Stop Trying • Cary Schmidt

How to Receive – Not Achieve – Your Real Identity

January 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-1998-9

From looking outwardly to please others to looking inwardly to define ourselves, we constantly try to cultivate or construct our identities. But guided by the whims of culture or the faulty advice of tradition, we often find identity collapses when life falls apart or change threatens that fragile structure. Is it possible to discover an identity bolstered with unassailable confidence, strengthened for the challenges of life rather than destroyed by them, and free from the whims of cultural pressure? Yes! It is an identity received, not achieved – an identity established in the gospel.

In Stop Trying, Cary Schmidt’s storytelling creates compelling scenes in which you’ll see yourself and your self. You’ll understand why defining your identity outside of Jesus Christ is ultimately fragile, hollow, and unsatisfying. And you’ll discover that your truest and most fulfilling identity is a byproduct of a relationship that changes everything.


Cary Schmidt serves as the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Newington, CT. He and his wife Dana have been blessed with three children, three grandchildren, and have enjoyed thirty years of marriage and ministry together. Cary’s passion is to love God, love his family and church family, develop spiritual leaders, and point people to Jesus Christ – through teaching, preaching, and writing. He has authored more than a dozen books and hosts the Leading in the Gospel podcast. You can connect with Cary at 

Raw, honest, and extremely helpful. Every Christian needs to come to terms with what Cary came to terms with; he has the scars and testimony and shares with us here. This is life-altering stuff in the most positive way.

– Ron Edmondson
Pastor, author, consultant at


Have you ever lost your sense of self or faced a time when life made you wonder who you are? Why you are? How many times have you asked yourself, Who am I, really? Such experiences (on a soul level) are disruptive and alarming to our inner worlds – like a spiritual and emotional concussion.

What can we do when we don’t know who we are? Do we sink into despair? Scramble to pull ourselves together and try harder? Do we start over, again and again hoping to magically “get it right” or “find ourselves”? It’s confusing and disorienting to face circumstances that leave us asking, “Who am I now? Who am I supposed to be?”

Ten years ago, I thought I had solid answers to these identity questions, established through hard work over many years. Then, what I thought was solid ground dissolved from under my feet. Circumstances unfolded that evaporated my reference points in life, which left me feeling disoriented and grasping for something to hold onto.

This deep loss of self (identity) is psychological, emotional, and spiritual – meaning it impacts our minds, our feelings, and the deepest part of our hearts in complex ways that are intricately interwoven. It triggers a confusing, frightening, spiritual free fall, like being plunged into the deepest part of a murky lake, swimming for the surface, but not being sure which way was up.

Ideally, life goes like this: We work hard in school, graduate, and pursue our dreams. We are told, “You can be whoever you want to be!” Through hard work over several years, we try diligently to build a sense of self – an identity. Then, subconsciously, we tie our hearts to the things we achieve. We come to believe these things define us and give us security and meaning. We draw value and happiness from them. In ways we don’t consciously perceive or intend, they begin to own us.

Even when the life work is harder than we expect, we press forward, anticipating that there’s a payoff. Someday, somehow this is going to fulfill and secure me

But underneath all the trying, we subconsciously anchor our sense of self to weak things – things that are fragile, losable, and breakable. Knowing we are tied to things that can come undone, we live in subtle fear, trying and hoping to secure our selves and avoid deep loss. We bury our fear, tuck our fragility neatly out of sight and mind, and try to secure the self we are constructing. But we know at our core, life is inherently dangerous and can suddenly destabilize and toss us into deep loss.

When identity loss actually unfolds, it is no fun. Losing our fragile selves is painful and emotional. In our desperation for answers and hope, we tend to replace the old “house of cards” with a new one, equally flawed. Scrambling for stability, we look for new places to root our hearts – a new relationship, a new job, a new social media profile, a new people group. We move from one weak place to another. We try on new selves, and each new identity will eventually fail us like the last one. 

The cycle repeats itself, unless we break it. But how? Well, that’s where God steps in and walks with us into deep loss. He’s breaking us free from a broken cycle. 


Understanding who we are and whose we are is fundamental to following Jesus on mission in this world. Too many of us walk around trying to be someone we are not, to prove our worth to people whose admiration can’t fill our hearts in ways only Jesus can. This is why Cary Schmidt’s work is a welcome, refreshing respite for weary Christians tired of proving themselves, striving for illusory approval. Schmidt points us to the warm embrace of our heavenly Father and the empowering and liberating vision of what it means to find our identity in the One who made us.

– Daniel Darling
Senior VP of NRB; pastor and author of several books, including The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, and A Way With Words

What if we stopped trying so hard to please others? What if we discovered the way to find the joy and peace that comes from discovering our identity in Christ? In Stop Trying, Cary Schmidt does a masterful job of showing the transformation of the followers of Jesus so we might understand the path of our transformation as well.

– Thom S. Rainer
Founder and CEO, Church Answers; author of Where Have All the Church Members Gone?

Stop Trying answers some of the most pressing identity questions of our time with the clarity of the gospel. It will invite you to embrace your gospel identity and experience the peace that comes from living out who you were created to be in everyday, practical ways. I absolutely agree with this book!

– Scott Tewell
Pastor of Rosedale Baptist Church, Rosedale, MD