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Myth-Busting the Quest for Purpose (Part Two)

Last week I told you what I used to believe about the “Quest for Purpose,” and how God lovingly corrected me, pointing out to me what I was missing. This week I’ll tell you how He filled in the blanks and graciously turned on a light bulb in my head, giving me clarity on what our one true purpose in life really is…

What God Says

You see, God has gifted us all with a unique combination of specific gifts, talents, passions, personalities, and temperaments. And I believe in various seasons of life He gives us assignments to accomplish utilizing those gifts, talents, passions, etc. As it turns out, our purpose is to be obedient to Him and to use them however he requests.

DON’T MISS THAT.

It is our purpose on this earth to be obedient in every season, no matter what tasks God assigns us! OBEDIENCE IS OUR *ONE* PURPOSE! Our gifts are not our purpose. Our passions are not our purpose. Our talents are not our purpose. Using them IN OBEDIENCE TO GOD is our purpose.

Throughout the Bible God calls His people to be obedient: Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, Matthew, Peter, Paul, and countless others, including the generations to come (that includes us).

  • God required obedience of the Israelites in the desert: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples…” (Exodus 19:5). Note the promise attached to this request for obedience!
  • Jesus says to his followers: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
  • The Holy Spirit, through James, admonishes believers to be “doers of the Word” (James 1:22).

Jesus set the example:

  • “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8)
  • “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42, emphasis mine).
  • “…but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31, Jesus speaking, emphasis mine).
  • “So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:50, Jesus speaking, emphasis mine).

There are promised blessings attached to obedience:

  • God will make His home with us (John 14:23).
  • We will “eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19).
  • He will “open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room to store it” (Mal. 3:10).
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21, emphasis mine). Note that this one begins with a warning!

There are more, and I encourage you to search the Scriptures for yourself to learn what God says about being obedient, along with the blessings that come with it – AND the dangers of disobedience.

Making it Practical

Here’s another example: Say my vocation is “auto mechanic.” That does not mean it is my purpose, even if I am the best auto mechanic ever, anywhere, in all of history. It means merely that that is the VOCATION God has blessed me with and skilled me to do. Now, if a single mom comes in with three kids in her car, which has a leaky exhaust that will prevent it from passing inspection, it is my JOB to fix her car. But let’s say God tells me to slip a $50 bill into the console where she can find it later on, or to do the repair without charging her for labor. My PURPOSE in that moment is to be obedient to His instruction, in the situation He has placed me through my vocation.

But let’s make it a bigger stretch: Say that in this same scenario God asks me, the mechanic, to find out who in my neighborhood is in need and anonymously put a bag of groceries on their doorstep. Now, even though my VOCATION is as a mechanic, God is asking me to do something completely unrelated to that vocation. My PURPOSE is still obedience to Him.

For the longest time, I thought my purpose was synonymous with my job. Not true. My purpose is to be obedient to whatever He asks me to do, whenever He asks me to do it, whether I’m at work, at church, crossing the street, shopping for groceries, or sitting inside my home watching Netflix.

So Stop It Already

Stop searching and striving for your “purpose” in life and start resting and trusting and listening for that still, small voice. He will tell you what to do, where to go, who to reach out to, what job to take, which school to go to, who to date/not to date, and on and on and on. Your purpose is to say, “YES, LORD!” To be obedient to WHATEVER He calls you to do.

Now, I know some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking I’m a bit slow. I’m sincerely overjoyed for you that you have figured this out already!

But for the rest of you folks who, along with me, have toiled and searched and grieved over what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives to serve God best, what He put us here to do, “what our purpose is”; it is this one simple, yet often incredibly difficult, small but often overwhelming, thing:

Our purpose is to be obedient to God. To say, “Yes, Lord.” To say, “You chose me, and I will go.”

That’s it.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog and like my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/angelaglicklifecoach) to stay up to date on future blog posts and other meanderings.

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Myth-Busting the Quest for Purpose

STOP SEARCHING FOR YOUR PURPOSE!

Yes, you read that right. I want you to stop searching for your purpose. Those words are hard to write, because for years now, I’ve spent hours in prayer concentrated on figuring out my purpose, toiling, taking assessments, crying, journaling, reading the books and doing the Bible studies, striving to the point of exhaustion. The “Quest for Purpose” has become a billion-dollar industry, and I’ve done my share over the years to contribute. All along, I was missing the forest for the trees! Thankfully, God recently shed some light on this for me. You know, like He does.

What I Believed (Erroneously)

I have long believed the sometimes-troubling idea that we do not have onepurpose in this life. Rather, I believed that our purpose changes from season to season, though there is often something of a common thread running through those seasons.

An Example

For example, if a young woman is gifted in finance, has the appropriate degrees, and excellent job prospects, but becomes pregnant, there may be a period in her life when she is a stay-at-home mom. Her purpose, under my former way of thinking, may then be to use her financial prowess to the best benefit of her household. Then, perhaps, at a future time in her life her purpose (again, according to my former way of thinking), might be to use part of her income from one of those excellent job prospects to sponsor a missionary or help fund the building of a church. 

The common thread is her financial skills. The seasons are her youth, stay-at-home motherhood, and attending to her career goals.

The Missing Piece

This is a good start, but an important foundational piece is missing here – her actual purpose. The above example merely demonstrates how she uses a specific gift from one season of life to the next. That is not to say that God won’t use us to bless others through our gifts, because He will. That is why He has given them to us; not for our benefit, but to bless others!

But understand this: Her gifting is not her purpose. Which is reassuring because we are blessed with multiple gifts and talents. That being true, this is where many of us get confused, bogged down, frustrated, and sometimes lose hope and motivation. Here’s why: If we have four outstanding talents (cooking, making people laugh, painting breathtaking art and juggling, for example), and we don’t understand what our ONE TRUE PURPOSE is, we may spend a lot of time, energy and money barking up the wrong tree. FOUR TIMES (or more)!

The Answer

Next week, I’ll share with you what God has laid on my heart about the “Quest for Purpose” – a topic I’ve talked about, blogged on and completely misunderstood for years! Be sure to subscribe to this blog and like my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/angelaglicklifecoach) for part two, and to stay up to date on future blog posts and other meanderings.

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The Chains I Chose

Self-condemnation is a place where I’ve spent too much time. Maybe you can relate? I have been living in my heart with the same attitude toward myself I had back then, before I began passionately pursuing the heart of Christ. I have been merely existing, feeling shackled to condemnation, isolation, and “never-good-enough-ness.” I’ve been standing at the back of the room desperately wanting to be near my Savior, and at the same time fearful he would notice me and scorn me.

Mercifully, God has been working with me to help me see the truth; in large part that I am not the same woman I was 15-20 years ago and beyond (or even yesterday). He is showing me that she – the old me – is gone, along with the old life, and that a new life has begun (1 Cor. 5:17)!

One of the chains that Christ wants to break in your life is the one that keeps you bound to thinking you are still the person you were before you surrendered your life to him!

The enemy would be all too happy for us to choose to chain ourselves to our sin and shame. He’d thrill to know that we choose to keep our focus on what has been, rather than on what God says will be; on who we once were rather than the person God says we are now!

See, those chains were broken the moment we acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God, and that we, as sinners, need him to save us from ourselves, from sin, and from our greatest foe. So why on Earth have I chosen to hold onto them for so long?!

I want to live free, and I can’t do that if I let the ghost of who I used to be hold me hostage daily!

If you can relate all too well to this, I urge you to pray the following courageous prayer with me:

God, search my heart, and I pray that you would find the good in me and help me to see it, too, for You, in your boundless generosity and grace, created me in Your image. You have molded me over the years, taking every good and every bad experience, and made me who I am today:  a broken but beautiful, flawed but forgiven, weak but washed in the blood of the Lamb, person who loves you – and is loved by you – passionately! Lord, forgive me for submitting to the enemy of my soul and gazing into the pool of shame he has shown me for far too long. Today and every day, help me choose to keep my eyes focused forward and upward, wherever YOU are! Amen!

I Was Drowning

Before Christ saved me, I was drowning. Flailing, sputtering, sinking, choking and utterly helpless to save myself.

Then he came. He put his arm around me, but as so many people who are drowning do, I resisted my rescuer.

Why is it that drowning people so often do this? They (we) tend to struggle against those who would protect us and lead us to safety, even though they are perhaps the only thing between us and certain death. It’s about fear. It’s about losing control.

In order for him to save me, I had to surrender to him. I had to stop fighting. I had to give him total control. I had to let go and be still and let him rescue me, pull me to safety, completely dependent on him.

Lord, I thank you for being my rescuer. I pray that every time I find myself in over my head, I will surrender to you, giving you control and trusting you completely. And God? I’m sorry for all the times I make you work so hard, and for the times I resist you. Amen.

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Hope is a Choice

If you know me you probably know that I believe everything we do, where we find ourselves in life, the people who are in our lives . . . all are the result of choices we made.  It took me a long time to accept this truth (because I’ve made some colossally unhealthy choices in my life) and now I “preach” it often. 

Our choices lead us to people, places and situations in life, and they are almost always choices we have consciously made.  Furthermore, we are responsible for choosing our responses to people, events and circumstances.  Accepting that our choices are ours alone, and taking responsibility for the harmful ones as well as the healthy ones, is vital to our growth.

Recently, I gave a talk to a group of women about choices – taking responsibility for them and making healthy ones.  A couple of days later God used my own words to snap me out of a very dark place I was [choosing to be] stuck in.  I had been going through a major season of struggle and felt like I was losing.  I finally came completely untethered in my prayer time one morning and was railing at God through my tears of hurt and anger, and yelled out to Him that I was tired of hoping and being disappointed, and “why should I bother to keep hoping anyway?!” And you know what He graciously said? 

God’s response: “Hope is a choice.”

That pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks. 

I made the healthy choice.  The circumstances haven’t changed.  The answers haven’t come.  The waiting continues.  But choosing hope – sometimes multiple times a day – has made it easier to be where I am, in the uncertainty and the often uneasy stillness.  Choosing hope gives me the courage to dare to look forward to whatever God has in store for me and to rest in the knowledge that it will be good because He is good.

Of course, I can’t post something about choices or about hope without saying that we can also choose whether or not we respond to God’s call on our life, be it to salvation, a career, a geographical location, or whatever.  If you want to talk to me about that choice, and about the ultimate Source of hope, please message me and I’d be honored to talk to you about this.

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My Buoy in the Storm

For those who are where I am (that is, in a terribly awkward state of transition), or have been, or will be – and you’re most certainly one of the three – here is part of an uncomfortable story with a happy ending, though the author doesn’t yet know what it is.

Who am I now?  Now that I’m no longer a student, and I have no traditionally “meaningful” way to fill my days in this season of waiting? Waiting, readers, is not passive as many of you know. Waiting can take everything out of a person.

God, “my soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8).” I wait for You.  Not as gracefully or patiently as I would like, but I wait.  For You.

What I know for sure is that there is no cure for it.  I must ride out these stormy seas and stay afloat by hanging on for dear life to the buoy I know to be trustworthy – Jesus the Christ.  I know he is trustworthy because I recently made myself, in a moment of doubt and despair, write a list of times I know God has shown up for me (I highly recommend this exercise!).  And thus I know this season will not last forever, as none ever do, and that Jesus will be my shelter in the storm, if I let him.

I may endure the storm spluttering, gasping for breath.  I may emerge bruised and bedraggled.  I know I’m not doing it the way I tell myself I should – surfing flawlessly atop the waves with a broad smile on my face, mascara intact – and I have no idea how others think I should weather this storm (and frankly, I have no energy left for that).  Possibly – probably – if I were at some heightened level of spirituality, I would endure this season with more grace.  But I will endure it, with God’s grace.  And when I come to dry land, and Jesus helps me to my feet, my legs will be stronger, my spirit more solid, and the light within me not put out – but burning brighter, so that someday, God willing, I can help someone else find the shoreline.

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Practical Steps to Finding Your Purpose

Trying to figure out who you are, what you’re meant to be, and do? I believe the below exercises from my personal experience can help you!

Take a moment at the end of each day to ask yourself what during the day made you feel most alive, closest to God.  This next bit is important: write it down

Then take a few moments at the end of the week – I usually do this on Saturday before my weekend sweeps me away – and see if you can remember what those moments were.

What moments during the week stand out to you the most as you consider what left you feeling energized and connected to God?  They probably spring to mind fairly easily. 

Now look at your notes from the end of each day.  Which ones did you remember before you looked? Those are important, so make a special note of those on a separate sheet, or highlight them. 

Which moments slipped your mind?  How energized do they make you feel now, looking back on them?  If they don’t really spark anything, maybe you can let them go a bit, or save them for future contemplation.  If they merely slipped your mind but now that you see them you can’t understand how they escaped your memory, highlight them. 

Over time, continue to check this list and see what types of activities and situations continually feel fulfilling, energizing and leave you feeling closer and more intimately connected with God.

These may give you important guidance toward your “calling”!

I’d love to hear/read about any insights you gain from this exercise (which will, of course, take a bit of time, so be patient)!

If you need further help with this, or other help navigating your spiritual development, I’d be honored to help.  Just contact me at AngelaGlickLifeCoach@gmail.com!

Photo credit: ID 74060492 © Marek Uliasz | Dreamstime.com

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Give Yourself a Break!

After just finishing up a challenging semester in grad school (and aren’t they all challenging, really?), I’m giving myself this week off!  I worked really hard to make time for some much-needed rest and relaxation, and this time I’m really, really going to do it.  Stop laughing, I’m serious!

See, usually, I *say* I’m going to take the week off and then I book every single day with as much as I can fit in.  I call it the “funnel effect,” and I’m betting you’re familiar with it.  It happens when I have so many things on my “to do” list that I can’t possibly get them done in a day, so they accumulate until I can’t get them done in a week, and on it goes (until I “declutter” my “to do” list, but I’ve already blogged about that).

So when I stop to take a break from school, all the miscellaneous stuff that hasn’t gotten done over the semester funnels right into the space I’ve created in my schedule, until I’m completely overwhelmed again!  So, maybe it’s household stuff, and sure, that needs to get done.  Maybe it’s time with friends, and absolutely, I love spending time with my friends!  Maybe it’s working on my blog, which I enjoy, or tending to some marketing matters for my small business(es) I’d like to grow, and that’s legitimate and helpful to our household.  I’m betting you can relate to the funnel effect, am I right?

But wait . . .

If all that stuff has waited for the last sixteen or seventeen weeks, I’m left wondering . . . why do I try to squeeze it all into the time off that I’ve worked so hard to carve out?!  Maybe it’s important, but it’s obviously not urgent or it would probably not still be on my “to do” list, right?  Some things have been put off during the school term BECAUSE THEY CAN BE PUT OFF.  So that means they don’t all have to get done on my break, either.

I’ve capped off the funnel this time!  I set a small amount of time aside to visit with a couple of friends, I have a work-related project I really do want to accomplish this week, and I’m going to dust our apartment and clean one particular window that’s driving me nuts.  Otherwise, I have a novel I’ve been trying to read for over a year (did I mention that I’m in grad school?) and I *will* finish it on my break, on our balcony, with a cup of tea, possibly in my bathrobe.

I will spend precious time in my studio making beautiful things – some for sale, but much will be for our home and for gifting – because that makes my heart happy, and because engaging the creative part of my brain is an excellent way to de-stress (studies prove it!).  I’ll practice yoga, spend some extra time in prayer and meditation, and do whatever else rejuvenates me, but I’m *not* adding anything new to my calendar or my “to do” list.  In fact, I intentionally scheduled one day with absolutely NOTHING on the calendar or the to-do list, and I may turn it into a prayer and meditation day (super rejuvenating!)

I’m determined to feel like I took a break.  I can do it.  But since I already know this, the reason I’m posting it publicly is to remind you that you can, too!  Someone recently mentioned that every weekend leaves her feeling like she needs another weekend to recover from it.  We’ve all said that, probably.

Busyness is largely a choice, and often is a symptom of weak boundaries.  I know, I know, that sounds harsh.  And it hurts when I have to say it to myself, too.  But it’s the raw truth.  So, go ahead and give yourself a break – all the cool kids are doing it!

So to that end, my faithful followers, I am wrapping up this post and I’m going to head to the studio!  Shalom!

If you need help with life strategies such as stress management, spiritual development, and women’s concerns including painting a victorious new future after overcoming emotional, sexual and physical abuse, please contact me!  We can set something up for next week.  😉

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Stress Management Tool #3 – Meditation

Stop rolling your eyes!  Any healthy conversation about holistic stress management has to turn to meditation sooner or later – and you can do it!  Come on, then, and let’s talk a little about meditation, and hopefully demystify it and make it more accessible…

What Exactly is Meditation?  Chrisman and Blackwell (2018) define meditation as “a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth” (p. 2256).  The recommended focus varies among cultures and religions; however, Clinton, et al. (2005) teach that Christian meditation includes meditating on God’s Word and on Christ.

Benefits of Meditation.  The National Institutes of Health (2016) reports a finding that scientific evidence supports that meditation reduces the symptoms of stress, to include depression and anxiety.  In fact, one study found that meditation is among the top-recommended methods of coping with a wide range of stress-related maladies, both physical and emotional (Chrisman & Blackwell, 2018).  Bergland (2013) writes that “any type of meditation will reduce anxiety” and lower the levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone; Bergland goes on to recommend taking several deep, slow breaths at the first signs of stress.

Methods of Meditation.  Meditation can seem a bit “mystical” and “mysterious” to those who have not practiced it, but it is a valid stress intervention that is readily available to everyone, and it’s more down-to-earth than you may think (i.e., it doesn’t have to be all “woo-woo” – a technical term).  In fact, Christians may be surprised to learn that meditation is a practice supported by Scripture (see Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 104:34).

Bergland (2013) offers this encouragement:

“You can meditate anytime and any place. There don’t have to be strict boundaries to when and how you do it. Mindfulness and meditation is a powerful de-stressor and cortisol reducer that is always in your toolbox and at your fingertips. You can squeeze in a few minutes of meditation on the subway, in a waiting room, on a coffee break . . .”

Bergland goes on to write that setting aside as little as ten minutes for meditation can calm the mind and body.

So now that you know what meditation is and how beneficial it can be, you may be wondering how to do it yourself.  Need specific tips to start your own meditation practice to help relieve stress in your life?  Contact me and I’ll be delighted to help you develop your own meditation practice!

 References

Bergland, C. (2013). Cortisol: Why the “stress hormone” is public enemy no. 1: 5 simple ways to lower your cortisol levels without drugs. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

Chrisman, L., & Blackwell, A. H. (2018). Meditation. In J. L. Longe (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health (4th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 2256-2260). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link-galegroup-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/apps/doc/CX3662600722/HWRC?u=vic_liberty&sid=HWRC&xid=23ec990f

Clinton, T., Hart, A. and Ohlschlager, G. (2005). Caring for people God’s way: Personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief and trauma.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

National Institutes of Health. (2016, January). Mind and body approaches for stress: What the science says. NCCIH Clinical Digest for health professionals. Retrieved June 23, 2018, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/mind-body-stress-science

 

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Fear demands courage. Courage requires fear.

Fear demands courage.  Courage requires fear.

They can’t live without each other.  If you’ve ever been afraid and you’re still here, it’s because of courage.  Courage to pray. Courage to put one foot in front of the other. Courage to stand strong, courage to get back on your feet when you fall.

And we wouldn’t need courage if there was no fear. 

Fear is a training ground for courage.  How would we know how strong we truly are, or understand our potential, or begin to grasp God’s greatness if we never experienced fear?

I don’t think it’s fair to tell a person not to be afraid.  Yes, the Bible instructs us not to fear, and purportedly it does so 365 times.  I’ve heard it, and I believe it.  But I don’t think it means to deny our fear.  Denial of our emotions is the beginning of disaster. Denial of our emotions can, and almost certainly will, over time, cause or contribute to potentially severe health issues (high blood pressure, heart attacks, severe and ongoing headaches, diabetes, autoimmune issues and so much more).  Denial of our emotions can, and often does, take a severe and sometimes irreversible toll on our mental health (nervous breakdowns, depression, anxiety, and even suicide).  And then there’s our spiritual life.  Denying our emotions can dramatically strain our relationship with God, our sense of purpose, and the wellness in our soul that comes from being able to live in a place of hope.  Finally, our relational life takes a beating when we deny our emotions (divorce, infidelity, alienation of family and friends and on and on).

Some folks label emotions as “good” and “bad.”  I’ve done it myself, in the interest of brevity and simplicity.  But I think it’s tricky and dangerous to call fear a “bad” emotion.  It’s perfectly valid.  It must be, because it is God-given.  It serves a healthy purpose, to warn us off from taking harmful actions or engaging in detrimental behaviors.  What I think the Scriptures are saying is not to never experience fear, but rather not to unpack and camp out in a place of fear; not to let it take over our emotional, physical, spiritual and relational wellbeing; not to let it drive or control our hearts, minds or actions.

Feel the fear.  Confess the fear.  Pray about the fear.  Find a trusted confidant and talk about/cry about/rail against/scream about the fear.  But let it be like an afternoon thundershower.  When it’s over, see the light of hope.  Feel the freshness of grace on your skin.  Sense the renewal on the horizon.  And then look closer.  Look inside.  Look for him.  Can you see him?  There he is, reaching out to you.  Take his hand.  Let Jesus help you up, and even lean on him.  It’s one of the reasons he’s here.  Allow him to introduce you to the Victor in you (1 Cor. 6:19).  Allow the fear, accept the help, and dig deep for the courage that is in you.  Lift your chin a little higher and march on, wiser and stronger for your inevitable encounter with fear.