MOUSEY MOMENT … MEANINGFUL MAY!
People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression. But where do we find ‘meaning and purpose’? It might be our religious faith, being a parent or doing a job that makes a difference. The answers vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.
A simple way to describe having ‘meaning’ in your life is that it’s about being part of something that we really believe in, that is bigger than ourselves. It helps us answer the question: why are we here? Often it’s something that can’t be reduced or goes beyond the day-to-day. It guides us in how we choose to live our lives, what we strive for and provides a framework for the goals we set. It can help make sense of what happens to us, provide a source of comfort and strength in tough times and helps us feel that we are not alone.
Religious faith or other spiritual practices provide meaning for many people and research suggests that people with faith tend to have higher average levels of happiness and well-being than people with no religious beliefs.
But religion and spirituality are not the only sources of ‘meaning’. For many of us, our relationships with others are a key source of meaning in our lives – as parents, friends and members of a community. In fact one of the benefits with religious faith is the connection that comes from being part of a shared community of like-minded people.
Other important sources of ‘meaning’ include finding your ‘calling’ – a job or activity that you’re passionate about – or having a deep connection to the natural world. What is certain is that ‘meaning’ is something very individual. No one can tell us what gives meaning to our lives – we have to find out for ourselves.
There are many different ways of finding meaning in our lives. For some people it comes through experiences (often difficult ones), others through deep reflection, some from loving and being loved, and for others just from the way they choose to approach other people and the world around them. We can each find our own way – but it’s important to remember the importance of meaning when making the big choices about our families, jobs, lifestyles and priorities.
Although finding meaning is about connecting to something beyond ourselves, it also seems to tap into something fundamental within all of us. For some people this becomes obvious early on – for example a calling to teach or become a doctor or to follow a particular faith. For many however it is a search that can take a lifetime. And sometimes a practice, such as meditation, can help us become more in touch with our feelings and deepest selves.
A good approach is to consciously think about which activities, people and beliefs bring us the strongest sense of purpose and passion. Then we can focus on making sure that we prioritise these things in our busy lives. Often we’re so busy just hurtling ahead and end up exhausted at the end of each day without ever finding time to think about what really gives our lives meaning.
Sometimes it is only when we reach important new stages in our lives, such as parenthood, middle age or retirement – or when something happens to disrupt our lives such as a trauma – that we start to think about the point of being here and what is really important. But it’s never too soon (or too late) to start putting the really important things first.
Our God is a God of fresh starts and new beginnings – from the morning sunrise, to the changing seasons, to the passing years. And so we move forward in 2021 … together.
For some, the prospect of fresh paint on a new canvas represents one of life’s most welcome adventures – another opportunity to be all God created us to be so that we can do what He calls us to do. What about those who aren’t sure of their purpose in life? If you’re among them, you understand the intimidation of a blank canvas – or another year’s worth of blank calendar pages. Do you wonder, What if I’m missing God’s call on my life? How can I know His purpose for me?
If you find yourself facing these questions today, there’s no better time for answers … not from my perspective, but from God’s perspective. After all, He created each of us individually, with a specific, personal, unique plan for our lives. The fact is:
Notice first that, in Ephesians 2 v10 the apostle Paul says, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God calls us to a purpose, to do good works, ‘tailor-made’ just for us. And He gifts us with all we need to accomplish that purpose.
Secondly, remember God doesn’t play games with our lives. He wants us to reach our full potential, and He provides the means for us to discover how. The Lord actually says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 32 v8).
Next, receive the assurance He gives in Philippians 4 v6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God will give us peace as we humbly ask for direction … thanking Him for all we’ve learned through the hard times.
Fourth, as we yield our spiritual gifts to God, He will faithfully use them to accomplish His purpose for us. We all have different talents and abilities, and we need to make sure our plans align with our aptitude. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Romans 12 v6).
Finally, remember this: “. . . the wise listen to advice” (Proverbs 12 v15). God has placed people in our lives to serve as wise guides, advisers, and encouragers. Tap their reservoir of counsel and guidance.
Ask God to prepare you to fulfil the purpose to which He has called you. Your outlook on life is sure to soar as you achieve the unique purpose God has set for you. And as you pray, these additional steps will help you identify your specific God-given purpose:
Step one: Evaluate which situations have brought you success or failure, excitement or boredom, fruitfulness or frustration. God uses all our experiences – whether positive or negative – to steer His children in the right direction. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19 v21).
Step Two: Look for doors of opportunity to obey God – to do what He has called you to do today. “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land” (Isaiah 1 v19).
Step Three: Wait for God’s timing. Typically, we want our marching orders NOW! But sometimes God is grooming us for better things – not yet in place. So He tells us to wait patiently, serve Him faithfully, where we are currently. Psalm 27 v14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Step Four: Define the essential goals that will help you achieve your purpose – goals that are specific and reachable, not dependent on others for success, in line with God’s will, and designed with deadlines for completion. The Bible says, “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14 v40).
And keep in mind these words as you trust God to reveal His best for you, this year and throughout your life: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29 v11).
Remember! No one who has ever lived or is living now or will ever live can accomplish your unique purpose. This is something only you can do … something only God can do through you.