While talking with a friend of mine who just finished 16 rounds of chemo I realized she still has a long road ahead of her before she can come out of the cancer woods. She has a double mastectomy and hysterectomy in her future along with radiation, then probably reconstructive surgery. Just hearing about it was a little overwhelming for me, so I’m sure it’s daunting to her at times, too. She seems so peaceful, though. She’s thankful to be alive. She’s thankful for a good prognosis and the way her cancer responded to the chemo. She told me confidently that cancer can take her hair, take parts of her that give her some of her femininity, make her sick and more, but it can’t take her soul. Cancer can’t steal who she really is.
As I reminisced briefly with her about my mastectomy 7 years ago I realized that I still feel some hurt over the surgery changing my body, which is still a little lopsided and unnatural. She is right and I needed to be reminded that my identity doesn’t lie in my physical appearance or health, because my true identity is secure in God. I was trying to encourage her but she encouraged me!
One of the favorite notes I received when I was recovering from cancer was from a friend who had survived lymphoma and told me “this cancer does not define you.” Those words are forever implanted in my mind – how true and how beautiful!
A burn victim is no less the person God made them to be than before they were disfigured by fire. The Jewish people were still God-fearing, valuable individuals regardless of the horrific things done to them by the Nazis. No tattooed number on their arm, no shaved head, no starved body could change, steal or destroy the soul God had created in them. Abused wives are no less treasured by God just because some man tells them time and time again they are worthless.
No label given to you by someone else, no tragedy, no loss, no windfall or wealth – none of that defines who you really are. God does.
I’ve often wondered at the bravery of Christians in other countries who are persecuted for their faith. How can they hold up under such torture and cruelty? They must really believe that whatever men can do to them, their real selves are secure in God’s hands. They must trust what Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Matthew 10:28)
Read these beautiful words from God in Isaiah 43:2-4,
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you…
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.”
It’s just another way God shows He gets the final word. He’s in charge. He pressed his fingerprint onto us before we were even born and no temporary, finite earthly thing, person, or event can do anything to change that.
Only living in relationship with the One who made you will you find your true identity.