How many times have you been thrown off balance by harsh words, rejection, or crushing circumstances? You feel your confidence crumble beneath you like buildings in an earthquake. How many times have I staggered for equilibrium after such a shaking? “Why is it,” I ask myself, “that I let things bother me so much; why do I take everything personally?”

Then I read this story:

Everyone in the employment office where Carol Barnier* worked froze in sympathetic support. They watched their fellow worker turn white as a man spewed “into the ear of this pleasant young employee some of the ugliest, most vile, and angry words that you can imagine.”

At the first opportunity, she hit the pause button and filled the others in on the conversation. With a shaky hand she offered the phone to anyone who would rescue her. Carol volunteered. Calmly, she listened as the man continued to vent. Amazingly, she did not treat him with dismissal, denial, or match his rage. But neither did she respond with submission, cowering, or panic. Eventually, he calmed enough to discuss how they might resolve the problem. I was stunned as I read this account. How was she able to hold steady and think clearly in such a difficult confrontation?

Her secret: “He didn’t have the power to reach any part of me that he could wound,” Carol said. “He couldn’t shake my world. I was defined someplace else, out of his reach…nothing he could say would change that truth. My core identity was safe.”

At that point, her core identity was focused on the fact that she was pregnant with her first child. Supremely thrilled by that knowledge, nothing could disturb her. But she admitted later in the chapter, parenthood will eventually disappoint us if we put it at the center of our life, just as she found out. Nothing can provide a core identity that will hold us through every storm – not marriage, wealth, success, education, or anything else, except the solid Rock of God. He is the only unchanging, faithful, true, and eternal One.

I learned this during the painful months after my divorce. A deep sense of failure and abandonment haunted my every step. I had thought my marriage would last forever; that I would always be loved. My identity was wrapped up in being a wife and mother. When that crumbled I floundered for a sure footing. I found it in Jesus Christ.

I’ve been a Christian since the age of thirteen, and my faith in God held me fast in many trials. But my core was never so rattled as when I lost the love and protection of my husband. Jesus steadied me, as I staggered back into His arms.

Since that time, other situations have rattled my cage. Some have made me question my own value, whether the work I do is worthwhile. My self-esteem plummets when that familiar foe calls my number and I hesitate to answer. But Carol reminds us it doesn’t have to be that way.

 I claim the truth and say, “I will no longer give the enemy power to touch my core being. I belong to and am loved by, God. He is my safe core. Because He created me, I have value. He defines who I am; I am His.

Today, if you have built your life around anything or anyone besides the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray you will let Him take that place at your core. He will never disappoint you; He will never let you fall.

*author of Engaging Today’s Prodigal: Clear Thinking, New Approaches, and Reasons for Hope