“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
–Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)
When everything in our lives has been stripped away, we often look for a real sense of meaning. It seems as though the Coronavirus is a good example of something that has prompted a search for meaning. Now that we can’t conduct our business as usual, some ads on Facebook and the Internet may not seem as appealing. Now take that thought one step further, and imagine that your daily routines were eliminated from your life altogether. Does that make life seem empty and devoid of meaning?
That is exactly what happened to Viktor Frankl, a Jewish person who was wrongly arrested during World War II. His wife was taken away, and all of his necessities were stripped from him. With nothing else to cling to, he returned to work on the book he was writing, Man’s Search for Meaning.
The title alone says a great deal. However, I think we often get meaning and purpose mixed up. You might think I’m splitting hairs, but in order to see what I mean, please fill in the blank in the following sentence: “—- brings meaning to my life.”
There is no doubt that finding meaning in life is essential to man, and we will come back to that later. But for now the question is, how and where is this meaning derived?
Like Victor Frankl, we often feel like we have to search the hardest for meaning once the trappings of life are taken away. So I would like to spend the rest of this blog telling you why I think that is, and how we confuse meaning and purpose.
As I understand them, meaning and purpose are examinations of life from two different angles. Meaning is something we search for in order to give our lives some much-needed spice. As I said above, there’s nothing wrong with reaching for new horizons or trying new things. In fact, there’s everything right with it.
Jesus has entrusted each of us with different gifts and abilities, and He wants us to use them. Finding out what they are is a subject for another day. But for now, we need to go back to the question I posed above. Namely, how and where is meaning derived? Meaning must be derived from God’s Word, which is man-centered, and it’s something we should actively seek as we travel on this quest called life.
Here’s an example of meaning in my own life. I find fulfillment in playing my flute. I seek to become the best at it that I can, even if I drive everyone in the house crazy during my daily practice sessions.
Instead of finding meaning by going along with the crowd, I encourage you to step out in faith, finding new areas of growth. Then search, stretch, and seek as you find gifts and abilities that you can use for God’s glory, for His glory makes all the difference.
Unlike meaning, purpose is God-centered. God is the one who seeks us out, rather than man searching for Him. In other words, man searches for meaning, but God is the loving initiator when it comes to purpose.
We can see this in scriptures that depict Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Another good example of purpose can be found in John 3:16. To make this famous verse even more meaningful, insert your own name. “For God so loved —- that He gave His one and only son, that if —- believes in Him, he or she shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
We learn several things about God from this verse, but two stand out in light of our discussion. First of all, since the Bible teaches that He has always existed, God didn’t need to establish meaning, for He is the epitome of meaning. The Lord was also the author and creator of purpose, and He exemplified this by sending His son to give us a life that doesn’t end.
Secondly, however, we can only begin to find God’s purpose for our lives, as we continually respond to His love. You see, He certainly wants you to have a life of eternal fellowship with Him, but He also offers you a fruitful life here and now.
If you are not experiencing that kind of life, let me ask you a question. Say your destination is due east, and you walk west. Will you get there?
“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard!” you answer. “Of course not!”
That question may seem ridiculous, but this is how many Christians choose to live life. In other words, God says in His Word that He has separated our sins as far as the east is from the west, and there is no condemnation in Christ. But instead of finding freedom, many people walk in circles, or they travel in the opposite direction. They can never find God’s purpose and path, because they are to busy looking at their own paths.
Today I want to leave you with a challenge. Draw near to the author of purpose and walk in His way, letting Him show you what life is all about. Let go of the things which have held you down, and rise to new heights, living above your circumstances.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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