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Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Ps 139:7-16).
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor 5:16-17).
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet 2:9-10).
You see this word all the time. In news articles, in Facebook posts, in the names of support groups and relief funds, the word “victim” is plastered everywhere, labeling people.
And so an identity has developed: victimhood. Those who have had something terrible happen to them will always bear the title of victim.
Some attempts have been made to change this, and I think that’s a good measure. Victims of rape, for example, are now often referred to as survivors. This puts the emphasis on the idea that they are not helpless; they have, indeed, overcome it. Yet this still defines the person after what happened to them: they are survivors of rape, so rape is still in their identity.
And there are definitely good reasons for this. After all, truly terrible events have long-lasting fallout. A person whose father was murdered, for example, will feel that impact for the rest of their life.
That happens whether your father was murdered or not: my friend and mentor Rich Orrell told me how, even over a decade after his father passed due to old age, when he caught his first keeper bass, his first thought was, “I need to call Dad and tell him about this!” Then, of course, he missed his father dearly.
How much more would he miss his father in that moment if his father had been murdered? How might anger have flared up in him, knowing that his father might have been there to share that moment?
Victims of sexual assault often experience sexual and emotional problems for long after. Many find it very difficult to be sexually intimate with their spouse because it reminds them of their assault. Which often leads to avoidance of sexual intimacy with their spouse, which causes more problems.
So there are very good reasons to have a label with long-lasting impact. But God does not see you as defined by what happens to you.
No, when God looks at you, He sees His child. And nothing that happens to you can change that in any way.
Statistically speaking, some of you reading this have been sexually assaulted. Some of you have been beaten and bloodied. Some of you have had friends and family murdered. Some of you have lost people close to you to disease or natural disasters.
But that is not who you are.
These things do not define you. Yes, they have long-ranging impact. They change the way you live in a million different ways.
But they don’t define you. You are not what happened to you.
You are God’s own possession, God’s own child. And His love for you is more powerful than you can ever imagine.
What has happened to you? What have you been carrying around, letting it tell you who you are? Have you been telling yourself that you are “just a ______”? Do you feel powerless over what has happened?
Give it to God. It is not yours to bear. You are never meant to bear that identity.
Give God your struggles. Give God the fear. Give God the hate and the anger. Give God the pain.
Give God your nightmares. Give God the cold trickle down your spine when you see that person or that place.
Give God your shame and your secrets and your regret. Give God your if only I had and what if I had and I shouldn’t have. And your what is it about me and your why did this choose me.
Those are all natural things, and you’re not wrong for experiencing them. As they come, take them, acknowledge and own them, and then surrender them to God. Because you aren’t meant to bear them.
You are meant for greater things.