“Waiting to find your purpose tomorrow is a great way to ensure you don’t live with purpose today.”
- Jon Acuff (from New York Times Bestselling book, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average & Do Work that Matters)
What is your purpose? I really hate this question. So many people have asked me this over the past few years, and I NEVER know how to answer it. It’s a scary question to say the least—a question I don’t even like thinking about. I used to spend hours trying to figure out what exactly I was put on this earth for. I would see so many of my friends doing big things in their life, and I would just be going through the motions in my life. It used to bother me so much. I would get so frustrated reading Jeremiah 29:11. You got these so called “plans” mapped out for me God, but what exactly are they? Why are all these other people doing such great things? Why does it seem like my life is irrelevant?
At 23, I thought I would be a lot further in my life than I am now. I thought I would be working at some dream job making a substantial amount of money, while also traveling the world and impacting the lives of many. I'm nowhere near that. I did recently get a new job, but up until that point I was still working at the same place I had been employed at while I was in college. It took me almost a year and a half to finally find something in my major. Though I'm excited and thankful for something new, it's still not where I would've envisioned myself at. My income isn’t bad—the job isn’t bad either. It just isn’t the most exciting place to be working at. Sitting behind a cubicle for eight hours was never the thing I told people as a kid when they would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up. At the moment I’m also still living at home with my parents. That wasn’t something I wrote as a goal either; especially after being away at school for 4 years. As far as making an impact on the lives of others, that doesn’t seem like it’s happening either. From my point of view this “plan” doesn’t seem all that spectacular. What was supposed to be the blueprint of the White House, is turning out to look more like the inner city projects. But that’s “my” point of view. I tend to forget that every step I take in this life is ordered; every step I take has meaning (Proverbs 16:9). Even during this period of time where I seem to be way off course from what I am supposed to be doing, there is still purpose and meaning behind it. Joseph from the Bible is a great representation of how we should live our life when we are unsure of what we are supposed to be doing.
At age 17, Joseph caught a glimpse of what his life was destined to be. He had two dreams about him being made ruler over his parents and eleven brothers. It wasn’t until he was 30 years old when his dreams finally came to pass though. What did he do during those 13 years in between? Did he stop living? Was his life considered meaningless during that time? Did God not care about him? Was he just going through the motions of life? No. He lived. He lived each and every single day with purpose. And it was through this that his overall purpose slowly but surely mapped its way out. Joseph’s older brothers were very envious of Joseph. Their father Jacob loved him the most out of all of them because he had been born to him at such an old age. On top of that Joseph started telling his brothers his dreams about how he would be made ruler over them. These dreams drove his brothers crazy and they hated him with a passion because of it. They wanted him out of their life and ended up selling him over to slavery to a group of Ishmaelite traders. From there he was purchased by Potiphar, who was one of Pharaoh’s personal staff members. Joseph probably had many questions for God about how and why he got put in that predicament. I’m pretty sure he often thought back to the dreams that he had and wondered how exactly could this have been part of God’s plan. One thing that he didn’t do that many people uncertain about their purpose often do, was go through the motions. If there is something in our lives that we deem as unimportant, we often just take a back seat in life as if we were being chauffeured in a taxi by God. We just sit back and wait and until he magically drops us off at the destination of our life that really matters. It should never be that way though. God created every part of our life’s journey with a purpose. Nothing in it is irrelevant. We were never created just to live. Joseph chose to continue to trust in God’s plan and to do everything with purpose. God was with Joseph the whole time he was a slave of Potiphar. He gave him favor and Potiphar ended up putting Joseph in charge over everything he owned. Sounds like we’re about to get to a happy ending right? Wrong. Potiphar’s wife started to take a keen interest in Joseph and tried multiple times to get him to sleep with her. Joseph denied her time after time. He didn’t want to sleep with her because he had too much respect for her husband and for God. One day she grabbed Joseph by his cloak and demanded him to sleep with her. Joseph broke away from her and ran out the house. He left his cloak behind in the process. Angered, Potiphar’s wife took Joseph’s cloak and screamed out “Rape!” After these allegations were made, Joseph was thrown into prison.
Joseph was already a longshot from being a ruler as a slave. Now as a prisoner it was downright impossible. In a situation like this, most of us would’ve gone through the motions of life. Laid off from work? Go through the motions. Failed another class? Go through the motions. Another broken heart? Go through the motions. When things just don’t go our way, shouldn’t we have the right to not live our life with purpose? Shouldn’t we give God a half job since it appears as if he’s only giving us a half job? That’s not what Joseph did. Despite the fact he went from slave to prisoner, Joseph kept living his life with purpose as if it were the life that he had always dreamed of. Because of his attitude and desire to live each day as if it were his last, Joseph found favor with the prison warden. He placed Joseph in charge of all the prisoners and over everything that took place in the prison. One day Pharaoh’s butler and baker were thrown in prison because they had offended Pharoah. During their stay there the two of them had a dream. They both told Joseph their dream and he interpreted it for them. In three days Pharaoh was going to restore the butler's position and kill the baker. After telling this, Joseph pleaded to the butler to remember to mention him to Pharaoh when he got out of prison. Three days passed by and everything that Joseph interpreted came true. The butler however forgot all about Joseph’s request. It wasn’t until two years later when Pharaoh had a disturbing dream that the butler remembered what he was supposed to tell Pharaoh. Pharaoh released Joseph from prison so he could interpret his dream for him. Over the next seven years Egypt was going to experience plenty of prosperity. After that time period was over, Egypt was then going to experience seven years of famine. Joseph suggested that Pharaoh collect a fifth of all the food that would grow during the years of prosperity so that there will be enough food in Egypt to last during the years of famine. After hearing these suggestions, Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over the entire land of Egypt.
Slave. Prisoner. Ruler. Sounds backwards right? Under our way of thinking it is, but not under God’s. His thoughts aren’t like our thoughts and his ways aren’t like our ways (Isaiah 55:8). It’s interesting that in his journey of becoming a ruler, he had already been put in a position of operating like a ruler. As a slave he ruled over Potiphar’s household. As a prisoner he ruled over all the prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. By the time he became ruler over Egypt, he was a professional and was more than capable of handling the duties of a ruler. So let’s learn from Joseph. You might be in a job right now that you hate. You might be staring at a textbook with the slightest clue of why you’re still in college. You might be in an situation that seems impossible to come out of. Stand strong and persevere. Don’t go through the motions of life. Live everyday with purpose in mind. As hard as it might be to do, understand that God is using your circumstance for something far greater than we can understand.
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