At Work

Do Our Obstacles Define Us?

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It’s easy to look at our lives and define them by highlights and hardships.

For some, the past reflects more happiness than adversity.

For others, hard things cast shadows over glimpses of joy and good times.

Take the image of a hurdler, an athlete that is named and identified by their obstacles.

Their identity rides on the exact hindrances they seek to overcome. But really, what’s more important than the obstacles in their way is the way in which they address them.

The hurdler, perhaps more appropriately, could be named by their speed, flexibility, focus, grace, constancy, perseverance, or agility. Their perspective and practice truly determine how they overcome their obstacles.

We’re quick to define ourselves in the same way – by the challenges we’ve faced or overcome. While the hurdles make up a critical part of the race, they’re not what matters most.

What’s the Title of Your Story?

We all have defining moments in life, both joyous and heartbreaking.

In my own life, a rock-bottom relationship in college and my recent joyous wedding celebration have intimately shaped who I am today.

One circumstance was marked by depression, pain, anger, and sickness, while the other was marked by unfounded joy and celebration. Both were filled with abundant grace.

Through both journeys, God refined and sanctified me in ways I desperately needed.

But even more than that, he taught me about himself – that he is a God of fatherly love, mercy, faithfulness, and astounding grace.

I have emerged from both experiences with a stronger understanding of who God is and the central role he plays in my life.

In Christ, I am more than those outcomes – a destructive friendship or a Christ-centered marriage. It took a long time to believe my identity in Christ outshined and overpowered so much pain, or even so much joy.

Slowly I have begun to see those times in my life as chapters in my story, not the title of it.

The Idols of Our Hearts

When it comes to finding our identity, in both seasons of joy and despair, it’s easy to look to our circumstances and outcomes.

We think, I’ll always be that guy. I’m a failure. I can’t win no matter what. Why me?

Or even, I’m the best. I’ve made it. Look what I did! Now I can feel good about myself.

The idols of our hearts cloud our true identity in Christ, making our value contingent on our relative success or failure.

It’s tempting to view our life and our worth by our bank account, a list of accolades, or a rap sheet of mistakes. The good news is, we don’t have to.

When facing obstacles, no matter how big or small, what matters most and never changes is our identity in Christ.

The outcome of a challenge has no bearing on God’s love for us. God’s love is bigger than our mistakes and bigger than our victories.

Finding Your True Identity

The challenges and sufferings we face can be all consuming, but they don’t have to define us.

Hold tightly to scripture, God’s love letter to you, remembering who you are in Christ.

  • You are saved by grace alone through your faith, not by your works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • You are a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • You are a child of God. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
  • Not just a child of God, but a co-heir with Christ. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

Keeping a biblical perspective in times of frustration, difficulty, and despair helps ensure our hearts are centered on Christ. It also frees us from the weight of our sin and mistakes.

Resting in the truth of God’s grace liberates our hearts to love others and ourselves as God does.

Do you identify yourself by your obstacles?

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Further readings on At Work

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Truth, Love & the Golden Rule

By: Russell Gehrlein

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Editor’s note: Russell Gehrlein was a special guest on the syndicated radio program The Plumb Line, hosted by Jay Rudolph, on…

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Understanding Truth at Work Through Scripture

By: Russell Gehrlein

4 minute read

Editor’s note: Russell Gehrlein was a special guest on the syndicated radio program The Plumb Line, hosted by Jay Rudolph, on…

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