When Work Becomes Your Identity

I sat with my computer on my lap and Google at my fingertips. Surely this search would come up fruitful and all of my heart troubles would be alleviated by one confirmation from the ever knowledgeable, all-knowing search engine. I typed in this phrase into the little box with the eyeglass…

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when God shuts a door, He opens a window.

After years of seeing this phrase on those cutesy little posters with kittens perched on windows, I was for sure this tidbit of wisdom was straight-up truth from the Bible. Right? Aren’t there pretty little social squares with cute calligraphy that tells us this is true and we double tap to make it gospel? God would absolutely open a window of bigger and better opportunities, right?

My friend Google kindly dropped the news to me…

“When God closes a door, He opens a window” is not, in fact, in the Bible. I’m not sure what concerned me more: that this well known Christian cliche was not in the Word or the fact that I had no good reason for my season of camping out in front of that proverbial closed door.

Encountering a Closed Door

I remember the day when I sat in front of a very clear closed “door.”

I sat with my laptop, my favorite hot tea, and a new book project fresh on my heart. But I was creating for the sake of keeping up and staying relevant. I knew something was off, but I just kept typing away. Then, after some time with the Lord asking Him for a fresh wind of inspiration, I clearly heard His whisper to my heart, “Put it down. Put it away. Press pause.”

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In all reality, this was good news and I exhaled a deep breath of relief. I knew deep down that I desperately needed God to deal with things like jealousy and comparison. And because I knew I needed God to work through some junk in my heart and soul, I was glad for this closed door.

Then a bit of reality set in.

This heart and soul work uncovered misplaced identity. What would I tell people that I “do” when we meet? What will define my career now that I was on this break from writing where there was no known date of return? In these questions, there was not one other thing to do but to sit and surrender.

Surrendering to the Closed Door

Lord, I get it. You have me in front of a “no.” I will sit here and wait. I will not pop my head up to peek around for that open window in which I was for sure you would open right now. Have Your way. I surrender.

That one prayer changed it all. God showed me that what He would do IN me during this season of waiting was of more value than what He would or would not do WITH me. I now had a divine opportunity to come to a new place of growth, sifting, healing, and refining with God.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes, what God does IN you during your seasons of waiting are more valuable than what He could do WITH you during seasons of opportunity.” username=”heyhanha”]

Instead of spending hours running the hamster wheel of status quo in my writing and career, I had hours of quiet, wide open space to allow God to peel back layers of unhealthy soul matters, to crash down idols.

In this wide open space God was so sweet to show me some longstanding beliefs about my identity. My work, my value, and my worth were intertwined into unholy heart habits and thought patterns. And it was through this quiet space of my closed door with God that I could see it clearly.

The Measurement of Identity

Through the years of my various careers, my many different jobs in sales and hospitality, and on into my ministry of writing and teaching, I constructed a measurement of sorts. As I grew in my faith, maturity, and knowledge of God, I was also blessed to partake in fun ministry and writing opportunities.

As those things grew, I saw it as a measurement of God’s love for me. I equated these opportunities and faith growth with His view of my worthiness. But when the opportunities dropped off, there went His love. As absurd as this sounds coming from someone who could tell YOU all day long of God’s unconditional love for you, this scale was a very real thing.

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But thank goodness for the season of that closed door! Thank goodness for that space where God created a void, where I did indeed have an identity crisis, where He spoke straight into my misplaced understanding of who He created me to be.

During this very raw time, God kindly held my heart as He unearthed idols of success. He spoke sweet truths to me during this time as He dug up untruths that my value in His eyes was manifested in opportunities given or invitations extended in my career. He reframed the conversation in my head from, “You are worthy and accepted because of x,y,z you achieved” to “I smile when I look at you, daughter. Nothing you do can change that.”

But how do we move forward in this reframed identity narrative with God? How do we as women inundated with phrases all over social media such as “dream big” or “be who you were made to be” or “live your #bestlifenow” move forward? How do we reframe our identity and not allow self-constructed scales and measurements of our worth dictate things?

Rewriting the Narrative

Might I propose a few revelations that came from my identity crisis? God is so good to reframe the narrative!

  • When we sit under the light and life of Jesus, when we sit in His glory and seek after Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, He is found. His greatness is found. Our knowledge of His love for each and every one of us is found. We are found in His presence, which allows space for His light to shine onto us.
  • When we sit under His light, the light of His glory shines into the depths of our God-given gifts, talents, passions…even our funny little personality quirks. Seeking and sitting with Jesus allows this beautiful space of the truth of who He created us to be.
  • This truth overrides any earthly expectations placed on us. It overturns anything or anyone that tells us who we should be.
  • And in this light of identity truth straight from the Creator, we thrive. We operate in confidence of His greatness, His perfect plan, His hand in our creation and assurance that we are right where we need to be…when we sit in His light and truth.

I’m wondering if this reframed conversation will give you a new perspective on Scripture such as Psalm 139. Will you sit with this sweet truth and rest in His light? God smiles when He speaks your name.

You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book. Every single moment you are thinking of me! How precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly in your every thought! O God, your desires toward me are more than the grains of sand on every shore! When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

Psalm 139:16-18 The Passion Translation

About Sarah: Sarah Martin is a wife, mom, friend, author, speaker and wanna be artist. She has a passion to inspire women toward a vibrant life in the presence of Jesus. When Sarah is not typing away at her laptop, you can usually find her on date nights with her husband, shooting hoops with her son or making a mess in her art room. Sarah would love to connect with you on Instagram @sarahfmartin!

Meet Hanha!

Hanha Parham is a Christian author and speaker. Her personal mission is to help woman overcome fear and self-doubt so that they can confidently believe who God has called them to be. She holds a Masters in Divinity with a concentration in pastoral counseling and is currently pursuing her PhD in Christian leadership. Hanha has published two books, Jesus is Bae and The Confessions Project and she is passionate about teaching, equipping, and discipling the body of Christ. When she is not encouraging others or writing her heart out, she loves spending time with loved ones or exploring new coffee shops. 

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  1. Azani says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! My biggest fear as a Christian blogger is getting sucked into the temptation of making my identity out of my work and my social media accounts…. ugh. Even the thought of it just makes me want to call it quits – but I know it’s a matter of staying focused, not a matter of giving up that which He has placed on my heart. Thank you SO much for sharing this so transparently…. I love your vulnerability and enjoyed your post. Lots of love!!!!!!

    • Hanha Hobson says:

      Azani, I can completely relate to what you’re saying! That’s always something that I have to be mindful of because I want to make sure that it’s God that is getting the ultimate glory from this blow! But I’m praying that God continues to lead your life and your blog. Sending so many hugs!

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