By Natalie Shea

As a teenager, I was confused about my identity. I suffered the intense pain of severe depression. Sometimes I cut myself with a razor blade to alleviate the feelings. It didn’t work, but I continued maiming my body with scratches and cuts because I didn’t know any other way to deal with the hurt. I didn’t understand who I was. I was not comfortable in my own skin. I looked for happiness any way I could get it.

From the age of fifteen, I self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. I was willing to try anything to alleviate my feelings of worthlessness. I craved attention and tried to fill the void in my life with the attention of strangers, both male and female. I thought someone else desiring me would satisfy something in me, but each encounter left me feeling empty. I was deeply unhappy. I took pills to hurt myself, flirting with the idea of suicide. Suicide was always on my mind and seemed like a viable option.

In my twenties, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but the diagnosis didn’t help me find closure. I continued contemplating suicide and even tried to end my life a few times. Thankfully, my attempts failed – but I was still unhappy.

Then one day, I learned about Jesus. Through a friend, I met Someone who told me who I was. The creator of the world told me that I was valuable, that I was wanted, that I was desired. The God who made me had a special purpose for my life. The Bible, which is God’s infallible Word, says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” – Jeremiah 1:5. I was overcome. How could God care about me? I couldn’t believe that the Creator of the world wanted to give me a new identity, but that’s exactly what He wanted to do.

I learned that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 3:23. All I had to do was confess my sins and accept the gift he was offering. I found a new identity, one that rested in the assurance of Christ. I am made in God’s image, and He loves me regardless of all the mistakes I have made.

The number of gender dysphoric youths in the United States is staggering.  According to Reuters, 42,000 young people were diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2021. Over the last few years, the number of youths who suffer from gender dysphoria has surged and those numbers will continue to grow.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, mental illness affects one in six youth between the ages of 6 and 17. Because of this, suicide has become the second leading cause of death in children aged 10-14. These are children who are confused and are looking for their identity in the things of this world. Studies show that children as young as seven years old become confused about their gender identity.

I’m reminded of my own teen years, suffering from a debilitating illness, and trying to find answers in this world. What would have happened to me if someone hadn’t introduced me to Jesus? Now, my heart breaks over the growing number of children who are confused and are being told that they can find their identity in this world without Jesus.

My job is to share the Good News that Jesus loves them and wants to come into their life to give them a brand-new identity. I don’t discount feelings of gender dysphoria. Instead, I tell those who are hurting that anyone can become a child of God. The Creator wants to have a relationship with each and every person. The Bible tells us, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! – 1 John 3:1.

I learned the hard way that this world has nothing to offer those of us searching for our identity. But, through a relationship with Jesus Christ, we can find answers.

I have a new identity! I have been transformed. As the Bible says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1,2. Not only are we transformed on this earth, but when Jesus returns, we will be made like Him. The Bible tells us, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2

I’m so thankful that a friend decided to share the love of Christ with me. My identity is now secure. I belong to the Father. I was bought for a price, by the blood of Jesus, who lived a sinless life and died for me. I accepted that gift and now I want to share Jesus with others.