What is the point of all this? Why am I here?
This aspect of our humanity separates us from all other creatures. The answer to this deep, soul-searching quest is personal. No individual’s journey is the same when they seek to work through their own reality and circumstances.
The answer, like most things in life, isn’t simple or one-dimensional. We will always encounter another layer or level as we answer the complicated question, “Why am I here?”
In attempting to answer that question, Christians believe God holds not only a purpose for individuals, but an overarching purpose for humankind.
Created for Divine Relationship
Human beings have a profound need to be seen. To feel worthy and loved. We crave relationships. God craves relationships, too. Understanding God’s eagerness for a relationship with humanity brings peace to a Christian’s restless heart.
The first layer in understanding a Christian’s view on purpose is knowing the creation story. The first pages of the Bible provide a detailed account of how God designed the earth and everything in it. Within that story, you will find a holy God—who holds all power and knowledge—and desires a relationship with His created people (Genesis 1:1-2, 1 Samuel 12:22).
Because God wants us here, we can view our existence—all its joy and suffering—through a lens of purpose.
God spoke every created thing, living and nonliving, into existence…except humans. To create humans, He formed them from the ground. He brought them to life by breathing His own breath into them. He gave them responsibility—a job—to tend the land. God gave humans free will and the freedom to choose a relationship with their Creator (Genesis 1:26-30).
Without choice, a man-to-God relationship would be based in control, manipulation, mistrust, or fear. God’s desire for humans to choose Him indicates He places value on those humans. In other words, He wants them to want Him. He created mankind with a purpose in mind, the highest of which is friendship with Him (Genesis 2:9, Genesis 3:8).
What is MY purpose?
Why am I here? What should I do with my life?
Those questions can paralyze people. The questions seem so large, so intimidating, they blind us to the simplest, obvious manifestations of purpose in our lives.
Accepting where you are and what you have is one step toward discovering your purpose. That may sound trivial, but it is revolutionary. Great truth rests in tackling our mundane, daily tasks. It involves accepting the gift of each moment, knowing we might not be given another, and making the most of it.
Humans are not only unique from the rest of creation—they are unique from each other. Each human body contains a distinctive combination of DNA. An individual’s genetics, background and experiences blend together, resulting in a set of skills, talents, strengths, weaknesses and insights that do not match the set of any other individual. And that set is necessary for humankind.
Just as your body has many parts, so God created humanity—one human race, many members. In a human body, the foot cannot say, “Because I’m not a hand, I’m not part of the body.” The ear is not an eye, but its function is equally vital (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
And just as each part of the body has a vital role, so each member of the human race has a purpose. Those purposes differ from person to person. But if one person doesn’t carry out their purpose, their role will go either unfulfilled, or unfulfilled in the unique way they could do it.
How do you find the life purposes that are unique to you? There is no single answer, but God gives us a plethora of clues:
- Roles/Stations. Any role we fill in which we’re responsible to someone or for something, and where our role doesn’t by its nature require disobeying God, this is a calling from God. It’s not about what we’re responsible to do for God, but what God is doing through us.
- Gifts/Talents. God gives all of us different gifts—both ‘spiritual’ gifts for building up God’s church and kingdom, and ‘created’ gifts for contributing to the temporal world. Our gifts and talents give us a sense of how God wants us to help others.
- God gives us all manner of resources in different proportions—material resources, financial resources, influence, time, knowledge, etc. He wants us to be generous with our resources, whatever form they may take (2 Corinthians 9:6-11).
- Passions/Desires. This one is trickier because passions and desires can come from God, or from the evil inside us, or they can come from a combination of sources, making it difficult to tease out the good. But it is a misconception that Christians are supposed to let all of their desires die. Desire can be corrupt, but it can also be very good. God is very interested in our desires: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). He also knows they have tremendous power to motivate us—no doubt he built us with desires so they would do just that.
- Opportunities. We believe God continues to be intimately involved in the details of how every earthly circumstance happens and turns out (Romans 8:28; Luke 12:6-7). If God gives you an opportunity to do something good, it was on purpose.
- Needs. Compassion is feeling someone else’s distress at a gut-level and thereby being compelled to act. The Holy Spirit nurtures compassion inside people of Christian faith. This word describes much of Jesus’ action toward us, and he gives us compassion so we respond to needs as well. In a sense, a human need is a call from God.
Talk of individuality raises the matter of independence. As Christians, we are to take care of ourselves and bear individual responsibility for our actions. We are to develop our skills and talents.
However, bloated individuality results in selfishness, the philosophy that “me” comes before “we.” Christians believe that if our lives become about exclusively about us—my comfort, my longings, my love, my truth—then we have stepped outside of God’s original plan. Instead of functioning as one human race, we become isolated and alone. We can also lose our sense of purpose.
In God’s plan, the question “What do I want to do with my life?” becomes “How can I use my unique skill and background to help others in this situation?”
Using the human body as an example once again, when one member of the body falls ill, other members produce and deliver white blood cells to bring the body back to wholeness. When one member does not function to benefit the body, the whole body grows weaker.
When we consider that our individual purpose should also edify life and humanity, our trajectory is altered.
How Suffering Can Enhance Purpose
Living with purpose has its challenges. What happens when life doesn’t unfold as we anticipate or plan? When tragedy or hurt interrupts progress? Cancer steals dreams. Loved ones die. An accident can take or hinder physical freedom.
Sometimes, it’s more acute—such as when others appear to have joy and life, while we dwell in a dark haze of depression or anxiety.
When it comes to suffering, Christians find comfort that Jesus—God—knows our pain and factors it into the bigger picture. We do not view ourselves as alone when we suffer. Our suffering is evidence of why we claim to need a Savior in the first place. It becomes a point of reference rather than a blemish. Because Christians believe God uses our struggles as training ground to cement our purpose, it helps provide a “why” as we pursue the “how” (Hebrews 2:9-10, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 5:8, John 16:33).
All great stories of redemption, reconciliation, or healing include deep scars. Christians do not desire struggle, but our trust in God helps us endure it.
The Big Picture
Viewing life through lenses of love and hope gives Christians a sense of purpose. That purpose is rooted in a relationship with God and built on our inherent value to Him. That awareness sets us free to pursue individuality based on service to others. We live our lives as members of a larger body, seeking to contribute to the greater good, even amid life’s struggles.