Identify Your Purpose and Empower Your Future

God’s work in us sometimes looks different than we are expecting. These challenging feelings may actually be what helps us grow closer to our faith.

by Kelley Weber

Three challenging feelings to discover your purpose

“God comes to us disguised as our life.” 
- Paula D’Arcy
God is working wherever the action of your life is…and that doesn’t just mean the good times. God uses every part of our lives to show us who we are and set us on our path. Here are three challenging feelings to pay attention to in order to discover your purpose.

  1. What breaks your heart and sets it ablaze? 

“Our longing is how God comes to us.” 
- Belden Lane
First, that feeling of bittersweet longing is the key to our purpose. It tells us where we’re placing our attention. Are we longing for things that are life giving? Or are we more attached to material things that only benefit us superficially? 

If we are moved by purely material things, our purpose may be overshadowed by motivations that distract us or, worse, harm us. When we can find beauty and meaning that moves us to that longing in relationships, stories, art, service, even brokenness, then we have some insight into what God has ahead for us.
“Pay attention to the things that bring a tear to your eye or a lump in your
throat because they are signs that the Holy is drawing near.” 
- Frederick Buechner

2. What are you scared of, resentful toward, insecure about? 

Often it’s the things we struggle with that God chooses to use to bring purpose into our lives. I have a friend who is shy that finds herself moving into chaplaincy work. She will be meeting and talking with strangers and even…making phone calls!

For me, I always had some resentment around the fact that I was the person that friends would come to in order to unburden themselves or seek advice. As a spiritual director, that resentment has turned to joy and purpose as I sit and listen while people share their most vulnerable stories with me. In 12-Step Programs, someone’s addiction is what makes them the perfect sponsor for someone else. What do you struggle with most? Surprisingly, that may be the very thing you are called to do.
“God doesn’t make sense and you don’t need to either because this God will use you, this God will use ALL of you. Not just your strengths but your failures and your failings. Your weakness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful.”
- Nadia Bolz-Weber

3. What makes you angry? 

According to Brene Brown’s new special Atlas of the Heart, “Righteousness is a real response to a threat to equity or social justice.” On the other hand, self-righteousness is a performative conviction that one’s beliefs and behaviors are the most correct. Social justice work is not selfless or selfish. It is identifying what you yourself want deeply and extending that to others so all have access. What would make you most angry if it was taken from you? What makes you angry when you see others go without? This can be a powerful way that God sows a seed of action in your heart.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: they shall have their fill.”
- Matthew 5:6
If we can’t be present to these challenging feelings in our lives, then we can’t look deeper to what they may be calling us towards. It is important to practice paying attention through prayer, quiet, stillness, journaling, or any kind of practice that strengthens the muscle of observation and resilience so that we can allow God to speak into our lives – into the WHOLE of our lives.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
- Frederick Beuchner

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