When all seems lost, where do you get purpose from?
The job hunt is frustrating. A mountain of effort and faith placed in email chains, resume fonts and chance acquaintances yields very little to show. Soon despair sets in and gives way to self-esteem issues. A few months after I finished grad school, time is slowly running out, and instead of a mad rush for survival, I now find myself settling into a tired complacency.
I confess— I used to see myself as an introverted hot-shot. Well-read and well-spoken, intelligent and hard-working. But the world isn’t fair. Thrones and powers are not held by those who strictly deserve them. After a point, life doesn’t seem to make sense, more so when you put in the work but get nothing in return. You struggle to imagine your place in the world, all the while troubled by dearly held dreams of success and happiness. Compromise and survival become regular guests at your table. Give up your passion, they say. Be practical, learn some new skills, pretend you’re someone else. Somehow, somehow, just get that job.
Where did I go wrong? Is there a reason why it seems like I’m a failure? Or am I just plain unlucky? These are questions that slowly paralyzed me and brought me to my knees. I admitted failure in controlling my life. How do I get back up again?
Every day on social media, we are bound to see at least one motivational quote or poster while scrolling. Google ‘motivation’ and you will find truckloads of wisdom like this —
Stop wishing. Start doing.
Tough times never last. Tough people do.
You only fail when you stop trying.
Your only limit is you.
Let me ask then, does this motivate you? Does it cause you to pull yourself up and get to work? Does it make you believe that everything will end well, if you put in the effort and never give up? Sadly, there is no guarantee here. Underneath all these statements, we assume the universe works a certain way. The world isn’t as fair as these quotes suggest. Once I reached this point, I went down a spiritual path for answers, and the Christian way of looking at life made the greatest sense to me.
The Christian believes that God is the creator and master of the universe. God creates us and puts us into this world as images of his greatness and workers of his purpose. God reveals himself to us through his words in the Bible, through nature and through other people. This world, in all its shades of joy and sorrow, is real and cannot be ignored or wished away as some illusion. I mentioned in my last post how we have seem to have God-shaped hole in our lives and how we can’t seem to fill it with anything else.
But what does this have to do with anything in my life or yours? In the Bible, we see a God who loves us enough to chase us and try to make us realize that our lives will never be complete without making Him the foundation. And that can only happen when we are on our knees. We can only approach God with humility, by realizing that there is nothing that we bring to him. Your life and its problems are but grains of sand before the greatness of God, but God still says, “Even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid.” (Luke 10:29–31) The promises of God are not only comforting and reassuring, they reshape your identity around the purpose of God. He becomes the center your life revolves around. No, not all of us are called to be priests or monks or ascetics. God will use what we surrender to him. There is a purpose for all the talents and all the circumstances of your life. My hopes and dreams will not be rooted in my own well-being and prosperity, but in what God wants me to be.
So if I can play the guitar, he can use me. If I can write a blog, he can use me. If I am struggling with a relationship, he can use me. If I am living in a cramped California apartment with nine other people, he can use me. If I am unemployed, debt-ridden and feeling worthless, HE CAN STILL USE ME. So if I need to be strong right now, this is how you can convince me. I am a child of God, a worker in his fields. I am son, brother, boyfriend, roommate, student, storyteller, engineer — all in the name of Christ. I may not always see the fruits of my labors, but God himself stamps them with his purpose. And it is always good. Do I have any reason to be sad now? No. Do I have any reason to be lazy? Quite the opposite, it is a reason to start each day with a renewed energy and mindfulness, because God himself has guaranteed my efforts to be for good when I trust him with everything.
So here on my knees, I offer my heart to God, and he reaches out, lifts me up and reminds me, “Humble yourself, so that at the right time I will lift you up. Throw all your anxieties on me, because I love you and care about you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7) My life is not my own, God. You take over now. I’m done trying my way.
Nothing has changed, but everything has changed.
I rise to my feet.
There is work to be done.
Occasionally God rips aside the veil, and you begin to see this very fact: All things happen for you. All things. Everything is knit together.
— Tim Keller
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