What's the Purpose?
by Jeff Montgomery
I often tell people that I've been suffering a mid-life crisis since I was 23, at least as far as work goes.
What I mean is that it seems like I'm always questioning what I'm doing, trying to find that sweet spot where I like the work and it feels meaningful. Twenty-(ahem) years later, I'm still looking, although I seem to have gained some insight along the way, thanks to some guidance from the Holy Spirit.
There are times where the question hasn't been so much about the 'what work should be' as much as 'why do I keep questioning it?' By any account, my life has been very blessed. Within the context of the corporate world I've done very well and can provide my family with a comfortable middle class life. So why question such gifts - gifts that most everyone would consider wonderful?
I've run across many people in my general age range that ask themselves that same question. What brought us to this point? How did we get here?
There's probably a billion reasons, many individual to each person, but here's my take. First, when most of us were getting out of college in the late 70's and early 80's, it was the dawn of the 'me' decade. It was fashionable to strive to score 'big' in the corporate world - 'greed is good' was one of the catchphrases of the day. For me, it didn't help that I was influenced by a friend who bought into that idea hook, line, and sinker.
But what if that wasn't what God intended you to do? After a few years of chasing that tiger's tail some of us began to see that the vast majority of us would never reach the rarified air of multi-million dollar salaries and all the perks that go with it.
So that left the work, and some of us found that it wasn't all that fulfilling. But by then you're in the flow, perhaps raising a family, and the steady paycheck was nice. But that little voice in the back of our heads kept popping up now and again, always wondering if there wasn't something that could bring more meaning.
When we search for purpose or meaning in our work, most of us tend to think about a specific type of work or job that would be the magic pill. We might even think that we need to be involved in something akin to a ministry in order to find meaning. And that may very well be true for some of us. For others, we may need to change careers, not to a ministry but to a more fulfilling career.
I would also suggest another alternative: that the meaning we seek comes more from how we carry out our work, rather than what the specific work happens to be.
In other words, we need to ask ourselves, "Am I carrying out the work God has given me in a spirit of hope, charity, and dedication to God?" and "Is the way I'm carrying out my duties giving glory to God?"
When we're mired in work we don't like, it's very difficult to think in these terms. The burden of dealing with a situation we don't like can weigh us down and make us cynical. Only by completely turning over the situation to God can we find the strength to carry on. When we truly turn it over to God, He will open our eyes to the ways we can adjust our attitude properly to take care of the tasks in front of us.
Even if we like what we do, there is always the occasional day that is more difficult than the rest. Too many of those days can also begin to affect our attitude and make it difficult to focus on completing our work for God
We may never know exactly why God has placed us in a particular situation, but He always has a reason. God is always shaping us, sanding off the rough edges with the sandpaper we call difficult situations. Ultimately, these situations teach us to rely completely on God.
Which, in the end, is our ultimate purpose - to learn to trust completely in God, so that He can welcome us into eternal life. Even in our seemingly bleakest days at work, God we can tap in to our true purpose by approaching what we have to do as if it was the most important task we have that day. Each task that we do with the intent of giving glory to God brings us one step closer to Him.
That task may be something as mundane as stocking the supply room, or as miraculous as a doctor saving someone's life. It could be writing a spirit filled presentation for a potential customer, or developing a lesson plan that inspires your students. Whatever the case, keeping in mind that God has given us these tasks can motivate us to seek him out in our difficulties.
To be sure, sometimes God uses dissatisfaction at work to spur us on to move to the next phase of our lives. That could be a major career change, or just changing employers in the same industry.
But if we have taken all of the steps to try to make that change, and the doors are not opening, it's time to consider that God might be wanting us to learn a lesson right where we are - and to grow closer to Him in the process.
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