Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11, ESV)
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Most people, in assessing their own identity, view themselves too negatively: “I’m ugly. I’m a failure. I’m a phony. I’m worthless.” Others view themselves too positively, feeling rather impressed by what they see, and pretty sure others will find them impressive as well. But neither extreme view is healthy. And neither is fixable just by making a few calibrations to your own self-esteem.
You can’t have a right view of yourself until you have a right view of God. He is where your identity begins and ends. You can’t know who you are unless you know who God is.
Now if God operated with us the way we do with others, He would have responded to Moses’ identity crisis in Exodus 3:11 by trying to pump up his confidence, build his brand. Didn’t Moses realize what a great guy he was? Handsome, smart, talented. Well-educated, rich in experiences. But don’t ever expect God to want you anchoring your identity in the strength of whatever gifts and good things are part of your personal portfolio. Position, performance, popularity, possessions—“What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights”(James 1:17). Your identity is found in Him, the Giver, not in you as the receiver.
See, you can’t have a right view of yourself until you have a right view of God.
So when the Lord saw him struggling with a negative self-image, He knew what Moses needed was not a more positive view of Moses. God’s answer to your and my identity issues are not statements about who we are, but about who He is; not about what we can do but about what He can do. “I will be with you,” He said to Moses (Exodus 3:12)—not “You are so awesome, Moses”—because when God says “I will be with you,” this single issue should settle every problem you face with your identity and insecurity.
“I will be with you and will bless you,” God had said to Abraham years before (Genesis 26:3). He said it also to Jacob: “I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3). He said the same thing later to Joshua: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 1:5). When John Wesley, great revivalist preacher of the 1800s, uttered his final words on his deathbed, he summarized a full lifetime of powerful, international gospel ministry by saying, simply, “Best of all, God is with us.”
Put your feet on that rock, and your identity will stand firm.
The deepest question you can ask in life is “Who am I?” But you can’t have a right view of yourself until you have a right view of God. Turn loose all those things that give you only a passing sense of belonging and importance, and tether yourself to a biblical truth that will keep you standing no matter what you face or may be forced to go through. Everything you could hope to see when you look into that mirror, you can get each day from what God has repeatedly said to His people: “I will be with you.”
It’s all you ever need to know, to do whatever God wants you to do.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.