Our Generation’s Identity Crisis

One of my favorite books is Sun Tzu’s Art of War, a military classic still required for certain Marine programs and Navy SEALs. It’s a book of principles for leading people and building movements. Principle 18 says,

For if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, then for every victory gained you will suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

The battle of this generation is one of identity. Recently, I read a study that said 91 percent of teens in our country report significant psychological symptoms due to stress and anxiety. Only 45 percent of high schoolers describe their mental health as “very good.” In the last 15 years, the percentage of young adult women who say they are “persistently sad and hopeless” has grown from 10 percent to 57 percent. Suicide rates of young adults have increased by 30 percent in the last decade, and since 1950 they have quadrupled.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all cause for this hopelessness, it’s proof that this generation suffers from a massive identity crisis. We are dealing with factors never before at play in previous generations, like the ubiquity of social media apps (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, BeReal), all of which do a fantastic job of reminding us that we’re missing out and failing to measure up.

Our Enemy’s most subtle and undetected, yet most effective strategy in destroying us is by preying on our sense of identity. We see this most clearly in Matthew 3–4 with the temptation of Jesus.

After Jesus was baptized, Scripture says that

… immediately [Jesus] went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17 ESV)


The Father declared him beloved in verse 17,  but in the next verses Satan uses that very declaration to challenge Jesus to do something to prove it. He’s attempting to inject doubt into how Jesus believes the Father feels about him. Satan uses the phrase “If you are the Son of God” twice to attack Jesus’ identity. (In his third temptation, he omits it, and takes another tack: “I’ll give you all this if you’ll worship me.” He offers to give Jesus something God had already promised to give him.)

Attacking identity isn’t just something Satan did to Jesus. This is how he tempts us, too. And the only thing that frees us is the assurance of how God feels about us. When we put our faith in Jesus, our sin becomes his and his perfect record becomes ours. We can know and believe that what the Father said of Jesus—You are my beloved child!—he also declares over us.

John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” which means that when God sees us, he sees the perfect life of Jesus. He says to us, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And as we believe that, his power to overcome any temptation flows from inside of us—the same Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus descends upon us.

If we’re in Christ, we can boldly proclaim that:

I am not how I compare to others.

I am not the summation of my talents.

I am not my past, my mistakes, or my accomplishments.

I am not my potential.

I am not the number of my Facebook friends or TikTok followers.

I am not where I got into school.

I am not what my parents, my friends, or my spouse thinks about me.

I am not how much money I make.

I am not my sins, my failures, or my shame.

I am who the Father says that I am! I am a child of the King, in whom the Father is well pleased.

I am loved so much that the Son of God came for me and gave his life for me and sees me now only through the eyes of grace.

I am complete in Christ.

I no longer have to prove I’m somebody when I’m already somebody to him.

That is our identity.