Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). The baby’s father, however, called him Benjamin (which means “son of my right hand”).
Labels that Hurt
In life, we encounter many hurtful words with the potential to erode our identity. Words like “You’re so stupid!” or “Who do you think you are?” or “You’ll never amount to anything!” are sadly common, and when spoken by a parent to a child, or an authority figure like a teacher to a student, the damage to the young person’s heart can be immense.
What we are called matters a lot. Words uttered like, “My Love” by a husband to his wife show care and affection. Whereas, words like, “You’re so stupid!” or “You good for nothing!” absolutely shatters the heart.
If we are not careful, these false labels or false names of ourselves sting beyond the moment of impact. Some of us carry our false names for years and years. When triggered, they cause us to erupt in anger or shame. When we find our false names being stirred up (even unintentionally), the best thing to do is for us to go to God and ask Him for His truth about us. He is, after all, our Father, the One who made us and knows us completely.
When A Name Must be Changed
In the Bible, we see the dramatic naming of Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob. Genesis 35 recounts Rachel dying from a difficult childbirth. With her last breath, she names her child “Ben-oni,” which means “son of my sorrow.” Now imagine living your whole life as the son who brings sorrow? Wouldn’t you be reminded that “I am the cause of my mother’s death”? Wouldn’t that replay guilt or pain over and over again every time your siblings or friends or father say your name?
Thankfully, the baby’s father, Jacob, intervened and changed his son’s name to Benjamin—”son of my right hand.” This new name—this true name—was one of blessing; an empowerment for the boy, which nullified his mother’s pronouncement.
I see in this instance a picture of our Heavenly Father toward us. When we are given a painful label or a false label (even if it carries a sliver of truth)—whether by a parent or by society— our Father in Heaven can intervene and change that painful name to one that He wants to bless us with. He can nullify the death arrow and empower us with His identity for us. What we need to do is to go to Him and ask for His true name for us.
Embrace How Heaven Sees Us
When we know who we are, how God made us to be, and how God looks at us—it is so much easier to step into a future of God’s purposes for us. This is why it’s important to bring our false names and labels to God and ask Him for His truth. We can honestly ask Him, “Lord, is it true that I am stupid? That I am worth nothing? That I bring sorrow? What is Your truth, God?”
When we are wounded from our fights, let’s bring the enemy’s accusations before the throne and ask our Father for our true names. We have a God who delights in removing shame from off our names; a God who can change a “son of sorrow” label on us to “a son of my right hand (strength).” As a Father who made man in His image, He can bestow upon us Heaven’s perspective—names of truth upon His sons and daughters.
Janina Marie Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine, a teacher of world literature, and a student of the Bible. She enjoys reflecting on life’s curve balls and plateaus. She resides in the Philippines, the country known for people who smile a lot.