From Special Features Managing Editor, Jenna Ditsch:
In the book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13:3-7 (The Message), Paul says this: “If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”
The world is thirsty for love, but if your cup is empty—if you are bankrupt when it comes to love—trying to give away what you don’t have will only exhaust, frustrate and disappoint you.
WE CANNOT LOVE OTHERS UNTIL WE ARE LOVED FIRST.
“But I don’t feel like I’m loved,” you may respond.
You will feel loved when you know with your mind and believe with your heart that you ARE loved. You will know that you are loved when you understand that God IS love. You will experience that love when you receive His love. You will receive His love when you agree with who HE says you are.
It all boils down to identity. If you desire to be in a loving relationship but you are not filled to the brim with God’s love, then no relationship will ever give you the desires of your heart that only God can give.
You are bankrupt without love. Imagine two bankrupt people coming together and saying, “Here you go—here is my empty heart.” That relationship is in trouble!
Today’s interview is focused on “identity.” If you desire to be in a healthy relationship in which you can both give and receive love, knowing who you really are in Christ is essential!
“But I know who I am!” you say.
Here’s a simple test.
In the book The Three Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane says “… every area of your life that doesn’t glisten with hope reveals that you’re believing a lie in that area. And that area is a stronghold of the devil in your life.”
So my question to you is this: Is every area of your life glistening with hope? Is your love life (and I’m talking all relationships, not just romantic ones)—your capacity to receive love and give love to others—glistening with hope? If not, you are believing a lie! It is most likely a lie about who God is or who you are.
Today’s interview features Courtney Cohen. Courtney is passionate about knowing God more deeply and helping others encounter Him in fresh, life-changing ways. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her two children, she and her husband, Steve, work together at Now Found Ministries, the umbrella ministry over Now Found Publishing and her blog, IAM.NowFound.org.
May you be blessed by Courtney’s words. We encourage you to check out her book, Refining Identity, to dig deeper into the important topic of “Identity and Love.”
After reading this interview, don’t forget to take our Quiz: “Identity Theft: Signs You Are Living From a False Self” to see if you relate with others from a place of authenticity or from the “False Self.”
JENNA DITSCH: Valentine’s Day is approaching. We all remember our school days when we had to decorate a shoebox and turn it into a Valentine’s Day mailbox. I can remember being disappointed when the boy I liked skipped my mailbox. The enemy lied to us then about our identity and still speaks many of those same lies today. Can you help our readers understand some of the lies and truths about love and identity?
COURTNEY COHEN: I remember the obligatory Valentine’s card exchange during elementary school. I was a quiet girl, certainly never in the “popular” crowd. So when that day came around, I faced fear that I would be forgotten, or that I wouldn’t receive as many cards as someone else. This simple Valentine’s tradition helped to establish in my mind the lie that this was how you knew you were loved: receiving attention and affirmation from others.
Fear and comparison contribute to a life spent living a lie. Here are a couple of common lies related to how love, marriage and identity are intertwined:
- Lie: Once I get married, I’ll be able to be who I am meant to be.
- Truth: Marriage cannot define you. If you do not walk in your true identity in Christ now, getting married will do nothing to help you. Marriage has many wonderful aspects, but it requires unceasing work and intentionality. Your spouse will never be able to fill the holes that only God can. Only God can complete you.
- Lie: God has forgotten me. I want to be married, to start my life, but He is not fulfilling my heart’s desire.
- Truth: Your life has already started. God is walking right alongside you. He knows the desires of your heart. He also knows when they will be fulfilled. In the meantime, He wants to be your greatest desire. And that can be fulfilled right now, in this moment.
JD: When you and I spoke, you talked about a time in your life when God showed you that your identity was not tied to who you were with. Would you tell us about what happened leading up to that revelation, and how what God told you changed the way you viewed love and relationships?
CC: As a teen and young adult, I was a “serial girlfriend,” always in a committed relationship. My very identity was tied up in being in a relationship. But God made it undeniably clear that I needed to discover who I was apart from another human. So I went on a dating “fast,” an intentional period of time without dating or a romantic relationship. During those months, I fell in love with God in a fresh way. He showed me greater depths of who He is and began to reveal His unique design for me. I didn’t need a relationship with another person to define me anymore; God’s love defined me completely. The desire for a relationship and, eventually, marriage was still there. But it didn’t consume me. God did.
JD: Tell us something about identity that most people don’t know? What is so important that a person reading this could be transformed just by understanding this truth?
CC: Love is defining. But another human’s love, or lack thereof, cannot define your true identity. Only God’s love can define our identity. The subtitle for my book, Refining Identity, I Am, Who I AM Says I AM and those who read Refining Identity will understand that truth in a profoundly real way. Valentine’s cards and love notes are nice to receive. But they fall painfully short of the greatest love letter of all time: God’s Word to you, the Bible and His Spirit speaking directly to your heart.
JD: What kinds of practical steps do you take when
faced with questions about your identity today? Share some examples from your own life.
CC: Worship is HUGE! Personally, I love pulling out my guitar and getting alone with God. Declaring His goodness, regardless of my feelings, helps me receive His truth in my spirit.
I’m also learning to ask God what He has to say about a particular circumstance, feeling or belief I have. Often, we run to a friend and vent, asking them to be that affirmation we seek. But God wants to be that for you. He’s the only one with the perspective you need.
God has me on a journey of learning to live gratefully. It’s easy to get caught up in hoping so desperately for the future even for a promise God has given you that you lose sight of the beauty in the “now.” I keep a gratitude journal (inspired by Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts). When I’m intentionally looking every day for God’s already-present gifts, I am amazed at the wonder of this present moment.
JD: What insight would you offer to readers who feel discouraged about their identity?
CC: You matter. You are precious. Right now, in this moment. Your identity is not based on any circumstance you find yourself in. Your identity is found only in the Great I AM. My prayer for you today is that you would say in faith, “I am who I AM says I am.” Believe that that is more than enough.
JD: Tell our readers where they can go to get more information about you and your book, Refining Identity.
CC: Nearly 10 years ago, God gave me a message to help people discover their true identity, one that is as refined as gold and is far more precious. Refining Identity and me, at RefiningIdentity.com.
DON’T FORGET TO TAKE OUR QUIZ: “Identity Theft: Signs You Are Living From a False Self” to see if you relate with others from a place of authenticity or from the “False Self.”