Redefining My Label
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope ..." Romans 5:3-4 (ESV)
Have you ever been given a label you didn't choose? The type of label you're sure will stick with you for the rest of your life?
When I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer, that's exactly how I felt: I was the victim of a poor label-maker.
The doctors said there was nothing I could have done to avoid getting my particular type of cancer. So it felt as if an enemy chose me to attack, for no apparent reason.
My heart ached. Some days it felt as if I were in a boxing ring, with each new cancer-related challenge hitting me smack in the gut.
As if the cancer diagnosis weren't enough, the trials continued. The "cancer" label affected my eligibility for health insurance and prevented me from giving blood. I know it sounds odd to be sad about not getting poked with a needle, but I often donated blood and absolutely hated being "punished" for something completely out of my control.
Life seemed so unfair. Couldn't God give me a new label altogether?
It took several years, but God changed my perspective and enabled me to see my cancer as a gift, filled with multiple life lessons that produced endurance, character and hope.
Today's key verse helped me understand how God was using this unfair label to change my character: "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope ..." (Romans 5:3-4).
This passage taught me an important distinction. The goal isn't to rejoice because of our difficult circumstances. But rather, to rejoice in knowing God is doing something in the midst of our suffering. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but I'm grateful (okay, mostly grateful!) God has given me several opportunities to work on this.
Each of these traits in Romans 5 (endurance, character and hope) builds on the next. Since that fateful diagnosis, I've grown to see God had a purpose in what I suffered. In His grace, God allowed me to hold a mirror up to my life and closely examine it. Cancer helped my husband and me re-evaluate our priorities. Among other things, my family changed churches to find older, godly mentors, and my husband ultimately began his own business.
This month I celebrate eight years as a cancer survivor — no longer labeled a "victim," but a "victor." My past may not always be worth celebrating, but my future definitely is! I'm so grateful we serve a limitless God who can redefine our labels no matter what we've done, or what has been done to us.
Father God, I ask for Your patience as You turn trials into triumphs. Lord, help me remove the negative labels others have placed on me, and instead, live by the labels You put on me. Thank You for producing character and hope in me and helping me daily move from victim to victor. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 1:11-12, "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." (MSG)
Psalm 60:12, "With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How have the labels from your past placed limits on your life? What would your life look like if you were to allow God to help remove the labels?
Write down one negative label others have used to define you. Next, read Ephesians chapter one. Pray about how God wants to redefine your identity. Then tear up the old word, replacing it with a new word from the Ephesians passage.
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