what we do after hours and how much fun we have on the weekend. It’s how book-smart we are, how busy we are, our relationship status, our social media influence. Look in any direction and we find someone or something telling us what’s important.
Those same voices telling us what’s important also try to tell us what’s not. It’s 2019, and we still believe in some distant God who gave us this dusty old book that sits on our shelf? We still go to church? We still believe that, even when this world is the way it is? These voices may call us naïve, idealistic. They might even insult us for being too out-of-touch or even irrelevant. Why follow all these rules that this guy in the sky gave us thousands of years ago? Why not just be free?
What they don’t understand is, we’re already free.
My faith was weak this last year. In the midst of my identity crisis, I struggled to find my worth at all. I tried to find it in dating relationships, but people are uncertain. I tried to find it in my job, but the economy is uncertain. I even tried to find it inside myself, but not even my life is certain. Identity in the temporal will never be certain. It might feel good or right for a while, but in the end, it’s just a vapor.
I came to a point where I wondered why I was even alive. If I don’t know who I am, what right have I to exist? I would lie in bed, my face bathed in tears, screaming out to God, wondering why the pocket knife sitting on my desk felt closer than He did. The voices telling me what really mattered were too loud, and I almost couldn’t hear Him.
But miraculously, that still, small voice called to me. And it told me I was free.
The bondage of God’s grace is what will set us free. Once we realize that we are chained in love to the blood of Christ, all other chains will fall off. The heavy chains of wealth and status. The vapid chains of reputation. The fluctuating chains of relationships. And most importantly, the chains that bind us to our sin. When we fall to our knees and cry, “Abba, Father,” we realize where our true certainty lies.
This world is uncertain. This life is uncertain. If we were to root our identity in that uncertainty, we would be like the man who built his house on sand, whose house came crashing down when the wind and rain came (Matthew 7:24-27). But to realize that our full worth is in Christ alone, is to realize that this existence is but a vapor. And the most solid, most true, most certain thing in this life and the next, is that we are only free when we’re bound to Christ.
All of us bear heavy chains. Even the most devout Christian is weighed down by sin and time and life. We’ll never be fully released from our chains until we’re resurrected in glory, but we have a Savior who will make our burden light. Yes, we are chained to human depravity, but that is not our identity. We are set free because His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
Let us listen for that still, small voice that tells us who we really are. It’s a daily discipline. When we’re constantly being barraged by fickle voices, let us listen to the One who whispers daily. The One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. People will wonder how we are so certain, in this world, in this economy, in this political climate, in this existence.
And we will tell them, we’ve been set free.