Have you ever had the sense that you were doing what you were created to do? I don’t mean having a sense of accomplishment but something much deeper and foundational. The first time I felt like that was after I had graduated from college and had finally gotten a job in my field of TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). I was working at a small university in my hometown in an intensive English program, helping international students prepare to enroll in university courses. One day walking across the campus, I just got an overwhelming sense of rightness, of being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing with my life.
If we want to see God’s purposes for our communities and nation come to pass, we need to first discover and embrace His purposes for our lives as individuals.
I truly believe that God has a purpose for each individual. In Psalm 139:16, David says, “Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do.” (CEV) There are many other verses that make reference to God being intentional about the lives of His people. We are wired to pursue a purpose. In his article “The Power of Purpose,” Dr. Steve Taylor says:
“The need for purpose is one the defining characteristics of human beings. Human beings crave purpose, and suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.”
I was very fortunate to be raised in a family that encouraged me to pursue what I felt was my calling, what I now view as my purpose for life. In his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell describes three types of people (paraphrased):
- those who don’t know their purpose
- those who know their purpose but are not pursuing it
- those who know their purpose and are living it
One of the things that make me the saddest when I encounter people is when they haven’t developed an understanding of their purpose or aren’t pursuing their purpose. Dr. Steve Taylor describes purpose-driven people:
“When you’re ‘in purpose’ – that is, engaged with and working towards your purpose – life becomes easier, less complicated and stressful. You become more mono-focused, like an arrow flying towards its target, and your mind feels somehow taut and strong, with less space for negativity to seep in.”
There have been short seasons when I lived without this sense of purpose and its benefits, and it grieves me when I meet people who have lived this way for years, perhaps for their entire lives.
If you don’t feel like you have found your purpose, there is good news! I believe that God has designed each person to be perfectly suited to succeed in fulfilling the purpose for which he or she was created. If you believe that God is purposeful, the next step is to see that God has given us clues to understand His purpose for us as individuals. In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren says, “Each of us was uniquely designed, or ‘shaped,’ to do certain things.” He goes on to describe a simple way of exploring that S.H.A.P.E., and I see these five areas as clues to our individual purpose:
- Spiritual gifts – how does God use you to minister to others? (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
- Heart – what issues stir your passion? (Psalm 37:4)
- Abilities – what are you naturally talented in? (Exodus 31:3-5)
- Personality – how do you interact with the world around you? (Jeremiah 1:5)
- Experience – where has your journey through life taken you so far? (Romans 8:28)
Several years ago, I began documenting and tracking my own S.H.A.P.E., and I refer to it any time I am facing a major life decision. I find it helps me to have clarity in making good choices that will line up with where God has brought me and where He is likely taking me – including my decision to start writing this blog.
If you feel that you haven’t yet found your purpose, or if you are at a crossroads and uncertain of your path forward, I highly encourage you to explore your own S.H.A.P.E. If God designed you for a specific purpose, the world needs you to live out that purpose. You owe it to yourself and the people within your sphere of influence to discover and embrace God’s purpose for your life!
Links and Resources
Steve Taylor, Ph.D – The Power of Purpose
Resources for discovering your SHAPE
- a list of online resources I compiled to help some of my young friends understand their SHAPE
66 Bible verses about our purpose