What is my purpose in life? This is a common question and it makes sense that it would be at the forefront of our minds. Discovering purpose is what motivates us, it is what adds substance to our otherwise mundane lives. And while there may be an overarching purpose in one’s life I would like to come at this question from a different angle. Rather than ask the question, What is my purpose in life? I submit that asking, What are the purposes in my life? To be important and fruitful.
Viktor Frankl focuses attention on our individual situations in life that speak to our unique selves and set of circumstances. He proposes that in every unique situation we find ourselves we are presented with opportunities to fulfill some kind of meaning or purpose. For example, when your alarm clock goes off in the morning you may be woken up to the dread of another workday. You are tempted to call in sick, but you remember that a co-worker is relying on you to get a project completed. Now you are presented with a choice and a question. The choice being call in sick or go to work. The question, Are you going to withdraw from your responsibility or support your co-worker who depends on you to pull your weight?
As Frankl puts it,” One way or another, there can only be one alternative at a time to give meaning to life, meaning to the moment—so at any time we only need to make one decision about how we must answer, but, each time, a very specific question is being asked of us by life.” (Frankl, Viktor E.. Yes to Life, p. 41). From this perspective life is constantly asking us questions and we are called to answer. Or if you prefer, God is asking us questions and we are called upon to answer. Viktor Frankl has further described this view as the relationship between “I am” (I exist) and “I ought” (Psychotherapy and Existentialism, p.54). In other words, as you engage in the world and the individual/unique set of situations presented, you have a choice to fulfill a certain value, the “ought” such as being a loyal co-worker in the example above.
Taking this idea into the Christian life we often wonder what is God’s will for my life? Again, there may be an overall sense of what this may be. And in fact, Scripture declares that we are here to glorify God (1Cor.10:31). However, how this ought to manifest in our individual lives may not always be as easy to discern. Yet if we allow ourselves to see the daily moments in our lives as opportunities to fulfill what God is asking of us, not only will we discover something purposeful but perhaps it will lead to understanding further the broader vision He has for our lives.
Ken Hathcoat brings up the important point that if we want to know the will of God, we should first do the known will of God (Discovering God’s Will, chapter 2). That is to say, if we are concerned with what God has for us in the future start by focusing on what you know God’s will is in the present. This is not a formula per se to seeing God’s future for you, but it is a good place to start. Ken goes onto present a method that he has employed in his own life to this end.
First, write down all of the things that are in your life such as your car, house, job, and family. Following this draw a circle around each one of these items. Then draw a big circle around all of them writing Scripture next to the big circle that refers to God’s sovereignty (Psalm 24:1, etc.). The point here is to acknowledge that all that is yours really belongs to God. Next go back to the individual items and write down what God’s Word tells you about His will for these areas of your life. For example, if you are a husband or wife Ephesians 5:22-33 is a well-known starting point to understand what God expects of us in these roles. Finally, once you discover God’s will do what He is asking of you (James 1:22).
In the attempt to discover the capital “P” purpose in my life I can miss the present purposes that have the potential to provide my life with fulfillment. It is not that pursuing a grander sense of my purpose is unwise or futile. It is just that in our search we may miss the meaningful experiences right in front of us. And who knows? Maybe these experiences much like the various colors and strokes of the painter will come together to create the portrait of your life you have been seeking.
-Ken Grano, MDiv., CFBPPC – work with Ken here!