That, in a nutshell, is THE question that plagues all of humanity – at least, all of humanity with sufficient self-reflection to address the question.
The joy we see in some people whose mental faculties are genetically subdued comes partly from this, I believe – the literal inability to be burdened by the lack of comprehension of our purpose in life. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching many Down’s students in my career, and there is a joyful simplicity that it’s hard not to be envious of. And the more I saw them, the more I became convinced that this is part of the reason. God has blessed them with this inability, and with it comes joy.
And conversely, the rest of us are blessed with the ability to pursue this question, either to our gain or to our shame. What is your purpose? What are you supposed to be doing with your life? It may be the leading underlying cause of suicide in the world – the frustration either with being unable to answer the question at all, or the frustration with being unable (in your mind) to fulfill whatever purpose you believe you are “destined” to achieve.
(Given the fact that this is an Act II Ministries blog, I’ll bet you can guess what out answer is going to be…)
If you are a believer in God – if you are a Christian – then you have your marching orders already. Genesis 8: 16-17 quotes the Lord’s command to Noah as he and his family left the ark to walk upon the newly-cleansed earth:
“Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh – that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”
“Be fruitful and multiply.” Coincidentally, Christ’s last words to His People were orders of a similar nature. Consider Matthew 28:19-20, often referred to as “The Great Commission” –
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
At its core, the two messages are both commands to procreate – the first, literally, in order to repopulate the earth; the second, spiritually, to make disciples, to raise others up in their relationship with Christ as Lord, and populate the earth with Christians specifically.
Our purpose as Christians is clear – to live the Christian life, and as you do, guide as many people as possible to a saving relationship with Christ in the process.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why. If you are truly Christian, you understand that this life is not only “not all there is”, but that it’s “barely a small fraction of our eternal existence”. The most useful thing we can do is be guides to help those without that knowledge to learn the Truth and be able to make use of that Truth to prepare appropriately for the “real” life beyond what we live on earth.
So if we’re still here, we have a purpose in our lives.
And one of the joys of the life we are given to live is the ability to share our faith with people who need it.
I find opportunities to spread “good” – pay for someone’s coffee, help someone with car trouble, that sort of thing – and use it as an opportunity to share the Gospel with people. But what I don’t do nearly well enough is just STOP and LISTEN TO THE LORD. The Holy Spirit burns within us all as Christians, and His primary purpose is to guide us through our days, so that we can glorify God by sharing His Gospel and living the life HE wants us to live.
“Will it be inconvenient? Will it cost me? It’s gonna be messy, isn’t it?”
Probably. No more so than “being fruitful and multiply” the traditional way. Babies are costly and messy and inconvenient, but they’re such a joy and glory that it’s worth the side-trip. The same is true of making disciples. It’ll probably be costly and messy, but just like parenting, it’s bound to make you less self-centered and more giving and more loving – just like Christ.
Try it. Get quiet in prayer. Fast if you need to. But start listening to the Lord in your quiet time with Him – tune into His Frequency there, so when you hear His Voice during the day, you’ll know it’s Him.
Then, listen to Him when He nudges you during the day. It’ll be subtle, quiet, and sudden. You’ll probably be doing something else, something on your own agenda, and suddenly He’ll lean into you and say something like, “Tell that lady about the Gospel. She needs to hear that right now. GO.” It won’t be convenient. It won’t be something you’d normally do. It won’t be comfortable.
But it’ll be what God has you on this earth to accomplish today. It’ll be therefore the most important thing you do the entire day.
So do it.
And what you’ll discover, I suspect, is an internal joy you may not have been familiar with – a joy that comes from fulfilling your true purpose. Not the purpose you gave yourself, which probably had to do with making money or something worldly like that. But your REAL purpose, the purpose God placed you where you are.