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Joni and Friends Blog

Suffering the Loss of Identity and Discovering Wholeness in God

“Perhaps you think too much of your honor.”

You’re likely familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia series written by C.S. Lewis. The main character, of course, is a lion named Aslan; an alternate version of Jesus in the fantasy tales.

Well, in a wonderful, powerful scene, Aslan is talking to Reepicheep; a brave, sword-fighting mouse who has lost his tail in a great battle. While Aslan tells Reepicheep that the shortened tail becomes him well, Reepicheep dramatically offers his sword to Aslan saying that due to his unfortunate loss, he must resign from duty.

Reepicheep: “All the same, great King. I regret that I must withdraw, for a tail is the honor and glory of a mouse.”
Aslan: “Perhaps you think too much of your honor, friend.”

I can relate to Reepicheep. Maybe you can too. I used to think I was strong and put together. Honor intact, I had the world by the…tail. Then I started losing spinal disks and colon function. Many a day, I offered God my sword to withdraw from duty. Like Reepicheep, I thought too much of my honor.

In the Old Testament book of Job, it says, “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear. A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” – Job 14: 1-2,5 (emphasis added)

What truth, amen?

I’ll admit that bodily stewardship in the midst of suffering is truly an ever-growing tension for me; as if each ticking second of the clock beside me as I type this sentence represents the irreversible loosening stitch of the fabric of my physical self, and in essence, the tearing apart of my identity.


When I got sick a few years ago, my grasp of my mortality tightened and my sensitivity to the brittleness of my body heightened. I came face-to-face with a certain truth. That my physical limit was neither my identity nor my personal best; like some passing bench press or deadlift; imposters disguised as my potential. I list them only to help illustrate that those mountain-top moments were just passing shadows; darkest the minute I realized I would never again attempt them, let alone beat them.

Some of you have filled similar unforgiving minutes:
The unrelenting invisible disability.
The doctor’s prognosis.
The unexpected phone call.
The reality of loss and resulting uncertainty.

In his latest book titled Suffering (endorsed by Joni Eareckson Tada) Pastor Paul Tripp describes it this way: “Here’s what happens in times of suffering. When the thing you’ve been trusting is laid to waste, you don’t suffer just the loss of that thing; you also suffer the loss of the identity and security that it provided.”

Frankly, nobody reading this sentence – or anyone who ever lived for that matter – has ever physically traveled beyond their God-given limits. Nobody. We merely find them. And like flowers on a sidewalk, they wither. God gives and takes away, and the best moment of the day comes when we realize He is doing just that. And I like to think like Job realized, that in finding our limits, we meet God.

You know, someday we’ll have eternal bodies. My current aches, pains, and restrictions are clear and present reminders of that hope. One day we’ll double over, not in pain, but in praise. One day, our knees won’t crackle, and our bones won’t break. No more back problems or stomach aches. No more cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or sore throats. One day.

Until then – like you – I will try and take care of my body, trusting God with the results as His gifts and my limits just the same; doing both takes grace.

May you and I be a resource of comfort for the hurting and struggling.
May we deal with our debilitating ache and our private pain with uncommon grace. May our personal records and our medical records carry a message to the world that, although we grow weary, a new body is coming.

In the end, I’m learning that when we focus on our abilities or our inabilities, physical or otherwise, we can lose ourselves. We can get wrapped up in our own honor. We can think that if we’re not whole, we’re not “us.” But with God, we are. Lost tails and all.

-Jimmy Peña
Regional Director, Western U.S, Joni & Friends

Hear more from Jimmy about identity.

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