The Lord has made everything [to accommodate itself and contribute] to its own end and His own purpose—even the wicked [are fitted for their role] for the day of calamity and evil.
Proverbs 16:4 AMP
I’ve talked about purpose a few times before, but right now I’m on the connection between the pursuit of happiness and lack of purpose. John’s writings on the growing obsession with happiness made me wonder if that might be related to the void in a life without purpose. Although every life has a purpose and will serve God’s purpose ultimately, the only true alignment of body, spirit, heart, and purpose is found in the new creation of a born again believer. Apart from belonging to Jesus, we are not whole and cannot be. So if fleeting happiness is the best that a broken being can hope for, then does pursuing that shadow of bliss feel like purpose?
The Power of Purpose
I read an article years ago about the anniversary of D-Day. It was a long, in-depth look at that day, and WWII in general, told through extensive interviews with veterans. I will never forget the veteran who looked back on that terrible time so fondly. It was more than nostalgia, too. In essence he said, “You knew who you were in 1941!”
I’ve pondered that statement for years now, and I believe that this man missed the unmistakable sense of purpose that he had then. That purpose drove him and connected him to others – he belonged. It gave him a place in the world, a place that mattered and was clearly defined. I think that this veteran missed the man that he was when he woke up every day with such strength of purpose. He missed knowing the meaning of his life in the very moment he lived it. It wasn’t the horror and suffering of war that haunted this man; it was the loss of purpose once it ended that he never got over.
Having a purpose for your life can make you feel almost whole. It certainly can make you happy. But all the career/life advice I’ve ever seen for young people tells them to find out what it is they love, what makes them happy, and then do that. So happiness is easily conflated with purpose. Instead of deriving self-respect, joy, or a sense of belonging from purpose, we tell people that purpose is derived from what makes us happy. And for some people, that might work. But I’d guess that most people think of the fleeting times they were happy and wonder how in the world a life’s purpose could be in that. So they keep pursuing ‘happiness’ in the hopes of finding something deeper that might contain that elusive purpose. I know I did.
From an early age, I wanted my life to mean something. When I was young, I thought that a meaningful purpose could only be found in something larger than life: great success, great discovery, or great invention. But the older I got, the more I just wanted a life that meant something more than “me.” I wanted to connect to something bigger and more wonderful and truer than what I’d seen of this world. My purpose didn’t have to be big or splashy, it just had to matter in a way that was bigger than me.
I have purpose built into every moment of my life now. I know who I am because I know Who I belong to – and He’s why my life matters. Between love and purpose, love is the greater drive. But purpose is right behind it and that’s by design.
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Lord, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of Your hands.
Psalm 138:8 HCSB