"I am fearfully and wonderfully made". If you’ve spent any time in Christian circles, I’m sure you will have heard this beautiful line from Psalm 139 preached, prayed and praised. It reminds us of who, and more importantly, whose we are. It states that our identity is secure in Christ, the God who is love, a perfect love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18). And yet, if this is the case, why are so many of us afraid?
People are searching for who they are. We look to our peers, to social media, to Hollywood, to find out who we should be. But God knows our real identity
From Brexit blunders to Trump tweets, it is no secret that our society at large finds itself in a time of uncertainty and insecurity. But with the added dimension of social media and the ongoing pressure to perform faced by young people today, the anxiety epidemic amongst the younger demographics is at an all-time high. Take a simple scroll through social media and you’ll see countless young people ‘living their best lives’. And yet, behind the #nofilter ‘authenticity’ of their news feeds, Anxiety UK suggests as many as one in six young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives.
“I feel like a lot of [our] anxiety is caused by social media,” agrees Jordan Bicknall, one of the many young people involved in Hillsong London’s youth and young adults community. “Because it’s all filters. It’s all highlights. I know from experience, you think that this life people portray on social media – portrayed to you – is real. But it’s not.”
The desire for something ‘real’ is something Hillsong Youth and many great Christian organisations are seeking to create, bringing groups of young people together and chatting about the things that aren’t always shared online. This authenticity flows from the leaders, who make clear that just because they're older, doesn’t mean they have it all together: “Fear affects us all,” Dan Watson, Youth and Young Adults pastor at Hillsong UK explains in new mag-book Fearfully Made, “For me, the fear of rejection in my life was huge.”
Check out Fearfully Made, published by SPCK
Creating safe environments for young people to be themselves is essential, there being countless stories of people joining youth groups long before they ever met the person of Christ. That was certainly true for Jordan, who explained his incremental journey of faith: “It wasn’t an instant thing. It took time. I started to come to church a bit and build relationships with people. That’s what I love about the Church. I love the statement that says, ‘You can belong before you believe.’” At a time in which Power The Fight claims that knife crime is at the highest level on record and the victims of these crimes are getting younger, the ability of the Church to create these safe environments that are open to all cannot be undermined.
Not only does the Church at large have a great opportunity in this age of anxiety to create places for young people to be real, it also creates environments for people to discover their real identities, identities that can only be found in Jesus. “Our society has an identity issue,” Dan explains. “People are searching for who they are. We look to our peers, to social media, to Hollywood, to find out who we should be. But God knows our real identity.”
Christians today have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to those amid anxiety and identity crises, culturally or individually, and offer the hope that we have in Jesus. But first we need to not be afraid to share. Perhaps it is time for us all to press into the words of Psalm 139 afresh, allowing God to strengthen this identity in us so we can stand out and stand up for our faith knowing we mustn’t ‘let our hearts be troubled’ and we mustn’t be ‘be afraid’ (John 14).
Elizabeth Neep is Commissioning Editor and Publicist at SPCK Publishing, and the Commissioning Editor of FEARFULLY MADE (available 21st February 2019). She writes fiction and paints in her spare time.