In April 2017, I wrote how I was cured of depression and shared it online. You can read it here – “My Salvation Story.” In it, I told the story of how Jesus healed me from depression. I received a lot of positive feedback from Christians praising God for his deliverance and healing in my life. Sadly, my testimony also offended some people, and I received some negative feedback.
I do not know why my testimony offended them. I can only assume that it offended them because it perhaps forced them to come face-to-face with the possibility that if God can touch my life and heal me, he can touch their lives and heal them too. A choice then faces them, “Do I give God a go, or do I stay where I am?” In the face of that choice, staying put may be less challenging than taking up the battle cry.
It is an identity issue
The reason this choice may offend some of us is that it is an identity choice. The decision challenges us in a particular area of life that has become a part of us. The challenge frightens us. We are reluctant to receive healing and wholeness because we wrongly believe a part of us will disappear, and we will turn into someone we do not want to become. Even if the prospect is better than the present, the uncertainty of the unknown is not attractive.
We become comfortable with our discomfort
When something becomes part of our identity, it becomes difficult to get rid of it. The sad fact is that many of us our knees weaken, and we will not even take up the battle-cry. This is because we become comfortable with our discomfort. One of the reasons for this is the way our culture conditions us to interact with illness. A useful way to illustrate this is to look at the language we to describe illnesses.
The use of language to describe illness
Themes emerge when we look at how people describe their illness, how support groups talk about it, and how the media portrays it. For instance, when discussing cancer people often may say something like “I’m battling cancer.” A charity may say, “Join us on the war against cancer.” Battle imagery infuses these terms. They refer to cancer as something to fight. In doing this, people with cancer dissociate themselves from the disease, and they do not see it as a part of them. It is something they must defeat and cast off. In a way, there is no shame in having cancer because the sufferer reveals themselves as a warrior through the use of language. Even if they lose the battle, their family and friends still speak about them as heroes having fought valiantly. “They never gave up.”
On the other hand, diseases like AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) tend to carry with them an element of shame. They are generally not talked about so valiantly as cancer. Notice boards in doctor’s waiting rooms assure sufferers their anonymity. The shame these diseases carry makes it difficult for people to talk about them in the open. This means that along with the disease, the sufferer also has to carry the shame and the societal baggage. We will very rarely hear anyone boast of battling their STD.
Then there are ailments like depression, bad backs, fibromyalgia, etc. Generally, when we listen to sufferers talk about this category of illnesses they usually describe it as something they possess. “My depression,” “My bad back,” or “My bunions.” By using possessive language like this, sufferers run the risk of making the illness part of their identity.
Reframing our identity
At face value, making our issues part of our identity looks like a bad thing. However, I am not too sure if it is so long as we reframe our identity correctly.
A person’s identity forms throughout their entire lifespan. Our life story makes up our identity, so everything we go through, good and bad, make us who we are. The danger lies in allowing the things we go through to define us. Instead, we should allow the person who has the highest authority in our lives to define us, and that person is God.
Instead of trying to transform ourselves into the person we want to become, we must allow God to change us into the person he wants us to be.
We must let God reframe our identity. Instead of trying to transform ourselves into the person we want to become, we must allow God to change us into the person he wants us to be. That person is a much better version of ourselves than we could ever imagine.
Reframing our identity in God’s presence
God wants wholeness in every area of our being. So, when we begin to reframe our identity in the presence of God, he leads us towards wholeness. He opens up areas of unrepentant sin and reveals to us those we have to forgive or ask forgiveness from. God shows us habits we need to kick and things we need to stop doing. He opens up areas of our lives and shows us things about ourselves that we never imagined. As we follow his lead, he delivers us, heals us, and makes us whole, so that we live lifestyles pleasing to him.
This is what happened to me. Depression is still part of my identity, but God reframed it and formed it into my new Christian identity. My story is still my story, warts and all, but through Christ, God reframed it into something righteous and meaningful. And although I still at times call it “my depression,” I am free from it. And through my experience, I know God wants wholeness for all his children.
How to reframe our identity
The process of reframing is delicate. We must approach it carefully and be sure to move in harmony with the Holy Spirit because it is he who does the reframing. Allowing the Holy Spirit to reframe our identity in Jesus is very simple. It involves spending time with him and seeing him as a participant in everything we think, feel, and do.
This is as simple as it sounds. It involves Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and all the good stuff that enhances our walk with God. We must reflect on the past and bring our life events before God in complete honesty and asking him to sanctify them. Through these acts, God draws us closer to him. We will find the motivation to live our lives in obedience and live lifestyles pleasing to him. Our heart will grow and be moved with compassion towards others. As we spend time in his presence, God will reframe our identity into something righteous and purposeful.