Finding Your Purpose - The Warrior's Journey®
Lack of Identity

Finding Your Purpose

Author: Evan Owens, Executive Director of REBOOT Combat Recovery

Nighttime weapons practice. Photo by Coast Guard is licensed under CC By 2.0

Suppose we begin with the premise that each and every person has the potential to do something extraordinary – and that includes you.

You were put on this earth for a purpose. You are capable of amazing and heroic things. In fact, during your time in the military, you were probably called upon to do things that most people would consider extraordinary, even if they seemed ordinary or routine to you.

Ask people to name someone who is selfless, and you’ll find that those who serve in the military are nearly always among the first responses.

Americans are quick to honor the heroism and bravery of the men and women of our armed forces – and rightly so! After all, think about all of the acts of selflessness that you saw time and time again downrange. But what about when your career in the military ends?  What purpose will you have then? Whom will you serve?

We all hear “voices.” These voices shape our identity. They are the first things we hear when we wake up and the last things we hear when we go to bed. Sometimes they whisper, and other times they shout.  These voices play back things others have said about and, like a broken record, they repeat the same messages over and over again until we have them memorized.

Over time, the untrue voices can begin to sound like our own voices.  This is another scheme the enemy uses to keep us depressed and in bondage. Most of us aren’t very self-confident. While we pretend to have it all together, we often find ourselves looking around to others in an effort to support our self-worth. We look to our left and right, asking the questions, “Am I okay? Am I good enough? Am I measuring up?”

10598295295_1bfc08c9c9_zPlagued by living in the land of endless comparison, we find ourselves in a constant game of seeing if we “measure up” against others around us. We wish we were smarter, skinnier, richer . . . and the list goes on.

On some level, we all understand that we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by comparing ourselves to those around us. After all, the high that we get from feeling better than them only lasts a few moments until we see someone else we don’t measure up to – then we’re right back where we started.

Some would say comparison is a motivational technique to improve themselves. Others would say they don’t care what others think. But if most of us are honest, we care about what others think much more than we’d like to admit. We gain a large part of our self-worth from the approval and acceptance of others.

The proverbial “me-monster” comes out in all of us as we try to one-up those around us. This is especially true for those of us who are type-A. We have to be the biggest personality in the room! You know who you are!

What school did you qualify for? What tab do you have? How many deployments did you have? How big and bad was your tour that you can’t talk about? (“If I told you I’d have to kill you!”) What was it like being gone for 11 years on an undercover mission working with Tom Cruise? Just how big was that fish you caught, again?

Satan loves to lie to us in the area of identity. If he can make you question your identity, he keeps you trapped in the mire of low self-worth and stands in the way of God’s greater purpose for your life.


For most military members, this is a big one. So much of your time is spent at work that you find your worth in your military career. The patch on your chest gives you worth. It demands a level of respect. If you are honest with yourself, maybe you even would say that you are a “service member first and everything else second.”10572591496_88ea5365a6_z

As you pour your life into your work, you are rewarded for your efforts. You move up the chain of rank and earn the respect of your friends. You shape your life and the lives of your family around your military plans. You sacrifice so much for this career that to lose it would be devastating.

Have you worried about what you’ll do after the military? How much of your self-value is wrapped up in your work? What will you do when it comes to an end? Or how are you coping now that it has come to an end?

How is it that we let so much of our self-worth and purpose on earth be determined by a day at work? Sure, a good job is important – but if you aren’t enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it. It might prop up your ego for a few years, but it will end. No military career lasts forever. Sooner or later, your career will come to an end, and when it does, you don’t have to be adrift at sea without a rudder.

This need to base our worth on our own performance is a dead-end and one that Satan loves to convince us is the secret to happiness. Have you ever met people or heard stories about people who finally reach “the top?” Many will say it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as they hoped. If I am what I do, then what happens when I stop doing it?



It’s human nature to care what others think of us – and it can be a driving force in our lives. We may even find ourselves acting differently in certain circles in an effort to fit in. Many military spouses are motivated by this in their peer groups. Public opinion is a fickle creature. It can love you one moment and leave you the next.

Perhaps you are a person who specializes in “positive impression management.” This is a state of mind where you act as your own PR agent everywhere you go. You make sure to say the right things in order to impress those around you. You may find yourself covering up the true nature of what is going on in your life and presenting a sunny perspective no matter the circumstances. Everyone thinks highly of you, but only you know the truth when the sun sets.

A motivational speaker once gave job seekers this advice: “If you are applying for a job that is outside of your pay grade and the boss would never hire you, then act like a person he would hire – act like him during the interview!” At first glance, this sounds like great advice. You may think, “I can put on a persona and act the part. I’ll fake it ’til I make it!”

But you see, while a persona can help you get the job, it won’t help you keep the job. Being someone you’re not will only last for a while until keeping up appearances becomes too exhausting to maintain.

We do this in our churches as well. It’s easy to put on a mask and just play along rather than deal with reality. Have you ever felt like that with your faith? That you are merely keeping up appearances?


7549112624_9d207b20ec_zThis is perhaps the most infuriating of the lies about identity. For generations, people in cities and towns across America have sat around and talked about “the glory days.” Satan builds this idea from the root concept that your future is limited.

If you believe your best days are in the past, why even strive for a better future? Just settle in and wait until something changes. If you’ve been wounded in combat, sickness and pain have probably been a major part of your life for some time. Suffering of this kind can easily become more than just a sickness; it can become your identity. It can become who you are and how you see your role in the world. You are “the wounded.”

In John 5, we read the story of Jesus’ encounter with a man at the Pool of Bethesda. This particular man had been unable to walk for 38 years. Every day he would sit by the pool and beg as people passed by. One day, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” This could seem like a  cruel  question,  but  Jesus  was  discerning  that  after  a  lifetime  of  being  known  as  “the sick guy beside the pool,” this man had almost certainly allowed his disability to become his identity.

Jesus was ready to heal the man and release him to his new life, but he first wanted to hear from the man’s own lips that he was ready to move forward. Chances are, if you believe that your best days are in the past, they probably were. That’s why we have to recognize the lies that we once believed and replace them with the truth.

Jesus heard all of the same lies.

Isn’t it amazing to think that Jesus faced these very same lies about his identity? In Matthew 4, Satan tries to tempt Jesus, saying “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. “For the first 30 years of his life, Jesus hadn’t done anything most would consider noteworthy.  He hadn’t performed one miracle or given one sermon. In fact, he was just an ordinary carpenter. You can almost hear Satan sneering, “You are what you do – and you have done nothing.”

Next, Satan leads Jesus to the highest point of the temple and shows him the entire city, saying, “You’d be somebody if you had all of this. Why don’t you rule this and take it as your own?” He tempts Jesus with possessions and the lie that a person is defined by what they have accumulated.

Jesus was poor. In fact, later in life, Jesus wouldn’t even have a place to sleep and would have to lay his head on a rock under the moonlight. Clearly, he wasn’t concerned with material wealth.

Lastly, Satan tells Jesus to throw himself down from the top of the temple and let God’s army of angels swoop in and save him so that everyone will see that he is truly the Son of God. “After all, Jesus,” Satan says, “You are what others say you are. If you are so great, here is a chance to prove to everyone how important you really are!”

7415123440_f8bf400d8b_zIn each instance, Jesus replies to Satan by quoting Scripture. Why would he do that? Why wouldn’t he correct Satan and challenge him to a battle of knowledge? Why wouldn’t he just punch Satan in the face and tell him to get lost?

Instead, Jesus responds with truth. In Ephesians 6:14, Paul talks about the belt of truth. What is truth? Truth is God’s word on any subject.  If God said it, then it is true. In this story, Jesus challenges the lies Satan feeds him by replacing them with truth.

Satan, on the other hand, is called the “father of lies.” We are told that Satan was a liar from the beginning and that lies are his native language. Needless to say, Satan loves to lie about your identity.  Someone once said, “Show me a man’s wounds, and I’ll show you his purpose.” Satan always attacks hardest at the point of our greatest gifting.

Remember, truth is what God says about any subject.  You can’t trust your own judgement of yourself because you are prone to sway from pride to insecurity. When Satan attacks your identity, you must recognize the lies and replace them with the truth. This requires a supernatural perspective.

But our go-to state in this fallen world is one of insecurity. From the moment sin entered the world, we became insecure. The first thing that Adam and Eve did when they sinned was to hide and cover themselves with fig leaves. They wanted to cover their shame and hide from God. They were insecure.

This state of insecurity still impacts us today. We try to cover our insecurity with designer clothes, higher ranks, nicer cars, and better-looking friends. These quick fixes may satisfy for a little while, but they never last. Instead of hiding from a false identity, it’s time for you to claim your new identity – one rooted in truth.


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