Surrendering the Quest for Life Purpose

Dec 13, 2016

Christianity God Life Purpose Inspiration
woman reading book while walking on the beach

Photo by Ben White

For most of my life, I was chasing my life purpose, with a capital P, hoping I would find it somewhere, anywhere. When it didn’t make an appearance in my hometown, I moved. When it didn’t show up in my undergraduate college, I went back for my graduate degree. When that led to one dead-end job after another, I thought surely it will surface in the self-help books I was reading along the way. I was sadly mistaken. Though they were enlightening in their own way and opened my eyes to new perspectives, as the Buddhists say, they were simply a finger pointing to the moon, but not the moon itself.

It’s been the one question I have repeatedly asked God my entire life, at times agonizingly for lack of an answer. “What is my life’s purpose?” Your typical, run-of-the-mill “why am I here?” inquiry. I must’ve asked it in at least a hundred variations. Some whispered, some written, some silently prayed, and many of the latest shouted in frustration. They were all met with a ghostly silence. So I stopped asking.

I must confess, when I hear stories of people living out their purpose, or “finding” their purpose, I am envious. I want to find mine too. Perhaps I haven’t been looking in the right places. Or could it be that it’s right under my nose?

I’ve heard it said that God has one of three answers to our prayers:

  1. Yes

  2. Not yet

  3. I have something better in mind

The one I assumed He was giving me was the second — not yet. He cannot entrust us with something we are not ready to take care of properly yet.

And then, not too long ago, God finally revealed this to me — you have made finding your purpose your idol. In the bible we find God telling the Israelites not to set up idols in their hearts and worship them for they become like “stumbling blocks before their faces” (Ezekiel 14:3). Anything can become an idol in our lives that we begin to worship above God. And in so doing, it becomes a stumbling block before our face for we begin to focus more of our attention on the thing we’re idolizing than the God we are called to serve.

My purpose had become what I breathed, ate, and slept. I was constantly thinking about it, wanting to know what it was. It had started to breed in me feelings of jealousy, anger, and enmity, all of which God calls us to cast out. I had been blind to my own idolatry.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

God already knows the desires of my heart and yours. He already knows what we need. He knew I would be obsessed with knowing my purpose even before I was born. He planted that deep desire in me, after all. Because He knew in the ardent pursuit of that desire would I then stumble upon my desperate need for Him.

We as believers will each be brought to right relationship with Him in our own unique and individual ways, and in our own time. For some, God may do it through a divorce, for others through an addiction, and still for others through a loss. The God we serve is so attentive to each of His creations that he caters His “method” individually based on who we are. He will oftentimes take the one thing we are after more than anything else, whether it’s a partner, a job, a status, or a destination — or in my case a purpose — and use that as a means to invite us into fellowship with Him. Because in my experience, no matter what it is we are after, in the end it will leave us discontent and still longing for more.

I feel God calling me to surrender my desperate desire for my capital P life purpose, and instead attend to my smaller, daily purposes — working hard at my job, spending one-on-one time in His presence, cooking a healthy meal, walking our dog, blessing our home, engaging in conversation with my husband, supporting him in pursuit of his dreams, writing, breathing deeply. These are the areas God would have me place my attention.

Should I stumble upon my bigger life purpose in the midst of all this, so be it. And if I don’t, so be it. Your will be done, God, not mine.

I still don’t know what my grand Purpose is, but I have gained a deeper desire — to know God more. And when I think about it, I can’t imagine a greater purpose than that.