Finding purpose and joy

Defining one’s sense of purpose by particular careers, relationships, or social media posts can have its pitfalls. But considering true purpose and joy as God-given opens the door for deep and lasting satisfaction no matter what the circumstances.

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The relentless pursuit of happiness so prevalent today may not actually be making us happy. Instead, perhaps a sense of purpose is what would truly bring us satisfaction. That’s what an opinion article in The Boston Globe suggested. It is called “Looking for happiness? Try purpose instead” (Amy Cuddy, May 16, 2019).

This message resonated with me. How exactly would we even define happiness? And is there anything we can do that would really guarantee we would be permanently happy?

Finding deep, spiritual meaning in our lives leads to joy that endures, and it can never be taken from us. That doesn’t mean we can’t find a sense of purpose in a particular career or relationship, but pinning our hopes for happiness on any particular set of circumstances can have its pitfalls, as does defining happiness by things we might see in social media posts that make it seem unattainable for us no matter how fervently we pursue it.

In my work as a Christian Science practitioner, engaged in the full-time ministry of Christian Science healing, I have seen how it’s a totally different view of purpose and joy that brings the most lasting satisfaction. Sometimes people contact me for help with challenges such as depression, weight and body image issues, or unhealthy relationship patterns. Often the solution involves a clarity about one’s purpose that goes beyond any particular set of circumstances. And when one discovers this clarity, healing comes in those other areas too.

This healing clarity comes from a better understanding of our true nature as the children of God, whom the Bible describes as Love. How would a loving creator design something that could be devoid of joy? Christian Science explains that God is utterly pure goodness. Each of us as God’s creation reflects all that God is, every aspect of the goodness of God, which naturally encompasses the quality of true and enduring joy.

So in a spiritual sense, joy is an inherent quality within each of us, part of our divinely created identity, not defined or determined by material circumstances. Each of us has the ability to experience the freedom and empowerment this joy brings because its source is infinite, therefore inexhaustible. And this joy is inextricably linked to living our true purpose – reflecting God’s love and goodness.

I look to Jesus as the ideal example of a purposeful life to emulate. He once said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37, English Standard Version). And in another verse: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, New Living Translation). We can each accept our God-given purpose to bear witness to divine Truth, God, and express God, Love, in a way that helps others find a more genuine satisfaction. And this will surely give us joy.

It was through the eternal Christ, the expression of God’s nature that empowered him, that Jesus was able to give others “a rich and satisfying life.” That included experiencing healing of physical and mental illness, which brought many people great joy. Yet Jesus was ridiculed by many of the elites of his day, and many circumstances of his life would not have looked impressive on a social media feed, despite his great accomplishments. He encountered a stream of dire situations that would leave anyone anything but happy.

But he was clear that no one could take away his joy (see John 16:22), because his joy was in understanding his God-given purpose and fulfilling it. And ultimately he prevailed over all he faced. From this basis, leaning on his divine source and the truth he understood, he was able to benefit others in profound ways, restoring them to life and health in even the most hopeless of situations.

The Christ that enabled Jesus to do what he did enables us to follow his example today. A message shared by Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Monitor, speaks to this sense of true purpose. In a letter to members of a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, who had given a thoughtful financial gift to another branch church, she encouraged them to respond to the question “What am I?” in this way: “I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 165).

Regardless of conditions we’re currently dealing with or what society’s opinion of one’s status or profession may be, each of us can strive to “impart truth, health, and happiness” to those we encounter and to support them in living rich and satisfying lives. That is a lasting foundation on which to build the true happiness that is an enduring sense of purpose and joy.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.