Monday, January 28, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Longing, Part Two

Have you ever wondered whether you are living up to your full potential, particularly as you straddle the doldrums of parenthood? If so, I invite you to join me in my newest series entitled, "How to Live Your Life Purpose." In the coming months, you'll discover how living your life purpose can be divided into six different movements or steps. Last week, I introduced the first step, which is longing. This week, I'll explore what the Bible and a popular modern author have to say about longing. Subscribers to my website will get exclusive material from this series emailed to them, so be sure that you have subscribed here

When I open the pages of I Samuel, it is as if I can hear a woman crying. Hannah is crying so loudly at the temple gates that the priest thinks she is drunk. No doubt, she knows the emptiness of longing. That longing has rooted down deep inside of her and is bubbling out in hollow, irrational wails. Her heart aches, her soul cries, and she doesn’t care who sees it. While the scene initially offends the temple priest, what she is doing is right. She is taking her longing to the Lord.

Hannah wants a child. She feels becoming a mother is a part of her life purpose and her attempts have been futile. She feels the ache of her empty arms and appeals to the One who gave her that longing and could satisfy it in the first place. Upon learning about her situation, the temple priest blesses her. Priest Eli states, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him” (I Samuel 1:17). Soon, she has a newborn son.

While not everyone is a parent, all of us know the ache of longing. An important lesson from this biblical story is to remember to bring our longing to the Lord. It is Hannah’s boldness in prayer and willingness to approach the temple that brings about her fulfillment. God not only has the power to do what we cannot, but he yearns for us to approach him as the Wellspring of our longing. The psalmist describes our Creator God by proclaiming, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me” (Psalm 139:1). The church father Augustine, in turn, states, “Thou hast made us for thyself; and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.”

Author Rebekah Lyons knows restlessness well. In her book Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning, she writes about experiencing depression and panic attacks until she unearths a new life purpose. Her experience is not unique, especially among women. She conveys a startling statistic:
One in four women will suffer some form of depression in her lifetime. From anxiety attacks, as in my case, to mood disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and so on, women are under siege. And the majority of women who are wrestling with depression fit nicely in the twenty-five to forty-four-year-old age bracket. We aren’t depressed because we are getting old; we are depressed in the prime of our lives. During the years when we ought to be making some of our greatest contributions to others and to the world, we are stuck. *
Rebekah believes the flurry of modern life with its constant demands plus a lack of felt life purpose feeds these numbers. Frequently caregivers for children during these years, women tend to overlook themselves. But overlooking ourselves is not limited to this predicament, gender, or age range.

Rebekah’s experience and statistics reveal longing. It’s important to recognize that she was active in ministry during this time of distress in her life. It’s not that she was making poor choices; her longing instead stood for a deeper need. Gifts were lurking beneath the surface. Once she started writing, she began to experience the freedom and relief of embodying her true self, whom God made her to be. Discovering her life purpose and giftedness enabled her to find healing.

While not all depression is rooted in a lack of life purpose, ignoring our life purpose will inevitably result in unhappiness. This is true for women and men. What’s intriguing about Rebekah’s example is that it recognizes the complexities of the enterprise itself. Rebekah is a wife, mother, ministry worker, and now writer. Life purpose is the compilation of many roles and many goals; it is a comprehensive expression of all of whom our Creator has designed us to be. {Click to Tweet} Whether it concerns a career, work inside the home, or volunteerism, it will look different for every person. For Rebekah, an important piece of that expression had been missing. 

* Rebekah Lyons, Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), 66-67.

Questions to think about this week: In what roles or goals in your life are you happy, and which one or ones need improvement? Does either Hannah or Rebekah's ache resonate with your experience? Have you presented your ache to the Lord, and if so, how has God answered you or how is God prompting your heart right now?

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