The problem with finding my purpose in the roles I play and the work I do, is the way those things can drastically shift. Maybe gradually, as one season of time fades into another. Maybe unexpectedly, when the world you know takes a swift ugly turn. So that one day it is quite possible to wake up and feel that life has lost all meaning, and what in the world are you supposed to do with yourself in the time that stretches ahead?
Fortunately God’s Plans are so much larger than my circumstances. And there is this paradox that flies in the face of reason, that the more we seek for purpose in what life itself presents to us, the less likely we are to find it. Jesus put it rather cryptically: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:24) He says everything that grabs your senses and sensibilities on this earth is nowhere near big enough to fit who you really are, and isn’t going to last anyway. John boldly declared that reality, challenging the young Believers to make their lives count in ways that matter: “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions…..And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:16-17) We can let go of these changing roles and tasks (even when they are pulled away before we are quite ready), and be reassured that our true Purpose remains. The Wise King actually landed in the same place, close to three thousand years ago, in the closing lines of his journal: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Paul explains it this way: “we have not stopped praying for you….so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10). He talks about how we should go about living that out as if he were some spiritual fashion consultant. “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14) This is an everyday Purpose that suits Christ-followers of all ages, in every season of life, regardless of situation. I can slip on these qualities in the morning when I get dressed, and wear them in the everyday moments of this day, let them guide my words and choices, whatever comes. Paul spares no pity for our anxiety over jobs, or whether we feel liked and needed. He starts with our identity and worth, and leads us on from there. “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from His perspective.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
On days when I feel aimless and wondering what purpose I serve on this earth, I can look up and remember the overall Plan…that I am created to be God’s image-bearer, and that is the most important thing I will ever do. Jesus has even given me a living example of what that looks like. If I go into this day wearing the character qualities He gives me, to face the particular circumstances of my life, it is enough.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)