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Finding Your Identity in Jesus Christ

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
June 30, 2022 6:00 am

Finding Your Identity in Jesus Christ

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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June 30, 2022 6:00 am

Susie Larson shares how she learned to fight for the identity Jesus gave her as His precious daughter, even though her life experiences made her feel like a ‘second-class citizen.’ Hear how she found a whole new perspective and identity as a “daughter of the King.”

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When God looks at you, his heart beats out of his chest. He loves you so much.

If you're shy in that you have less to say, that's okay. But if you think you're less than, that's absolutely not okay. If you live your life trying to dig yourself out of a hole, you're living a lie. Jesus loves you.

You're no better than, but you are not less than. A great word of encouragement from today's Focus on the Family guest, Suzy Larson. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us.

I'm John Fuller. Suzy is a great friend to this ministry, and she has been through some really tough stuff, starting at a very young age. And yet the Lord has redeemed Suzy's suffering, which is what he does, and he has helped her see her true identity as a believer in Christ. And I'm so excited to hear her message today. Suzy Larson is a popular radio talk show host, a nationally known speaker, and the author of 19 books. One of her latest titles is a devotional called Prevail, 365 Days of Enduring Strength Through God's Word. And we'd encourage you to get a copy from us here at Focus on the Family.

It's available at our website, and the link is in the show notes. Here now is Suzy Larson speaking at an event called Girl Talk on the topic of identity on today's Focus on the Family. Identity is not something I came by naturally at all, and I just have a little bit of time to give you a little bit of my backstory. But I was raised in a large Catholic family. I knew God was real.

I didn't know at that time Jesus was accessible. Around nine years old, it was around the time my mom needed to get a job to help put food on the table. And around that time, my brother started to hang with some creepy boys. And I was just a small young people pleaser.

I just remember just wanting to follow the rules all the time. And one day, I was walking home from school, and I see my brother's friend's bikes in front of the house. And we had just a close family, a crazy family. But even like when my mom would come home from work, I used to show her the candle with the BB in it, going, this was meant for me.

It's not safe when you're not here. My brothers would be like, dance, and I'd be like, ha-la. Brothers were like that. But they really did get into a place and a season where they were hanging with some icky guys. And at this particular day, I remember coming home from school, seeing those bikes, and thinking, I don't want to be chased with the BB gun.

I don't want to be knobbied on the forehead. And I don't feel right around these guys. So I decided I would go into the laundry room in the basement, get my favorite sweatshirt out of the dryer, and then go up to my room and read a book until my mom got home. And at nine years old, I'm digging into the dryer, trying to find my shirt or my sweatshirt, and the door shut behind me. And I turned around to see several of my brother's friends, but no brother. And in moments time, I don't know how it happened, where I went from hands in the dryer to hands pinned on the floor.

But they had my ankles and my wrists pinned on the floor. And I got up from that place very, very confused about who I was. It was a canyon of insecurity opened up in my life, and self-loathing, and fear, and all kinds of things. I'd heard a number of things at that age that made me wonder if this was my fault. So I was really afraid to tell anybody, so I didn't. And about a year later, about 10 years old, I'm walking home from school.

It's about four feet tall, not much taller than I am now. But anyway, I was walking home, and I saw those bikes again. And I remember saying out loud, and this is just so you understand the context of a child who doesn't understand who I was or what exactly had happened to me.

But I said out loud, I don't care if God made me this way. Those boys will never touch me again. And out of the blue, I hear in my peripheral, get her. And it was a different group of boys who were getting high in the dugout, saw me walking home alone, and jumped me, knocked me to the ground, and beat me to a pulp. And I remember just curled up in a ball, screaming for help.

They were kicking me in the stomach, punching me in the face, pulling fistfuls of hair out. And I just screamed. And they laughed. And they had this crazy look in their eye.

And when I got up, I had a fat lip, and scratched face, and bruised ribs, snarled hair. And I heard in my ear, I don't know that it was audible, but it might as well have been, I can get to you anytime, anywhere, and God will never stop me. And so I knew God was real. I knew the devil was real at that point. And I have to tell you, that's when fear entered my life.

Well, you jump ahead. I came to Christ at about eighth grade. I just loved God, loved Jesus so much. I understood at that time that I was saved, but I did not understand that I was loved. And I would submit to you, many, many Christians live and die who are saved, but are not free.

They're living and dying knowing they're saved, but they don't know that they're loved. And so I became, as a young adult Christian, a striver. I mean, prior to that, I was an athlete. And so I used all of my talents to dig myself out of the identity hole. And this is just what's true. If we don't know who we are, we will perpetually misuse our time, treasure, and talents to prove something that Jesus has already proven.

And it's a colossal waste of our time. We must know who we are. But I didn't.

I didn't know. So I'm striving. I'm on five committees. I'm trying to do everything I can to kind of compensate for the wretch that I really believed myself to be. Like, I had a deep, dark secret, you know. And got married to my dear husband. And we were going to wait five years to have kids. And we got pregnant on our honeymoon. And my husband, and I'm telling everybody, you know, I just was so insecure that I'm like, we waited. I promise. We waited.

And he's like, let them think what they want, you know. But anyway, during the first pregnancy, we found out I had endometriosis. And doctor says, you will have a hysterectomy in your 20s. So you have to get, if you want more children, have them now. My middle pregnancy, I was on bed rest for three months. My last pregnancy, my third pregnancy, I was on bed rest for six months with a one and a three-year-old. And the one-year-old was strong-willed. And my first one was compliant. So we thought we were good parents. And then we had our second one.

And then we thought, never mind. But he was the strong-willed child who spent his life in the corner. I mean, I would go sit with him just so I could bond with him. Because I'm like, I never see you except for here. So you can imagine with six months on bed rest, I literally had friends tell me, I'll watch Jake.

Like, you'll have to figure out Luke. But I got Jake, you know. But if you remember the trauma that happened, I was a good Christian in that I was always giving more than I was taking. So to be put on bed rest for six months, to have to be at the mercy of people bringing meals, people helping, seeing people get fatigued on my behalf was a nightmare come true. We were going financially broke too. And I literally was telling my kids, five more months till mommy can make your sandwiches. Four and a half more months till mommy can take you to the park. And yet I'm watching my friends tire out.

They're running out of grace. It confronted every fear and insecurity in me. I was getting pretty depressed. I was six months along, had three months left to go. And I hadn't contracted for a couple of days. So the doctors said, you know what, let's get you up.

You're seeming kind of depressed. Let's get you get up. Met a couple of girlfriends, my roommates from college. And we just walked along a path.

The leaves were falling. It was glorious. I was super careful. We ate lunch. By nighttime, I was contracting. So I was back in bed. And two weeks from that outing, I had a girlfriend come visit me. And she said, can I get you water? And I pointed and pins and needles shot out my arm.

And she continued to talk. And this buzzing feeling started at the base of my skull and crawled around to my face. And it felt like there was like a blood sucker on my face. And I started to have these neurological fireworks. My memory started to go. But I've got three months left. And I had this friend at the time who had the gift of discouragement. I don't know.

Do you have one of those? And I cannot believe that she said this to me. But I was telling her about the neurological symptoms.

And she said, well, I guess it's personalities like yours that most often get MS. That's probably what you have. And I've got a few months left. And I'm thinking, I have exhausted all my friends on six months of pregnancy.

You know, kill me now. I couldn't even because of the insecurity and the trauma and the fear around a disease like that. But just my bigger fear was losing everybody in my life because I would become such a debt to society. It was so scary for me.

Well, she left. And again, a new level of fear entered my life. Well, long story short, I delivered my little boy, my third son. And it was dead of winter. And he, around four weeks old, got very sick with a respiratory issue.

And so here I'm at night doing the night feedings with him. And my face is going numb. I got like a sword going through my leg and pins and needles.

I mean, it was just crazy. And I'm like, what in the world is wrong with me? But I'm trying to do the night feedings.

Well, at four weeks old, he ends up in the hospital with double pneumonia. And I'm sitting in the hospital room with him, exhausted. And I know something's wrong with my body. And I know I have to face it. But I honestly just can't bear it. I've just got on my feet again, you know.

I just started to be able to make my kids meals. And I'm thinking, I've got to face whatever this is. And all of a sudden, it was like someone poured this oil of joy over my head. And I had my journal there. And it made no sense.

Because every trip to the hospital was costing us money. I'm in my 20s, feeling like I'm 90. And I had three little boys who were like a party waiting to happen.

So I'm like, how am I going to do my life? But here's my little four-week old in the hospital. And here I've got all this joy that makes no sense. So I wrote in my journal, God, you're up to something here.

I'll take it, whatever it is. When we get him home after a week, and then my health plummeted. And it took a year to find out. They ruled out MS.

They ruled out a brain tumor. But my one day off of bed rest, apparently the deer tick latched on, gave me Lyme disease. And when I got the diagnosis a year later, there's the thing.

I can get you anytime, anywhere. And God will never stop me. And this was a fear that nipped at my heels for many years. And I remember, and I was telling Jan and my publicist who's here tonight, that I was diligent. I loved God's word. I loved his presence. But I had so much fear and insecurity.

I just did. And I remember, as a young mom, battling these memory things, battling the health thing, feeling so much like I have not. You know, my friends had their health.

They had their wealth. And I just constantly felt like he lost my address. And I remember one day, studying the word, getting up from that place, going, I don't get it. Where's the victory? Because there's a very big disconnect between what you're telling me and what I'm living. Where is the victory for me? Am I truly? I have not.

What's my problem? And the Lord whispered to my heart something so clear. And it was a game changer for me. He said, Susie, I get that you love me, but you don't get and understand that I love you. So until I tell you different, every time you want to say that you love me, I want you to turn it around and say you love me, Lord. And that felt so odd to me.

But I said it. You love me, Lord. I'd yell at my kids and then feel bad about it because our life was impossible at the time. And he'd whisper, say it now. You love me, Lord.

I'd do something great like finish my laundry. You love me, Lord. And it started to heal something in me.

And I thought, is this one of those self-actualization kind of positive thinking things? I got to find this in God's word. And there it was. It's not that we loved God, but that he loved us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 1 John 4 16. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

It's not how high we can jump. It's that he stooped down to make us great. When I started to ponder who God was, I remember in that place before God met me on that day, I was just so perpetually insecure. And I had a friend trying to make me feel better by telling me how kind and sweet I was.

And it didn't help me at all. And I remember one day the Holy Spirit whispered to me, as bad as you think you are, Susie, you're actually worse than that. But Jesus died knowing full well who you were. And that actually was the most honest thing. I needed to hear that.

While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. And it was another one of these moments. We're here. We had this thing.

It's laughable now. I'm so grateful that God allowed it, even though I never want to return there again. But in the contrast of my friends who had health and wealth, we had none of those things. And I had this dryer that kept breaking. And we didn't even have enough money to go to a laundromat.

And we live in Minnesota where it's winter seven months a year. Anyway, so when the dryer would break in the winter, I'm most embarrassed to tell you this, but we'd hang a rope from the living room and hang our garage sale clothes on the rope so they would dry. And battling Lyme, I had a big IV bag hanging from our broken mini blinds.

So I would do my IV while I'm drying the clothes. Don't you just want to be my friend right now? Just like, oh my word. But one of those times, you know, the dryer had broken and we had enough money for me to go to the laundromat. And I'm sitting on the bench and I'm reading this passage from John 13. And I had read it a thousand times before. But you know that happens when the heavens open up for you almost and the word comes alive?

This happened for me. And in John 13, it says, Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything. That he'd come from God would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. And then he began to wash the disciples feet. In those days, the lowliest slave was the person to wash the disciples feet.

And if there was no slave available, it would be the most humble guest. Now I want you to imagine how jarring it must have been for the disciples to be sitting around waiting for the ceremonial washing of the feet. And how jarred they must have been when their Savior got up and then bowed down.

And what the Lord spoke to my heart that day in the laundromat is that when you know that you're my idea, that you came from me just like Jesus came from God would return to God. Jesus knew that his identity was not up for grabs or changeable with popular opinion or with whatever he was doing in the moment. He brought dignity to everything he did. I mean the cross was a place of utter humiliation and scorn and we wear it around our neck. He brought dignity to the cross.

He brings dignity to everything. What God spoke to me that day out of his word is, you know, I'm an image bearer and if I could understand that I came from God and I'm going to return to him. And in that time in between, I'm not too small for big things and I'm not too big for small things. That in, as I follow a risen Savior, I can dare to ask God, do the impossible and in through me. Do amazing things in and through me.

And then he can ask me to serve in ways that seem so small and diminished without it ever diminishing me. So my middle son, I told you, my strong-willed one, he was, you know, our first one was compliant and more kind of fine featured but we didn't have the money to buy clothes to fit our chubby baby, our second one. And he had three chins and a big belly and so we squished him into Jake's clothes because we had no money so his diapers would hang out, the edges like guns, and it just fit him, you know. He had the skull on his face and his t-shirts always were up here and so he had this big belly and three chins. And he wasn't cute.

He's adorable now but he was not much to look at back then. But he had this thing where he always wanted to get naked when he'd go to the bathroom. But he was down the hall, I think three years old, on the toilet, and he yells down the hall, Mom, are you sure I'm supposed to ask Jesus into my heart? And I'm so pleased with this question so I'm about to launch into my three-year-old theology. And he goes, because I think I asked him into my stomach. This thing is huge, he says.

So this is how Luke thought. Well, behind him was Jojo, little sweet Jardin. The one, by the way, when I was, when he was a year old and I was getting hooked up with home health care for the Lyme disease, he runs into the living room as a one-year-old with his diaper on, just little speedy Gonzalez, and the nurse who was caring for me said, what is he doing alive? I said, what do you mean? She said, this passes through the placenta 100% of the time. She said, I've just cared for two other women who were bit at six months just like you, when a year undiagnosed just like you, both babies went blind and then died.

Why is he alive? She said, was he sick? I said, yeah. With what? I said, double pneumonia. He was in the hospital. She said, IV? And I said, yes.

What medicine? I told her, when God was pouring the oil of joy into my heart, he was saving my son's life before I knew what was wrong with me. Isn't that amazing? And there was a day when I'd been thinking a lot about the identity thing. And for me, I have to tell you, I had to contend for my identity. Even though Jesus paid a high price, it didn't feel true to me. And so I had to contend again and again. I had to make the leap of faith to believe that I was someone God loved. And I was in that place, wrestling, wrestling, going, it doesn't feel true, but you say it is true.

I'm going to stand on it like it is true. At that time, we were at McDonald's, and Jojo wanted to go back for an extra order of fries. And he was four years old, and so he wanted to be a big boy on his own. So I'm keeping the mother's eye. I'm out of distance, and he's holding his little dollar bill. And one by one, people are butting in front of him, and he's getting further and further away from the counter instead of closer and closer. And he's just so shy and so sweet. But I went up to him and like, honey, what's going on? And he just kind of shrugged, you know? And it occurred to me that the boy is not only shy, he's very insecure.

And we thought, if we don't address this now, he's going to be a spineless husband and a weak employee, and not a leader that we believe he can be. So we said, this little boy, when God looks at you, his heart beats out of his chest. He loves you so much.

If you're shy and that you have less to say, that's okay. But if you think you're less than, that's absolutely not okay. If you live your life trying to dig yourself out of a hole, you're living a lie. Jesus loves you.

You're no better than, but you are not less than. When we started to see him share his opinion at times, you know, how about we try this game? It was just amazing to see he was still the gentle soul, but the parasitic insecurity was going away, and he was becoming kind of a humble confidence. Well, months later, we're back at McDonald's, and this time he wanted to go into his line on his own for an ice cream cone. And he's standing there with his dollar, and wouldn't you know, one by one by one, people are butting in front of him, and he's getting further and further from the counter. And I'm exasperated. I'm like, have we taught you nothing? And he just knew what I was thinking.

He goes, Mom, no, no. I know I could keep my place in line if I wanted. It's just that all these people look hungrier than me. And like a flash of lightning, that passage from Philippians ran through my mind, though Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. Think about that. He did not think of his status as God as something to leverage to his benefit. Anybody with any kind of power or position is at least tempted to misuse that position for their benefit in a way that makes other people pay. Jesus leveraged it all right, because he could, but in a way that cost him everything so that we could gain everything.

Isn't that amazing? And when I, this little picture of my little boy doing the exact same thing, same action, but one was out of emptiness, and one was out of a fullness and a knowing. Arthur Willis once wrote, a right act may be robbed of all of its value in the sight of God if done with the wrong motive. God is not merely concerned with what we do, but with why we do it. We've got to spend so much time getting to know this God that loves us because when we live in response to his love, it changes everything. This is where the fruit comes. This is where miracles come.

This is where life happens. So as I say, you know, identity didn't come easy for me. It was something I had to contend for. But I also believe the enemy sees your potential long before you ever do. All you have to do is look at your childhood. How did he come against you?

What's the first memory you have? That would speak to some of the God-given potential you have because I would say that his threat to you is very connected to your threat to him. So may we stand strong and be who God always intended us to be. God bless you. Well, Suzy Larson has been our guest today on Focus on the Family. And what encouragement for all of us to contend for our God-given identity.

Well, that's good stuff, Jon. And I wish I had heard this message when I was in high school. It's such a confusing time with so many paths available that will take you to one kind of future or another. I'll never forget when I was 17, I was our high school quarterback looking at college scholarship offers and dreaming of making it to the pros, I thought. And my brother Mike accused me of getting a little bit of a big head. And I had been a Christian for a year or so at that point. And I wanted God's will in my life. And so right before that next game, I prayed, Lord, if you don't want me to play college football because it'll take me away from you, break a bone today, but don't let it hurt. Oh, my.

Then he accused me of being a sissy. What a cause, what a condition to put into a prayer. Right.

It's crazy. But sure enough, in the third quarter of that game, I went back to throw a pass and our defense fell apart. I won't name the name. And man, an outside linebacker hit me so hard. We went to the ground together. And sure enough, I got up off the ground and my left collarbone was snapped in two. And I'm back in the huddle saying, you guys, God has answered my prayer. And their response was funny. They thought I had a concussion.

So they're like, quarterback's not right. And so I obviously walked off the field and my identity, I think in that very game was right there rooted in God's direction for me. And not something you could accomplish.

Yeah. I mean, that's, that's ultimately what he wants for us is to look to him. Well, there's two ways to approach that one. I could have just assumed it was a coincidence or consider it a God incident. And thankfully, I chose to say I think God answered my prayer. And with that, you know, I love Proverbs chapter three, verse five, where the Lord tells us trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths. I don't think it requires a broken bone, but I'm sure he appreciated the faithful nature of my statement. So let me encourage you to seek the Lord like Suzy Larson talked about today to find your identity in Christ, not in materialism and other things.

And then learn how to walk out his plans for your future. And if you'd like to talk to somebody about that, please give us a call. We have a very friendly staff here at Focus on the Family that's ready and willing to listen to your concerns, pray with you, answer questions. And if your situation warrants it, they can request a callback from one of our caring Christian counselors.

Yeah, that's a great team. And they're here to serve you, so please just know that you can call. And this Bible-based help is free. It's provided for by the generosity of so many donors. Yes, and we thank those donors for making it possible for our counselors to provide a one-time consultation to about 1,500 people each month.

Think of that. There are a lot of hurting people out there, and it's an honor for us to come alongside them and help them get on a better path to help in healing. For example, here's a letter we received from Mary. She said, I so appreciate Mary giving us that feedback and being an involved grandparent, and what a great reflection of the team here serving her in that moment. Yeah, I was so glad we were able to partner with the Lord and with those donors in helping her in that way. I like to say that here at Focus on the Family, we've built a great engine. We just need the fuel to keep it running, and that fuel is the support of you, the donor community, especially those who can partner with us on a monthly basis. It helps us immensely. It doesn't have to be a large amount.

It's just that consistency which helps us balance the books every month and allows us to plan better. And if you can make a monthly pledge of any amount, we'd like to send you a year-long devotional written by Suzy Larson. It's called Prevail 365 Days of Enduring Strength Through God's Word, and that'll be our way of saying thank you for helping us help families like Mary's. If you can't make a monthly commitment right now, we understand, and we can send Suzy's book to you for a one-time donation of any amount. So get in touch with us today and get Suzy's great encouragement for your daily walk with the Lord. And you can reach us when you call 800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459, or donate online and request your copy of Prevail. We'll have the link in the show notes. And then finally, as we close, the U.S. Supreme Court's recent rulings have certainly supported religious free speech and school choice and the value of life.

Jim has provided a summary of some of the most significant rulings of interest, but we're going to link over to his blog at our website. Be sure to check that out. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Learn more about the Chosen novel at slash chosen. That's slash chosen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-28 15:53:28 / 2023-03-28 16:05:35 / 12

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