When did you become acquainted with our friend, “It?” For me, it was sometime during college. It tends to linger in our thoughts for days, months, perhaps years. Long lines of traffic are the perfect time to think about it. Other days, it may sneak up on you during family conversations around the table. Regardless of the setting, many of us experience it at some point in life—that nagging question that screams loudly in our thoughts: What’s my purpose in life? What exactly is it that will let the world know I was born to do this very thing?
For men, I think the pressure of discovering it is even greater than for women. Expectations of men providing for the family is a big deal! Early on, young men begin tossing around ideas of what they want to be when they grow up. Those thoughts lead to what should be studied in college, and then where they plan to land their first big job!
But as you know, dreams of yesteryear are many times not actualized. Other times, that ideal job is given to someone else. And over time we realize we have more questions than answers when it comes to God’s plan for us to play in society—in how we should function at home and work.
As I’m now in the 50-something category, I have experienced several surprises and “set-backs” in life—both personally and professionally—that have often left me taking a refresher course with “It” once again: “Has my purpose in life changed? Where do I to go from this point? What is it that I should do with the rest of my life?”
Recently, I read a great blog post called “Unexpected Ways to Find Your Life Purpose” by author Shannon Kaiser about this very subject. She suggests these points for purpose-seekers:
- Get more action
Rather than spending hours, days, or years wondering if you might enjoy doing this or that for your job—get out there and try it! Be creative in finding ways to explore the thing you keep thinking about.
- Drop from your head to your heart
How many times have you heard someone share how they’re now working in one particular industry, but their academic degrees are in something completely different! Many times, college students go into “the rest of their life” mentality thinking only with their head. Kaiser says: “When you lead from your heart, you are naturally more joyful and motivated to explore. By doing what you love, you will be inspired and gain insights into what brings you the most joy.”
- Break up with “the one”
When we go into jobs, or anything thinking it’s the one and only thing we can do to bring about purpose or happiness, we’re selling ourselves short. Kaiser suggests: “When you don’t feel connected to your life, you lack purpose and passion. To fix this emptiness simply add more passion. To boil it down, remember this simple equation—Passion + Daily Action = Purposeful Life
You may be thinking about it a lot these days, too. Although I have no way of knowing the answer to your life situation, I’d like to share a few things that have helped me get to the other side of these questions—not always with a definite answer, but at least with some hope that help is on the way!
I love this encouraging passage from Psalm 121:1-2 where the author, David, pens these words, “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” What an awesome declaration! David understood from his years as a young shepherd boy, fighting off wild animals from his flocks, that God—the Creator of all things in life—was his defender of evil attacks, the sustainer of life itself, and the ultimate guide to his next career as King of Israel!
We, too, can count on God in this same way! The Lord made us. He loves us. He wants only the best for us!
But if you’re like me, it often feels more like fighting for my own existence rather than feeling the care and direction of my Creator! When thoughts like this come about, the best thing is to go back to God, our Helper (as mentioned above), who will clarify things and help us get back on track. Scripture reminds us: “The mind of man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9 NASB). This is great assurance of the Lord’s presence in our day-to-day activities and goals.
God wants us to rest and relax in His unfailing ability to guide us in all we do. I have found more peace by trusting the Lord to guide my steps each day—in my decisions, my work, my relationships, as well as the direction for my future—rather than trying to figure it out on my own.