A few weeks ago I met a young woman who, without knowing it, was instrumental in redefining my perception of purpose.
A friend invited me to share my story with a small group of mom’s with young children who meet at her church. We discussed numerous things. There was one young woman who remained mostly silent through the discussion.
At the end of the morning, however, she opened up and shared something that was bothering her. She said she feels she is without purpose. She sees people all around her with purpose in their lives and she just can’t find hers.
I know nothing about her other than she has a young son and attends a group for moms with young kids, but I felt heartbroken for her and almost desperate to try to reassure her that her life does have a purpose. That she shouldn’t compare herself to others and think they have a more important purpose in life just because their lives look different than hers.
I tried to convey to her in a few short minutes that God delights in her and has a purpose for her as a mother and a woman. I felt that at best, my words were little more than a band aid to cover the lie that this young woman has come to believe.
I’ve thought a lot about her since and her bravery in sharing her innermost thoughts with us that day. I believe we all struggle to figure out the purpose for our lives. I failed to really express the purpose God has for us to this young woman. At the time, I didn’t realize that this incident was going to shape my thoughts about purpose in my own life.
I’m not a theologian, so don’t take what I’m about to say as the definitive Christian answer to what our purpose is in life. However, I do think it’s at the center of how we should understand our purpose and practically live it out day by day.
I believe we all share a similar basic purpose – to become more like Jesus. The bible teaches that God created us in His image to be His image bearers here on earth. To reflect His image to the world he created. He also calls us to give glory and praise back to Him. Jesus is the perfect model to show us how to do that.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:27
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you so, do all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. – John 13:13-15
If our primary purpose is to reflect God’s image by becoming more like Jesus, it strips away circumstances, employment status, income differences, social status, and any other measure we use to compare ourselves with others.
What I started to understand was how much I needed to process this truth for myself. I have been tying my purpose to my own idea of ‘usefulness’, which I have always tied to action.
As failing health has limited me to little more than sitting in a chair much of the last few weeks, I’ve lost sight of my purpose. Too often I’ve allowed self-pity to replace joy and peace. I’ve drifted into a mindset of getting through to the end of each day instead of being thankful for the day I’ve been given. I’ve equated my ability to ‘do’ and the way I feel to my value and God’s faithfulness.
This is so wrong headed.
The paraplegic, the elderly in the nursing home, the lawyer, the high school student, the sick, the stay at home mom, the pastor… all have a common fundamental purpose.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2
If we keep our focus on becoming ever more like Him, we can know with certainty what our basic purpose is each day. He will call us to other things as well, but our lives and circumstances are overlying layers to this primary fundamental truth.
N.T. Wright put it like this in an interview with Hello Christian Magazine:
“To be a real genuine being is to reflect God’s love and care to the world and to reflect the praises of the world back to God.”
Jesus’ life was exactly that.
My prayer is that we can see it more clearly and have confidence in the purpose He has given us!