Last week I wrote to you about the temptations and dangers of seeking identity in what we achieve. Today I want to expose an equally appealing and hazardous identity trap: our relationships.
Just like God created us to be successful workers, so God created us to be social beings. His plan, from day one, was for us to live in meaningful relationships with other people. It's one of the reasons God says, "It is not good that the man should be alone." (Genesis 2:18)
Human community is also one of the primary ways we reflect God's image; have you ever considered that God himself is a community? Here's the bottom line: our relationships are essential to life. In fact, our relationships are so essential that God positioned the command to love one another as second only to the call to love him (Matthew 22:37-39).
But just as sin messes with our ability to work hard for God's glory, so sin messes with our ability to pursue relationships in a healthy way. Our twisted hearts are lured into thinking that other human beings can provide the one thing that only God was designed to provide.
If you're a parent, you'll be lured into seeking identity in your children. We start to live for, and live through, our kids. Their appreciation for us, their respect of us, and their personal success because of us (so we think) become the reasons we get up in the morning.
Sooner or later, this way of relating to your children will come crashing down. Our kids were never given to us to be trophies on the mantel of our identity. If anything, their success is a hymn of praise to another Father who provided everything they need to be where they are and to do what they're doing. As parents, we're never more than instruments in his redemptive hands.
Similarly, if you're married, you'll be tempted to find identity in your spouse. We tend to feel the most alive when our husband or wife gives us praise and affection, and we quickly become discouraged and irritated when we feel ignored or taken for granted.
Finding identity in your spouse will never work. No sinner can be your mighty fortress; only God can, as the classic hymn reminds us. Perhaps even more importantly: when you look to another person for identity, you're not loving them; you're using them to love yourself.
Children and marriages are probably the two most frequently occurring locations for misplaced relational identity, but we all attempt to find identity in another human being at some point – a friend, a "celebrity" that we know, or even our pastor! It's a parasitic way of living that always ends in disappointment.
Human relationships are unable to provide us with life, contentment, happiness, and joy, so when we ask them to be our source of identity, it's only a matter of time before they fail us. We can never be reminded of this enough: our identity is only safe in one Person - Jesus Christ!
His love, unlike other people's love, will never fail. His work, unlike other people's work, is complete. So run to the Lord again today. As the Psalmist says, "He is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." (Psalm 18:2)
Paul David Tripp
- In what ways might you be seeking identity from your children? Or, who else may you be living vicariously through?
- In what ways might you be seeking identity from your spouse? Or, who else are you tempted to seek identity from?
- Pick one of your above examples. Why is your heart lured into thinking that you'll find life in that relationship?
- What are you asking that person to provide for you? Why are they unable to provide that for you?
- How is Christ able to provide above and beyond what you are asking for in a human relationship? Be specfic.