In the recent movie “Up in the Air,” there’s a scene where a groom gets cold feet on his wedding day. He despairs about his life saying, in substance, “You’re born, grow up, go to school, get a job, get married, grow old, and die. What’s the point?” The movie’s hero, trying to convince the groom to go forward with the marriage, tells him that if he gets married, he’ll at least have company in his despair.
I expect this line was supposed to be funny, but I didn’t laugh. To me it was just one more way of saying that life is shallow and pointless, without real connection or commitment to others. That nothing much matters. I just wanted to call out, “No! That’s not what life is.”
It’s likely that most of us have struggled with fundamental questions at one point or another: Does life have a purpose? Do I have a purpose? I’ve found the Bible provides a genuinely helpful answer. The account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis tells that God made man, including male and female, in His image and likeness, and very good. God blessed His creation. Therefore each of us has the purpose of being God’s image and likeness, spiritual and pure. Each in our own unique way is designed to express the characteristics of God.
Later, in the New Testament, the narrative is more specific in describing what God made us to do. It calls our characteristic qualities “gifts.” It’s recorded that there are indeed differences among us, but that it is the one God at work “who apportions to each person individually [exactly] as He chooses” (I Cor. 12:11, “The Amplified Bible”).
The text lists examples of the kinds of gifts God gives to us: wisdom, faith, healing, discernment of the divine will and purpose. The actual gift list is infinite, because of the infinite nature and activity of God’s goodness. It includes every conceivable wonderful characteristic of life.
So there’s biblical authority for each of us to say with conviction: “Yes, I do have a purpose. God requires me to shine in some way as evidence of His glory.” At whatever point we realize this, the knowledge that we do have this God-authorized purpose is a confidence-building starting point. From there we can ask God for direction, and then listen with a willingness to follow the guidance we’re given. God forever gives His gifts, and they are forever valuable. So there is a continuing need for each of us to express them. Even if retired or at present without a paying job, you can move forward with joy in the unique purpose God has given you.
When my husband and I got married, a hymn was sung that was our way of offering our joined purpose to God. It begins: “Take my life, and let it be/ Consecrated, Lord, to Thee” and then it goes on to offer every aspect of our lives in the service of God’s love (Frances R. Havergal, “Christian Science Hymnal, No. 324”).
Over the years we found many opportunities to help others and were richly blessed in following God’s direction for our lives. Even now, years later, our wedding hymn’s message of consecration to God is still guiding my life. I like to start the day with the prayer, “Father, use me today for Your grand purpose.” Giving the day to God in this way fills it with joy and meaning.