Faith Suffering and Identity - The Crosswalk Devotional - September 25

The Crosswalk Devotional

Faith, Suffering, and Identity
By Amanda Idleman

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
- Matthew 5:3-6

The story of Job is a popular one in the Bible. It is referenced to provoke discussion on many topics: how to comfort another through dreadful experiences, the ultimate sovereignty of God, and what to do when we are the ones going through a truly terrible time. In my college Old Testament course, our teacher alluded to the fact that some believe the story is just too awful and too dire to be real. Those theorists believe Job was a fable passed through the times to teach the listeners the aforementioned topics.

God is sovereign, and who are we to question His ways? Life can be very hard; in the end, God honors our faithfulness. I used to believe this as well. It didn’t make sense that a God could be that cruel. It’s easier to believe the story of Job when we soften it by saying it’s most likely not completely true. We could get into the sovereignty of God, the chaos of the world, and how sin can create similar terrible experiences in our lives, but the point of this article is to highlight one key fact. Life is hard.

It may not be hard now, but at some point, everyone experiences something that rocks them to their core, challenging beliefs and identity. I don’t think many Americans like the story of Job because it’s a bit…uncomfortable. Job had plenty of challenges and troubles that ailed him physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of his dire story is that, in losing each of those things in his life, that meant a lot, he lost his identity. He lost everything that made him who he was. Or did he?

Job responded in two ways: by complaining a bit and by remaining faithful to God. After a reprimand, he was eventually honored for his faithfulness. Why? To us, it looked like Job lost all those factors that formulated his identity, but as we found out, his identity was held, not in vices, fame, money, or family, but in his eternal, provincial identity as a son of the one true God.

Job saw himself first as a citizen of Heaven before anything else. What will happen when you lose an integral part of who you are? If not your faith, what factor or factors make up who you are in the first place? These are the questions I want us to ponder. With answers, we can start preparing so we can respond like Job by eschewing the identities the world tells us to sow into and which will inevitably fail at some point.

I think our culture is having an identity crisis. We value comfort, quick relief from pain, and, some would say, even our less privileged citizens live better than the majority of third-world countries. Many of us are the sum of multiple factors that we consider crucial to who we are. Unfortunately, for many, these supplant our identity in Christ and include vices, addictions, fads and trends, pop culture, and hobbies. The moment we put more importance on something outside of God, we will be challenged. When we let our job or even our family consume us in idolic fashion, we will be disappointed because those things won’t be there forever.

We see booming numbers of believers in countries in which Christians are persecuted. How?! This is the crux. Those believers have no choice but to acknowledge the truth, something we all must reconcile with someday.

We are all broken. We all need a Savior. Our eternal needs are met by Christ alone.

The first four Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-6 teach us this.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

What do mourning, meekness, hunger, and thirst have in common? They are traits of broken people, those who have come to the end of themselves and must rely on God. They have no other choice. They’ve lost their house, job, family, health, and friends, as Job did, and they have nowhere else to go but God.

The following ideas are just a few ways we can try to find the end of ourselves and place our identity in Christ:

1. Stop trying to look like you have it all together.
The American way is one of resilience, self-help, looking tough, and getting it done. Those traits are why we are number one leaders in the world, some would say, but we have lost sight of the original example of what it means to be a leader. Jesus served. He broke tradition, turned the other cheek, and cleaned people’s dirty feet. We need to acknowledge and even accept our brokenness. Mourning is ok. Weeping is welcome. Letting go of all the other identities we hold onto is what God wants. Next time someone asks you how your day is going, actually think about it instead of responding with the ubiquitous, “I’m good.” If you’re not, be honest. We gain admirers when we have it all together; we gain friends when we show our weaknesses.

2. Look to the past

We learn from the past. That’s why we should study it. To prevent us from making the same mistakes, we should invest in reflection, in which we consider how God has helped us before, so we might strengthen our faith that He will help us again. David’s psalms are full of reflections in which he realizes that God was always there and always helped him. This can only happen if you actually stop and reflect, meditate and pray.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 reminds us that “Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” That is…..sobering. Yes, death awaits everyone, but it is not the final stop for everyone. As citizens of Heaven, we ultimately get to go home to be with God. This reassurance can assuage the fear of death that plagues us all. With too much stock in temporal things, we risk losing ourselves. Replacing all of that with the only identity that remains forever, being a child of God, can help us navigate the valleys all of us will inevitably experience.

Intersecting Faith and Life:
What is blocking you from claiming Christ as your true and only identity? What things do you put before your relationship with the Lord? How can you begin to sow into your relationship with the Lord so you will have access to his perfect peace when life’s struggles come your way?

Further Reading
The Bible Story of Job
What Is the Story of Job in the Bible?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kevron2001


Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.

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