Yesterday, P&R Publishing announced the first release in a new series of 31-day devotionals for teens: Anxiety: Finding the Better Story. In the 31-Day Devotionals for Teenagers series, adults who care about young people look at what the Bible has to say about the everyday issues you face. Through personal stories and relevant examples, they show that Jesus brings hope for every challenge. Here’s one day’s entry.
Beloved Sons and Daughters
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17 ESV)
In high school, I felt a lot of pressure to find my identity. If I studied hard enough, maybe I’d get into a college and become a UVA Cavalier or a UNC Ram. If I played well enough in my sports, maybe I’d make it into my high school’s hall of fame. I wasn’t artsy enough for the theater or photography groups. I wasn’t confident enough for the popular group. I remember wondering, “How will I know when I’ve found my identity?”
We live in a time when we hear conflicting things about our identity. We’re told that who we’re attracted to and how we experience our gender is who we are. We’re also told, “No one can tell you who you are. It’s up to you to decide.” Various groups offer us belonging if we subscribe to their ideologies: “If you think and act like us, you’re in.” But that also means “If you change, or if you disagree with something, you’re out.” The world says it’s up to us to earn, create, and maintain our identity.
That’s a lot of pressure. For me, that expectation is stressful, exhausting, and anxiety-inducing.
If our sexual attractions change, do our identities change? If we say the wrong things, will our groups kick us out? If we get injured and can’t perform academically or athletically, what then?
In the Christian story, our identity is given to us. It isn’t based on our achievements or failures. It isn’t based on our sexuality. It isn’t based on our likes or dislikes. It isn’t based on our abilities or our friend group. It isn’t based on our personality or popularity. It’s based on two unshakable realities: the unchanging character of our triune God and the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Through this, God invites us to be his beloved children. With him, we don’t achieve our identity; we receive it.
In today’s verses, we read about the Father extending his love to the Son through the Holy Spirit. We see the Trinity at work, and we hear the powerful words that identify our Savior. Those same words remind us of our own spiritual adoption. Through Christ’s perfect life on our behalf, we become unstoppably loved sons and daughters of God.
God does not love you abstractly. He loves you particularly and specifically. He chose you to belong to his family. He knows your name (Isaiah 43:1; John 10:3) and the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). He is a good Father who will stop at nothing to make you know the depths of his love for you. He not only loves you but likes you. He delights in you (Zephaniah 3:17). He has made you his, which means you are left to discover, daily, what it means to be his child. You have nothing to earn, nothing to prove. His love requires no maintenance. Your identity as beloved has been set on you by the One who knows you better than you know yourself.
The groups you belong to will likely change over time. But your identity as a beloved son or daughter of God can never change. His words over us, through Christ, remain the same. “This is my beloved son or daughter. I chose this one. This one is mine” (see Isaiah 43:1; Ephesians 1:4-5). In Jesus, our identity is
- Breathe in: I am a beloved son or daughter.
- Breathe out: My belonging is sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Think of a place of stress, fear, pain, or anxiety in your life. This is the very place God’s love is set on you, where your identity as beloved has been locked in. Use the breathing prayer above to imagine what it would be like to remember your belovedness in that place.
*Today’s post is an excerpt from the brand-new devotional for teens: Anxiety: Finding the Better Story