One of my oft repeated prayers is, “Lord, show me my purpose.” How can I encourage people and help them on their faith journey? I’d guess most folks want to make a difference in the world.
But what does it mean to fulfill my purpose? What components create a well-lived life?
We see the hashtag on Instagram, living my best life. We know social media is a highlight reel of the shiny parts of one’s life, but it can create in us a feeling of insecurity because our life isn’t that pretty.
You may feel impossibly distant from your best life. Your unfortunate circumstances, horrific losses and bad decisions cause you to distance yourself from hope.
Is it realistic to think you’ve been put here for specific purposes?
I want to encourage you. The awful things that have happened may be the most important part of your story. They’ve helped define who you are today. You’re still here; your life is crucial to the people around you. The darkest parts of your tapestry can enhance your calling. The hard things prepared you to bring hope to others and glorify God.
I’m compassionate towards single mothers because I was one. I hurt for parents of disabled children because I am one. One of the hardest things in my life has been learning to love and care for a daughter who has never spoken to me; who’s kept me wondering and praying for 40 years. Having Dawn restricted my involvement with others. Because of her odd and impulsive behavior, she couldn’t always engage in typical family outings and activities. Also, she has changed me for good.
I know people who’ve had addiction problems and have gone on to be trained counselors.
I know women who’ve had abortions who sit and cry with others who’ve suffered the same pain and loss.
We don’t want hardships. No one wants to suffer. But when things happen out of our control, or because of choices, our lives are altered and our story reframed. God is love and rich in compassion, mercy and grace. He uses every bit of it for our good and His glory, if we allow Him.
We first learn about the Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, when he went by the name Saul. He was a Jewish leader who charged his followers to kill Christians. Shortly prior to his sudden dramatic conversion to Jesus Christ, he participated in the stoning death of Stephen, a passionate Christian. (Read this beautiful moving account in Acts 6:8-7:60.)
Paul was transformed from a persecutor to one persecuted.
Before the Roman Emperor Nero would chop off his head, Paul’s greatest concern was for his loved ones. He reminds church leaders to remember what they learned, stay focused on Jesus and complete the callings God gave them.
Paul writes a rich, moving letter to his son in the faith, Timothy.
You must stay focused, and be alert at all times. Tolerate suffering. Accomplish the good work of an evangelist, and complete the ministry to which you have been called.2 Timothy 4:5
Paul’s words shower love and exhortation to the ones who’d carry out his ministry after he was gone.
“I am already being poured out, and the last drops of this drink offering are all that remain; it’s almost time for me to leave. I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing.2 Timothy 4:6-7
In Paul’s letters we don’t hear plans for his comfy retirement; his best life. Early Christians were sold out to the gospel of Jesus. It was all or nothing. Their path of surrender trumped earthly goods and blessings.
To enjoy a happy life with people we love is our desire. To work hard and make a good living is our plan. But what if all our goals don’t pan out? Will failures hinder our purpose?
David, who was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), wrote most of the Psalms. We love to capture the happy spiritual quotes and make a splash on Instagram. But, if you read through the book of Psalms you’ll find most of David’s prose to be full of despair. What we learn from David is that God is our Help in times of need.
David was plagued by his own sin and humbled by his enemies. He was married multiple times, his children were at war with each other, and he murdered a man in order to steal his wife. His one perpetual strength was his intimacy with God.
In today’s best life framework was David’s life a success?
Could it be the unfortunate and unwanted life experiences were necessary to his story? David wouldn’t have known the closeness to God without the pain.
For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.Ephesians 2:10
We want so badly to get through life unscathed. It doesn’t often happen that way, so what now? How can we make the most of what we’re stuck with?
It occurs to me that the heroes of our faith accomplished their purposes not only in spite of their constrictions, but because of them. God wrote their story, not their best life but a life of purpose and meaning. Their constrictions and imperfections were the framework for what they accomplished.
I don’t have the wherewithal to create a best life scenario for myself. I could try. I can write my dreams and create goals each year. But a meaningful life is even more than that. God is in charge of my life as I pursue Him and surrender. My best life is the one I have today with its sorrow, disappointments and imperfections; things that have refined me.
What about you? Are you living out God’s plan? Your purpose could be preaching the gospel to huge rooms of people. More likely it looks something like loving little kids at preschool, growing in oneness with your mate, or showing hospitality to neighbors. Your purpose doesn’t need to appear on social media to be valid. Your life, even with its foibles, is crucial in God’s overall plan. If we’d only learn to love people around us that would be purpose enough.
It is said of David in Acts 13:36 that he served God’s purpose in his generation.
At the end of my life, I’d like that to be said of me.