When you think about your past, does it bring back warm and fond memories of a loving and caring childhood, gentle and loving parents, and siblings? Or would your story contain memories of a past that was primarily bad? Would your life story revolve around how you have been mistreated? Do guilt and shame bind you because of what someone has done to you? Do you feel broken inside because of what others have said about you? Are you burdened by sinful decisions you have acted upon in the past? Do you wonder if you can ever actually be clean again?
Each one of us has an innocent past which is comprise of things that were done to us. Therefore, we are not responsible for having been sexually abused, molested, or mistreated in any way by someone else (Deut. 22:25-27). I work with women who have been abused sexually, emotionally, verbally, and physically. They all have memories of things they would rather forget. Sadly, such women often continue to suffer the effects of the past through nightmares, flashbacks, and ongoing fear and distrust. They struggle to understand why they were targeted and how these things happened to them.
If this describes you, I want you to know that experiencing horrific treatment can devastate a person’s spiritual identity leaving you feeling betrayed, empty, and hopeless. Maybe you have adopted the identity of “victim” because it is all you know how to be. Life seems to bring one pain and trial after the next, and freedom seems impossible to find. As a result, you may not understand your Imago Dei — your creation in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28l Ps. 8:4-5). If your identity has been mired in victimization, you will need time to develop a biblical view of your position and identity in Christ (Eph. 1).1
Identity and answers for the problems that plague the soul are found in Christ. If you are a Christian, you have a new identity, and to embrace it, you must begin to learn that what the Bible says is true about you. The Bible clearly states that you are a new creation in Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11). You have a new. family, the family of God (Eph. 2:19). You have a new father, who is God (Eph. 5:1; Gal. 3:26; 1 Jn. 3:2). You have a new spirit, the Spirit of God, who lives with your very being (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 1:13-14). You have a new nature, given to you by the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
As a regenerated person, your ability to grasp what is means to be “in Christ” becomes the foundation and is critical to your ability to move forward (2 Cor. 5:17). The goal is not to develop a ‘good’ or ‘positive’ self-image but rather an accurate self-image based on biblically correct perceptions and evaluations. Thus, you can become more like Christ in the process of sanctification, living our your new identity in Christ. I am not suggesting merely a renovation of character but a change in your entire lifestyle! These are changes that begin in the heart, overflow into life, and are demonstrated by continued growth and change (Eph. 4:22-24).
While assuming your identity in Christ won’t automatically relieve every issue that plagues you, it is the foundation on which further progress is made. When you start to accept your new identity in Christ, it will help you cast off the thoughts and beliefs that lead to feelings of discouragement, despair, doubt, and depression. Even amid pain, hurt, and residual feelings of guilt and shame, as you embrace your new identity in Christ, you can experience God’s provision of comfort, healing, and hope. You will begin to experience joy and hope in the Lord as His Spirit uses the Word to encourage you and enables you to live your life for Him.
1 I highly recommend the book, I.D. – Who Am I in Christ? by Natalie Durso.