Finding Your Life Purpose
It’s that question that keeps us up at night, that makes us anxious and sad when we don’t get what we think we need: “What is my life purpose? Why did God create me? What am I supposed to be doing here?”
It can turn into an existential crisis if we don’t tie down exactly what our purpose on earth is. This question brings stress to many young people who are looking for direction in life. Even older people question their life purpose, asking what they have achieved and contributed to the world. Were you designed for a greater mission?
Well, yes, in a way. Not necessarily for a “greater” life purpose—you could already be reflecting God’s plans for you, and you just haven’t realized it. But God does have intentions for you, a reason he created you—God knows what your life purpose is.
Will he just come out and tell me what that is already?!
Number one: God has created all of us—and you specifically—to praise and worship him, and to live in service of the God we love. This is the most important function of any Christ follower and one that we should be working at every single day. God wants us to love him and worship him, giving thanks for all the good that he has done in our lives (even the very small things!) and doing everything we can to bring his love to others in service of him.
Beyond loving God, there is no straight road to determine exactly what your life purpose in the Kingdom is, but we can use some guidelines to try to figure it out.
The wonderful book TouchPoints for New Believers lays out what the Bible says about finding your life purpose:
God not only knew all about you before you were born but wanted you to be born, and he has a plan for your life. . . .
The Bible talks about God’s having both a general plan and a specific plan for your life. He wants you to follow a certain path toward his desired purpose for you, but he also cares about the details along the way. In both the big and the small picture, God shows his love and care. . . .
God’s plan for your life is not an unthinking, automated script that you must follow. It is a journey with various important destinations and appointments, but also a great deal of freedom as to the pace and scope of the travel. God’s plan for you will always have a sense of mystery, but you can be certain that he will guide you as long as you rely on his leading.
Jeremiah 29:11: “I know the plans I have for you,” say the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Sometimes you might be tempted to question God’s will for your life, thinking he has made a mistake. Ultimately, what looks like a mistake to you now will be God’s means to bring about something fulfilling and wonderful. . . .
God may call you to do a certain job or to accomplish a very specific task or ministry. When that happens, he will make sure you know what it is—you will feel a very strong sense of leading from him. It’s up to you to respond and walk through the door of opportunity he opens.
Of course, the fact that you follow Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being called to a specific job or ministry. If you sense God leading you to a specific role, great—run with it! If you don’t get that sense from God, perhaps your life purpose is simply to obey God wherever you are right now.
And things can change, too. Perhaps you’re not being called to a ministry right now, but in the future, once God has prepared you, you may be called into a more specific life purpose. It may be expected, or it may come straight out of left field, but you’ll know it when it appears.
Think about your “holy discontent”—the thing that touches your heart so much that you just have to help. Perhaps it’s a community’s lack of access to water, education, or Bibles that riles you. Perhaps you want to see the kids in your own neighborhood get a new youth center. Does something need cleaning up? Or do you want to encourage hospital patients? Any one of these things could be part of your life purpose. Think about what moves you and how you might be able to make a difference. If you’re doing it for the glory of God and to demonstrate the love of Christ to others, then you’re on the right track.
What are you passionate about? What is the subject that you could talk about for hours? Is it art? Music? Sports? Are you passionate about economics, health, or science? Do you love to help others find faith in Jesus? Think about how you can connect your passion to your work for God. For example, if you’re a musician and you love to help others find faith, perhaps explore ways in which you can provide music for your church’s evangelism efforts.
Very often we can find the greatest joy in our work for God by marrying our passions with our skills.
Have you thought about your spiritual gifts? Have you discovered what your gifts are? That’s a great place to start when thinking about your life purpose. God gave you those gifts so you might further the Kingdom on earth and honor him. What can you do to make a difference in your local area, using your own unique God-given spiritual gifts? Do you already use them as part of your work? Or do you flex those muscles in ministry? If you don’t, find a way in which you can use them—you’ll find such great joy in doing what God intended for you.
Don’t forget, your life purpose for the Kingdom may be different from your career, so look for other ways in which you are able to glorify God. Volunteer somewhere, organize a charitable event, ask how you can help around your church. Start with an idea of what you’re passionate about and what your spiritual gifts are—they will help guide you in discovering your purpose.
Speak with your “spiritual counselors”—your friends in small group, your mentors, and church leaders. You may be surprised to find that they have already identified areas in which you would thrive and really boost efforts for the Kingdom.
How will you know when you have found your life purpose? That’s simple: You will find great joy in doing it. It will be the task or event that makes you happy, even if it really tires you out! It’s the thing that surprises you with energy and enthusiasm every time you do it. Keep an eye on the tasks that bring you the most joy and focus on those. If something doesn’t thrill you and it’s just draining, think about finding something that does bring you joy. Take notice of patterns in energy and weariness that will suggest where you should be concentrating your efforts.
Finally, let’s get some perspective on how much we should be worried about what we’re doing, versus who we are in God. In her six-week Bible study Made To Belong, the wonderful author Rachel Anne Ridge sets out beautifully how we are to keep our eyes on God and not on ourselves:
God is a brilliant multitasker. At any given time, His purposes are always at work in your life, and they unfold in two distinct ways:
God’s purpose for every person. This has to do with who you are: your character, your spiritual life, and your connectedness to others. It is all about your heart.
God’s unique, overarching purpose for you in the ways your experiences, your personality, your gifts, and your unique wiring work together. This has to do with what you do: you could say it’s all about your hands.
Now, it’s tempting to leapfrog over number one (who you are) and go straight to number two (what you do), but you might miss something big if you do. The fact of the matter is, who you are is far more important to God than what you do. As far as He is concerned, no grand purpose in the world can ever replace a heart that wants to know and love Him, and to that end He will always be working, through every circumstance, to help you find Him and experience His love. Simply put, God is working in you, so that He can work through you.
Even if you don’t know what the “through you” part is going to look like, it’s exciting to know that the “in you” part is already under way! As a person placed on this planet, you are loved beyond measure and treasured more than you can imagine. God is filling you with His character and grace, His mercy and wisdom, and His life and peace. He is empowering you to take on bold new dreams and to dare to believe that He has something more for you than a life filled with tasks and activities. His current work within your heart reveals that God is cooking up something good! He has a vision and a purpose for your life—not just for the future, but even for today.
God’s purpose for your life is not an assignment to complete, but an invitation to participate. (emphasis added)
So here you see that God doesn’t care only about what you do to help in furthering the Kingdom on earth; he is far more interested in the person that you are, and how that person is displaying the love of Christ to others and bringing glory to him.
Bear that in mind as you journey to find your life purpose and always remember that to praise and glorify God on earth is the whole and only purpose we need.
Made to Belong by Rachel Anne Ridge and Live Event Management, Inc. Join Rachel Anne Ridge in Made to Belong, a six-week journey to discovering and pursuing your unique calling. In this study of Habakkuk (an Old Testament figure who looked to God for direction and clarity about his biggest purpose), you’ll dig deep, try new things, and step out of your comfort zones as you move into an exciting and fulfilling future.
TouchPoints for New Believers by Ronald A. Beers and Amy E. Mason. An excellent resource for anyone new to the faith, or those looking for concise answers for those exploring faith. This book offers answers to major questions from new believers in Christ and supports it all with Scripture.