By Fr. James Swanson, LC
Many people don’t worry much about their purpose or about God’s will for them. They know they should obey the commandments and feel they are doing a good job if they can manage that.
But others have reached a deeper love for God that makes them wonder – “What does God want me to do?” They know that God has made them with a purpose. God has given them a mission that only they can fulfill – but they aren’t sure what that is.
What is God’s purpose for my life is a question we all face as we grow in our love for him – because we realize that beyond the fulfillment of the commandments, God thought of me personally when he made me and made me because there is something he needs to have done and not only am I the one he wants to do it; I am the person best suited to do it because he was thinking of that mission when he made me and gave me all the talents and abilities I need to fulfill it. If I fail my mission, no one will be able to substitute me. Others may help fill in to a certain extent, but they won’t have the talents and opportunities to fulfill that mission that I have.
So, how do I find my purpose in life? How do I know what God’s mission for me is?
It is a Multi-faceted Mission
It consists in many smaller missions that I accomplish each day. Fulfilling responsibilities I already have is a big part of my mission. Also, much of my activity will be in bearing Christian witness. Basically, I need to live my life in such a way that people realize that I am a Christian (in other words, I live my religion faithfully) and that being a Christian fulfills me and makes me happy (really the same thing). This is a witness that is sadly lacking in the world. Too many Christians are willing to tell others they should be Christian when they don’t live it well themselves. Or when it is evident by their actions that although they are faithful, they are not fulfilled, they are unhappy.
Deep down, we all realize that we should do what is right and by doing so, we will become happy. Unfortunately, our culture tells us the opposite – that by doing what is right, we will be unhappy; and that if we want to be happy, we will have to do things that are wrong.
That is why it is so important to be a good witness. My actions speak much louder than my words. If I live a good life and am happy, it will be the greatest witness I can offer others – much stronger than any words I can say.
2. 1 Peter 3:15 – “Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience.”
From time to time, God will put people in my life who will ask me about my faith. I need to be ready to answer these kinds of questions. What people want to know about is my experience of Christ. Questions about my faith should never be answered by talking about the rules. That is the last thing that people are looking for. No one gets married because the spouse has great rules regarding the relationship. No one starts a friendship because their friend has lots of rules about the relationship. No. Relationships start because we find something worthwhile in the other person. Rules can come later, after we decide the relationship is worthwhile. I need to answer questions about my faith with my witness about what I have found in Christ. That, as Peter suggests, is the reason for my hope.
3. God Doesn’t Reveal His Plan for Me All at Once
He reveals it to me when he wants me to take action. Sometimes, this is what is hardest for us. We want to take action on something, but the time hasn’t come yet. Waiting is hard. But we need to be clear on one thing – God doesn’t play games with us. He isn’t up in heaven laughing at us because we can’t figure out something he wants us to do. He always makes it very clear. Sometimes, it isn’t the answer we want, and we make it hard for ourselves because we don’t want to accept the answer he is giving us.
Most of the time, we are smart enough to figure out God’s plan. When we are faced with a major, life-defining decision, we need to prayerfully make the best choice we can and then place our decision before the Lord. “Lord, I think this is what you want me to do. If it is your will, you don’t need to do anything. I will proceed according to this decision. But if I am wrong, you need to let me know.” 95% of the time or more, we will have made the right decision and God doesn’t need to do anything. We go forward according to his will. In the few times we have discerned wrongly, he very clearly shows us that he wants us to do something else. As we have said, he doesn’t play games. We can trust him.
Finding God’s purpose for me does not happen with one big decision and then I am done. It is something I do on a daily basis. Sometimes, it involves a big decision that will affect my entire future. More often it is a small decision that will not extend beyond what I need to do today. But if I work to try to walk with God each day; to know what he wants me to do today, I will find that I get better and better at knowing what he wants me to do and I gain a certain security that I really am fulfilling the purpose he has for my life.