We all ask ourselves whether our life really has a purpose. The thought might be triggered by a special event, like the birth of a child, or a sad one, like a bereavement or a worrying medical diagnosis. For some people it happens when they achieve something they have longed for but are left feeling, “Is that it?”. Writers and thinkers, wondering about the purpose of life, have come up with a wide range of answers: some positive, some despairingly bleak. But with so many answers, where do you start?
Our ultimate purpose is found in God
Christians believe that life is not meaningless or random but has significance and purpose. And that purpose isn’t found by looking deeper at ourselves – but by looking outwards. We matter, our hopes and dreams do matter – but our ultimate purpose can only be found by looking to God.
We have restless hearts. We look for purpose, meaning, love, happiness... We try to find them through work, other people, money, experiences… Many of these things can be good in themselves – but they don’t resolve that inner restlessness.
Christians believe we have a real sense of what our life is for and where it is going only when we have a close relationship with God, the God who made us and knows all about us.
‘Our hearts are restless, until they find rest in (God)’
Augustine of Hippo
(Most) desires are ok but...
Our human desires for love, happiness, a fulfilling job, etc, are not bad in themselves. In fact, the best desires actually come from God. They point to God-given characteristics and what God wants to do through us.
Some people’s sense of purpose is connected to their work. their job might be vocational. For others, their purpose is connected to relationships, for example, prioritising their family over career success or helping to build a community of people around them who would otherwise feel lonely and isolated.
The Bible tells us that God created work – it is good for us –, that he is passionate about justice, that he loves people and wants us to flourish and that he loves the downtrodden and the outsider. We know this because of the Bible and because these were characteristics of Jesus Christ – God in human form – during his life on earth 2,000 years ago.
Christians believe that our desire for love and close relationships is because, deep down, we were made to experience a relationship with God. We want to be creative because God is the ultimate source of creativity. Our deepest desires point to a longing for God.
How should we respond?
In the Bible, Jesus Christ says a lot about purpose and desire. He does not dismiss our everyday desires and concerns as wrong – but he wants us to focus on God first. So how can we have a clearer sense of purpose for our lives? We can start by thinking about how God has made us.
You could ask yourself some questions: What makes you tick? What matters to you? What are you good at and what gives you joy when you do it? Or you could think about what makes you angry or upset. These thoughts might give you a clue about a passion that God has given you which could give a real focus to your life.
Next, think about God. Try talking to him by praying. Thank him for the special gifts and passions he has put in you. Ask him how he wants you to use them to make the world a better place. And then watch for how he will answer you. And keep talking to God about how he sees you and what purpose he has given you.
If you do develop a relationship with God, your sense of restlessness might not go away! Instead, it will evolve into a new form – provoked by God himself. It’s a restlessness for a world of peace, justice and fulfilment where everyone knows God for themselves.
If you would like to buy a longer booklet exploring this question, please go to https://www.cpo.org.uk/explore-project