I want to share something honest. There have been times in my life that I have felt completely without purpose. In school, in my job, and even in ministry. In my head, I know that I am created and loved by the God of the universe. I know that He has a plan for my life. I can quote the scriptures and explain away all the reasons that I could be feeling so disconnected from a reason for being where I’m at doing what I’m doing. But all the automatic answers in the world don’t change what’s on my heart: I’ve lost sight of my purpose.
At the times that I’ve lost purpose, I’ve tried to just keep on working through it until I’m busy enough to forget that feeling of uneasiness. I’ve tried to tell myself that I should feel the same purpose and excitement as the people around me who are doing similar work. The truth is though, in the end, you cannot keep going without purpose without doing some damage to your heart and selling yourself short. God did not intend for us to live without purpose. In fact, He tells us over and over again that we have so much more purpose than we can even see! I don’t just want to throw some Sunday school answers at you and tell you that you should feel purpose just because you should. I finally came to a point where I came to the Lord in desperation and said “God, I need to understand my purpose here or I need to leave where I’m at and do something else.” It was a huge break from my usual pattern of just continuing through the motions until things felt okay again, but in my desperation, God was able to bring me exactly where I needed to be.
I did some research on purpose and saw that God’s purpose is consistently related to what He’s doing in the world to bring redemption. The believer’s part in the people of God is not an accident or random phenomenon, but part of the divine purpose from the beginning of time (Romans 8:28-29). That means that the time and place that He has you is not random or that it only matters in this moment, but that there is a plan for your life that is a part of God’s plan to bring every heart back to Him throughout time and place. Where you are, you are called to bring the goodness of God and to show others who He is. No matter where you are, you have purpose that serves the story that God has been telling through all of time. You have a part in bringing people the life and hope of Jesus. That’s exciting! So, believers have purpose in every circumstance. What about your current circumstance? If purpose for Christians exists anywhere and everywhere, how do you know where you should be? Why not just pack up and move to some beautiful island and work somewhere you’ll make lots of money? This definitely did not answer all of my questions on purpose, so I dove deeper.
The most helpful for me in understanding my purpose where I am was to go through the Bible and find scriptures that instruct believers on how to live that made my heart come alive. For me, I connected the most with verses about things like serving the poor and speaking up for the oppressed. After writing down the verse references, I went through the passages and wrote what the purpose in each one was. For example,1 John 3:17-18 says “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” From here I get that there is purpose in loving in truth and in action and in bearing witness and acting to bring relief to the suffering of others. By the time I was finished, I had almost 40 verses, all with things I felt gave me life and served God by bringing the Kingdom to earth, aka, purpose.
After I did this, I went through some verses in the Bible where purpose is more directly laid out (Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 28:18-20, Philippians 3:8-11, John 15:1-11, and 1 Peter 2:4-5). Once again, I wrote out what purpose was described in each verse in my own words. After that, I compared the two lists and looked at how they worked together to glorify God. If you’re trying to understand your purpose, I encourage you to try this for yourself, starting the process by asking God to highlight areas of purpose that He has placed on your heart.
Now, here comes the make or break part. After I had an idea of what Biblical purpose looks like for me with God’s commands and the passions and talents God has given me, I compared it to where I was at. In other words, where in my life was I getting the opportunity to live out each of those purposes? It was really encouraging to see the ways in which I had actually been living out some of the purpose that I had found. There were other areas where the current way my life was lined up fell short of walking out some of the purposes I had written down. The good news is that, now that I know how I want to live out purpose, I can make changes to make the ways that I feel purpose part of my regular life! Maybe for you that means minor changes like volunteering at a local food pantry or spending a few hours each week evangelizing in the park. Maybe you’ll come to the revelation that you need major change like a move or a career shift. Always seek the Lord and ask for wisdom and ideas about how you can be living out the purpose He has created you for.
I’ll break the process down into some simple steps here:
- Ask God to speak to you about your purpose and guide you in this process
- Look for verses that make your heart come alive, and write down the verse references. If there’s an area you know you have a passion for like prayer or caring for children, you can always search the internet for verses on those topics. (Make sure you look at the surrounding verses and read the passage in context as well).
- Read over the verse and write down the purpose you find in the passage.
- Read over verses that speak specifically on purpose (Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 28:18-20, Philippians 3:8-11, John 15:1-11, 1 Peter 2:4-5, and others you may have come across)
- Write down the purpose you feel that God is communicating in these passages
- Compare the purpose you’ve written down to your life. Where do you feel that you’re getting to live out these purposes? Is there anything you think is missing?
- Application! If there are areas you feel like you aren’t getting the opportunity to live out the purposes you’ve found, ask God how you can incorporate them into your life!
I will put a disclaimer to say that maybe to understand your purpose in your heart of hearts, you just need to ask the Lord for revelation of purpose, and He’ll speak to you really clearly about what He has for you. If that’s the case, that’s so good! For me, the revelation of purpose came as a process because I think the Lord knew that was the best way for me personally to really learn and understand the concept and how it applies to me. I don’t want to claim that this is the ultimate guide to purpose or anything like that at all, but it was so helpful to me in a time when I was feeling pretty lost. So, if it helps anyone else understand that who you are and what you do in this world matters and that you are the hands and feet of Jesus in places and ways that no one else is, then I’m so happy to share what the Lord was so kind in sharing with me.
I also want to say that your sense of purpose does not change your worth. God’s love does not rely on your ability to do as many things as you possibly can to live purposefully. He loves you because He loves YOU. To have purpose is to be able to partner with God in bringing His love and Truth to earth. It’s not about striving or about proving your worth, but about living out your identity as a reflection of Jesus out of the overflow of your own relationship with him. So, if you’re feeling a little lost or like you’re not sure what your purpose is, I encourage you to go deep with the Lord into what it looks like to live your life with the fullness and freedom of the purpose He’s created you for.