For more years than I care to admit, I have struggled with figuring out how to live out God’s purpose in my life. I can remember living in Guatemala and on the morning I took this photo, hearing God say, “Focus on the splendor around you and rejoice in where you are.” But where I was was smack dab in the middle of a chaotic adoption that made absolutely no sense. The process was messed up and always seemed to zig when I needed it to zag. I was there to make things happen – relying on my own strength and being unbelievably frustrated in the process.
He wanted me to trust Him then and asks me to trust Him now. To remember Psalm 16:11:
And here I am, in the midst of another trial asking myself that popular saying from several years ago – WWJD? How would Jesus respond if he had a chronic illness? My human nature thought “He doesn’t know what it feels like to have this desire to serve but a physical inability to do so.” It didn’t take but a few seconds for the Holy Spirit to remind me of how Jesus responded to his own suffering on the day of his death. He endured it because he knew his death would have a much greater, eternal impact.
His suffering wasn’t easy and when we are stuck in despair over a loss in our own lives, I think it’s important to remember that he felt every stinging gash of the whip, the thorns being pressed into his skull, the ridicule and mocking, and the betrayal of those closest to him. He didn’t walk to the cross with his head held high singing Kumbaya. His body was in pain having been beaten to within an inch of his life. He slumped under the weight of the cross – so much so that someone else was made to carry it for him. There wasn’t a smile on his face as he was nailed to the cross. He cried out when it was too much to bear. He asked the question we ask when going through difficult times – God… why have you forsaken me?
That gave me hope. Because let’s be honest, when we’re faced with a life altering situation, it’s very hard to see the good in it. It’s hard to trust in a God that allows such suffering to happen. And when your mind is overwhelmed with grief and anger, the last thing on your mind is “God, how may I serve you today?” But God must be your first thought. If you look inward, all you’ll feel is the pain. But if you look to Him and believe, and I mean truly believe, that He’s got you covered you will feel His joy.
As I read through The Purpose Driven Life and put it into the context of Jesus’ life and death on his earth, I found I had my answers to what my purpose is and how to live it out.
GO TO GOD FIRST
I don’t know if it’s that we forget that He is there to handle all the stuff, big or small, or if it’s that we don’t want to bother Him with what we think of as minutia. But no matter what it is we’re struggling with, He is waiting for us to ask Him for help.
Jesus went to God over and over again. He prayed alone, with friends. and He used the strength God gave Him to persevere through the pain.
LET OTHERS IN
In the last moments of his life, Jesus relied on someone else to carry His cross for Him… to carry His burden that had been literally placed on His shoulders. Our perfect Jesus, son of God, needed help and so do we. We are not meant to suffer in silence or to go it alone. We are meant to share in each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Go to Him first but then let others in so they may be in prayer for you.
There is nothing as powerful as coming together in the name of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing as soothing as knowing you have others who support and love you.
I used to think I had to suffer in silence. It’s the way I grew up with messages like “Melissa, be quiet you have nothing worthwhile to say.” or “You are worthless and better off being ignored.” While those specific words were never spoken directly to me, the nuance was there through actions.
So when it came time to deal with difficulties in my own life, I often suffered alone. It was easier to carry the weight on my own shoulders than it was to trust in the hurtful humans closest to me. How could I possibly trust God when I had been let down so many times before?
The more I read, and the more I learned about who God really is, the more I was able to let go and let Him take over. And once I saw how miraculously He handled my worries, fears, and problems, the easier it became to go to Him first.
I also learned that it was okay to cry out and let God hear the pain and anguish I was feeling. He already knew anyway, but saying it out loud released the hold it had on me. And until I worked through all of these things, I wasn’t able to see my purpose or live it out.
YOU’LL NEVER BE PERFECT, SO JUST KEEP GOING
I’m a perfectionist by nature. It goes back to my desire to feel needed and worthwhile. Maybe if I got this just right, they’d love me. The funny thing is, no matter how much I accomplished in life, my family never saw me for who I am. When I came to the realization that all the amazing people in the Bible were just as human as I am, it was like God lifted this huge weight off my shoulders. It felt so freeing to know that He’d use me despite my flaws. He’d give me 77 times 7 chances to get it right. I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone else, I just needed to live my life for Him and He always waited patiently for me, with love and tender mercies.
RUMINATE ON HIS WORD
You can’t know Him or His mighty power; you can’t truly understand His love unless you’re in His word. I used to have such a hard time reading and understanding the Bible. I was reading it like a book, rushing through it just to say I did it. But that isn’t how you get to know God. You get to know Him by reading each sentence like it has a message just for you. Pick it apart and meditate on it. He always has something to tell you through those passages.
Use Bible study guides such as SOAP or Lectio Divina to help guide you through each scripture. The more you do this, the more He’ll open your eyes to your purpose AND how to live it out.
WRITE IT DOWN
Nothing cements what you read and learn like writing it down in your own words. Whether you’re using SOAP or Lectio Divina as your guide, write out what stuck out and how you might apply it to your life. Don’t have a clue? That’s okay. Meditate on it and ask God to open your eyes to what He has to say to you today. It’s okay to hear silence. It’s okay that not every verse has a deep connection to your soul. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the Word. It just might not apply to you in this moment, but perhaps it will at a later date.
APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN
Now that you’ve cleared the cobwebs of past hurts, allowed God to come in and sweep away the pain, and have been renewed and refreshed, apply His word to your life. Your purpose isn’t complicated. Your purpose is to love God and love others.
Every time you’re weighing a thought or decision against His word, ask yourself, “Does this show God’s love? Does it serve me or Him?” When you weigh everything against that, it’s much simpler to make decisions that align with His will for your life.
WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE?
I went into The Purpose Driven Life wondering how I could have a purpose when my physical health limits my ability to serve in traditional ways. I finished it by realizing that there is nothing traditional about our specific calling in life. God will use you, no matter your circumstances, if you are open to it.
My purpose is to serve hurting women and to be an example of how God can take away those hurts and show you how to use them as light in someone else’s dark world. My purpose is to give hope by living an intentional, transparent life. Not to sugarcoat the pain, but to show how to live a life of joy in spite of it.
He has given me a knack for education and coaching – the ability to teach typically difficult things in a way that is broken down piece by piece, making it easier to understand. And to take that further by coaching women in how to apply it to their lives in a way that makes sense to them. My purpose isn’t in the tasky doing, but in the building of fellowship between me and God, me and others, and God and others.
What is your purpose? How can you open yourself up to be used by God? What gifts do you have that come naturally to you? And how can you use those to love on others? There is nothing He has given you that cannot be used. Simply ask Him to show you.