My life flies by-day after hopeless day.~~ JOB 7:6, TLB
Do you remember George Bailey, the main character in the classic movie, It's a Wonderful Life? He sinks into a serious depression and even considers ending his life because of his unrealized dreams and feelings of uselessness. With the help of Clarence, an angel, George is shown the impact of the specific relational assignments in which he has been critically needed over the years. He comes to realize that there has been a clear purpose in his life all along. He discovers that his life has mattered and still matters a great deal.
Like George, we each have purposes to fulfill, many of which are linked to our relationships, passions, talents, experiences, dreams, hopes, and longings. Living a larger, more fulfilling and dynamic life than you may currently be living is possible when you catch God's vision for your life. It is a transformational experience. I'm no angel, but I experienced a remarkable transformation as I journeyed on the pathway to purpose. And, I am eager to share lessons I have learned along the way.
At age thirty-five, I unexpectedly found myself divorced. Gary and I had started dating during college. We got married, built a life together, had children. Then, in the flash of a conversation that lasted only a few minutes, it was over. All of a sudden I had no husband to tend to, my two children were often visiting their dad, and many of the family responsibilities that for years had defined my life were nearly nonexistent.
I was far more fortunate than many divorced women with young children. I was not financially abandoned and forced into survival mode Quite the opposite. My ex-husband adored our children. He couldn't get enough of them or do enough to make our lives easier. So when the kids came home to me, they were fed, often newly clothed, and happily exhausted. I had less laundry, cooking, shopping, and homework assistance to worry about than when we were together as a family. I lived like a divorced princess.
But deep inside, I was not well. The ease of my life did nothing to lessen the immeasurable sadness of the divorce. My heart was broken and I was lonely. Fewer neighborhood kids visited our new, tiny house, and no couples invited me to join their outings. After a few bad experiences, I chose not to date. So I lived a quiet and simple life shared with several faithful friends, my Bible, and my new best companion, TV Guide.
With no pressing roles to fulfill, I felt enormously dispirited and useless. Everything I had crowded into my life to bring it some semblance of meaning had been yanked away or grown stagnant. My casual friends noticed that I seemed lost, but those who knew me best realized that I was crashing into hopelessness.
The pain of that transition and my lack of purpose was made worse by the fact that for five years I had begged God to give me a Joan of Arc-type cause or a unique purpose to champion, but he had not seen fit to do so. I felt confused. At times I wondered if the only logical life purpose I had left was shopping for new clothes because my weight spiraled downward as my depression deepened.
A Longing for Purpose
It has been more than a decade and a half since those difficult days, and God has given me more meaning in life than I ever could have imagined. In the midst of that purposeless desert, I began an intense spiritual journey through which God slowly revealed to me his multifaceted reasons for my existence. Today, my service as a licensed minister at Saddleback Church and as a Certified Christian LifePlan Facilitator allow me the privilege of walking alongside other women who are crying out for purpose in their lives.
I will share a bit more of my journey on the pathway to purpose shortly, but now, let me ask about you. How are you doing in the area of personal validity and life significance? Are you crying out to the Lord for clarity regarding his purposes for your life?
Through my own faltering steps and my interaction with thousands of other women, I have come to realize that countless good, Christian women barely function because they feel alone, disillusioned, or trapped by vague dissatisfaction. They feel that they have no critically important reason to exist, and they are guilt-ridden about their dark secret of borderline despair.
The fact is, most women have felt this void at one time or another, even if just mildly. At some transition point in life, they have experienced a let-down feeling. This unexplainable melancholy may manifest itself in many ways - from the baby blues to a midlife crisis. It may be prompted by a job loss, a home relocation, or divorce. It may also occur after reaching a cherished goal such as completing a race, building a house, graduating from school, planning a wedding, or retiring from a career.
If you find yourself in this perplexing place, you may feel bored and confused. Perhaps you hunger for something challenging to which to give your life. Perhaps you began adulthood with great ideas of how you were going to make a difference in the world but now find yourself struggling to make sense of feelings of emptiness, frustration, or futility. Perhaps you can't turn off the unsettling questions that scream out in the silence of your nights:
- Dear God, where do I fit? How can I make a difference? Where is the place you have for me?
- Does anyone really need me? Does my existence even matter in this world?
- Why do I feel like such a failure as a Christian?
- Why don't I enjoy my church ministry, my family responsibilities, or my job anymore? Why do I feel so unsatisfied?
- Why am I not happy? How did I pile up so many regrets?
- Is this really all there is to life? Is this what God wants my life to look like?
- When did my dreams and passions get relegated to a backburner?
- If I heard God's call, would I have the time or emotional strength to pursue it?
If you find yourself facing questions like these and long for something better, be assured that there is hope. God will reveal your purpose, and your heart will sing over what he has in store for you! He wants you to be able to say, "I'm in my element. I'm in sync. This is what my life is supposed to be about. I was born for this. What a blast!"
Or - the clincher in the case of a career - "I can't believe I get paid to do this!
Katie Brazelton is the founder of Pathway to Purpose™ Ministry and is a Licensed Minister and Director of Women's Bible Studies at Saddleback Church. Katie has worked with women for many years, helping them discover their church ministry and life purposes. She coaches women who are searching for meaning in life as a Certified Christian LifePlanning™ Consultant with an international client base.
This article is an excerpt from Pathway to Purpose for Women by Katie Brazelton, © 2005. Used by permission from Zondervan Publishers. You can purchase a copy of Pathway to Purpose for Women at Christianbook.com.