And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose~ Romans 8:28 NASB
This week I learned that the word purpose is one of the most loaded words in the English language. It came to light following a conversation with one of our kids. The exchange started innocently enough when I vetoed chocolate cake after dinner. I defended my use of veto power by patiently explaining that candy and cookies at church, followed by ice cream at lunch and peanut butter cups for an afternoon snack, was more than enough nutritionally deficient “food” for any one person in a single day.
The child was clearly not persuaded by my insight so I launched into a discourse concerning the long-term health risks of consuming excessive sugar. I was on a roll so I went on to expound (rather eloquently I thought) on the hazards of developing bad habits early in life and the differences between an empty calorie and a healthy calorie. I was feeling pretty smug about my communication skills until I noted the blank expression in her eyes and realized that I was not having the impact I had hoped for.
The death spiral of doubt came the next morning while I was reading a devotional of all things. The author warned against allowing anything to pull you away from the purpose that God has for your life. Rather than being encouraged to persevere in my God given purpose I was suddenly filled with uncertainty and doubt.
My mind immediately traveled back to the conversation I’d had the night before with my child. It got me thinking about purpose and whether or not I somehow missed mine.
I cannot explain why that particular situation struck me with what can only be described as an existential crisis of confidence. It could be that recent changes in my life have rocked my confidence. Some would say it was the devil. It’s also possible that I am simply an over-privileged first-world Christian with too much time on my hands to ponder such things.
Once I got my emotions in check I did a search of the Scriptures looking for some wisdom. I think I was hoping to find an example of a man or woman seeking their purpose. To my surprise, I could not find a single example. I concluded that there are only three possible explanations for this:
We are the first generation of humans to be concerned with our purpose.
Prior generations had the subject of purpose all figured out and did not feel the need to ask.
They understood some truths we have forgotten.
The first two possibilities are highly unlikely. People are people. The fundamentals of what make us human do not change. And people everywhere, in every time, and in every place have cared a great deal about living lives that are both meaningful and significant. We are not the first generation to ponder our purpose in life. Nor will we be the last.
I do believe that the men and women of the past may have understood a significant truth that I briefly forgot in the midst of my angst the other day. They understood that God’s purpose for each individual is less about doing and more about being.
Like most folks, I tend to think of purpose in terms of things that I do. For most people, finding purpose tends to all about getting a degree, doing a job, making money, starting a ministry, raising a family. While it’s true that God wants people to be industrious and hardworking (2nd Thessalonians 3:10). I’m discovering that God is far more concerned with whom we are becoming rather than what we are achieving. If a man or woman is in the process of becoming holy, righteous, and fully submitted to God, the details of the doing tend take care of themselves.
According to Scripture, people fulfill their purpose in the mundane things of life as much, if not more so, than in the things we see as big. God cares little about our net worth, how many degrees we have earned, the awards and honors that adorn our office walls, or even how many people we preach to every week. However, He is keenly interested in how we use our money, do our jobs, use our words, raise our families, treat our spouses, who we gossiped about and how forgiving we are.
We find our purpose in this life when we take whatever it is we are doing, no matter how mundane and seemingly insignificant and commit to doing it in a way that reflects the goodness and glory of God to the world around us.