What is my purpose in life? What is God’s purpose for me? I used to think I had to search for it, looking for clues, hoping I was on the right track. What if I was following the wrong breadcrumbs? I would worry about that.
I held on to the hope that one day I would finally see God’s purpose for me and start living it. In the meantime, life went on with its time-consuming tasks and responsibilities, many joys, some tragedies, wonderful surprises, and disappointments.
I still was not sure what my purpose in life was. I would go one way and be disillusioned; go another way and face failure.
I bet Joseph of the Bible asked himself what his purpose in life was. If I were in his shoes, I would have worried that I was on the wrong track, hoping God would show me more clues. Joseph was the favored son in his family, which would open up so many opportunities. Then, unexpected tragedy – he found himself in a deep pit, being sold by his brothers as a slave to a foreigner.
This could not have been his purpose in life; maybe he took a misstep. In the house of the Captain of the Egyptian Guard, he worked his way up from slave to overseer. Then, disillusionment – the captain’s wife turned on Joseph, and he found himself in jail. OK, I guess being an overseer was not his purpose in life either. He needed more breadcrumbs; more clues.
But Joseph was a self-starter, and before long the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. One of them was quite thankful when Joseph saved his skin, but he promptly forgot Joseph after he was released and went back to his job as Pharaoh’s butler. What a disappointment.
When would Joseph find his purpose in life? Days in prison turned into two years. Then for some inexplicable reason, Pharaoh summoned Joseph to interpret a dream; he did, and then Joseph found himself raised to second in command to Pharaoh. This must be God’s purpose for Joseph! The journey is complete! Right? No, it is not.
When did Joseph discover his purpose in life? When did Joseph understand God’s purpose for him? In Genesis 45: 5-8 Joseph tells his brothers, “Do not be distressed… because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to save lives… So, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Similarly, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph sums it up for his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Joseph did not comprehend his purpose for a long, long time. It was only when he could look back did he see that he had been living his purpose in life all along. And so may we.
It does not matter what happens to us; what matters is that we handle it and that we continue to trust God. Our journey in life IS our purpose – the highs, the lows, the living day by day, become the essence of our purpose: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov. 16:9).
One step – even if we think we have lost our way – leads us to the next step – until finally we look back and say, “Aha! Now I see!”