Growing up in Florida, I spent a lot of time around water, especially in the heat of summer. For several years, I went to a summer day camp called H20 Camp. It was a week of field trips involving all things water.
On the last day of the week, we always went to Disney’s Blizzard Beach. I had been to that waterpark so many times that I knew it like the back of my hand. In the kids play area, there were floating rubber platforms designed to look like icebergs.They were big enough for two or three kids to stand on at one time. In some areas, several platforms were lined up in a row for kids to test their skills and walk across the water.
My competitive spirit was always up for the challenge. The tricky part was the platforms were never still because the water was always moving. Kids were splashing everywhere and making waves, so even though the platforms were tethered to the bottom of the pool, they were constantly in motion. No matter how hard I tried, I could not control the movement of the water. Every step was uncertain and I was at the mercy of the shifting icebergs.
Life can feel that way too, sometimes. No matter how hard I try, there are circumstances beyond my control, and I am at the mercy of the constant shifts and changes. I put my foot in one place hoping it will be solid, but then it starts to slide out from under me and the next thing I know I’m doing the splits trying to keep it together. And believe me, I was a gymnast for eight years; I’m pretty flexible.
But there comes a point where I can’t stretch anymore. I’ve reached my limit. What do I do in those moments? What if it’s longer than a moment – what if it’s months or years – and I’m at my wit’s end? How can I keep going instead of giving up or falling apart? I feel like the kitten in the “hang in there” posters, who’s barely hanging onto a string with its paw.
The good news is I am not alone and neither are you. We understand that feeling. So did Naomi, a woman who lived in biblical times. She lost her husband and both of her sons. She had reached her limit and wanted to give up. Who could blame her? In Ruth 1:20-21, she says, “Don’t call me Naomi … call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
Wait a minute … in just a few sentences, Naomi changed her name and her understanding of who God was. Her circumstances consumed her to a point that she lost her identity and developed a distorted view of God. It’s crazy how tragedy, uncertainty, and fear can cause us to doubt the truth. But, I know I’ve been there and I bet you have, too.
So, how do we prevent our circumstances from defining our identity and understanding of God?
Start with the Truth
Raymond Edmund said, “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” He understood that life can be hard, but it never changes who God is. Scripture is full of the truth about God’s unfailing love for us. If you want to know what’s true about God, then read about Jesus in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus is the very image of God. The way He cared for people is the way God loves us.
Jesus noticed people, especially those who were hurting. That means He notices you and me, in the good times and the bad. He is a good Father who longs to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). Our identity is rooted in His love and He says that we are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). When life gets crazy, take a breath and recall what is true about God and what He thinks about you.
Surround Yourself with People Who Speak Truth
1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the enemy “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Lions hunt by isolating their prey. The enemy wants us to be isolated during tough times so he can feed us lies and tempt us to doubt God’s good character and unfailing love. Naomi had a moment of weakness and believed the enemy’s lies to the point of changing her identity. We can prevent that by surrounding ourselves with close friends and family who love God and love us. They can remind us of the truth when we are too weak or discouraged to fight the lies. When you are tempted to despair, reach out to a trusted friend or family member to support you, encourage you, and point you to the truth.
In Romans 8:37, Paul, who was very familiar with life’s circumstances bringing him down, tells us that we are “more than conquerors through Him (Jesus) who loved us.” Keeping our focus on Jesus protects us from allowing the temporary afflictions of this world to distort our understanding of our good, everlasting Father. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” People change. Circumstances change. But my God? He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
I was never promised life would be easy, but I can confidently say that God is always with me. Psalm 73:23 even says He holds me by my right hand. Even on my toughest days, when I feel like I’m doing the splits and about to crash into the water, my identity can never be shaken. Who I am is secure in the mind of my heavenly Father. My worth is sealed with the love of Jesus. And yours can be, too. Will you take His hand, today?
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