Surrounded by many who seemed to know who they were, Stephanie Budge admits that a firm idea of her self-worth and identity seemed out of her grasp.
"I can honestly say I had an identity crisis despite growing up in a Christian family, church and school," Stephanie shares.
"In frustration I began searching for an identity in other people, movies, media and things around me. I tried to imitate what I saw and with my guard down, I accepted anything and everything I thought looked good."
Despite committing her life to Jesus at a young age, and publicly declaring her faith in the Jordan River where Jesus Himself was baptised, she says, "I still struggled with my self-worth".
"All through my life I thought that if I turn my back on God, He will turn His back on me – and I will no longer be His child," she explains.
"I would also worry that God is watching my every move, ready to pounce and punish me when I make a mistake or do something wrong, so in fear I pursued self-righteousness."
After years of striving to be a good person, to do good things, to please people and hoping to receive God's favour, Stephanie finally came to the end of herself.
Through a heart squashed by fear and anxiety Stephanie cried out to God for help. That help came through the Bible and the gentle guidance of Stephanie's husband-to-be in 2013.
Stephanie wondered, “If I make mistakes, will I be abandoned?”She read, "I (Jesus) give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10, verses 28-29).
Then turning to Romans 8, verse 38, Stephanie read, "Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"As I read these verses they began filling my heart with new truth I had not seen before," she says.
All the fear Stephanie felt of God rejecting her, if she stumbled at all, left. "A peace and joy filled me with the new knowledge that there is nothing I can do to earn God's love. Rather than my efforts, my eternal security is rooted in God's love for me."
Finally, she took comfort that just as God promised to never reject His people Israel, He would never reject her either.
"I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you," the prophet Isaiah writes in chapter 41. "I said, 'You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Stephanie adds, "God loves me unconditionally so much that He sent His one and only Son Jesus to die on the cross in my place and there He forgave all my sin past present and future. And the best part is that He rose again and defeated even death itself and now offers me eternal life and a personal relationship with Himself. This means that once I genuinely become a child of God, I will always be a child of God!"
Stephanie has now rooted her identity in Jesus Christ, the One who loves her unconditionally and who is the same yesterday, today and forever. •