The “why” question
It’s just a word; a simple and most potent question of life. Direct this question at anything and the response you’ll get will define its purpose. This question is “why“?
Purpose answers the why question about anything, be it alive or inanimate; abstract or tangible, substantial or insignificant. Some why questions evoke responses that are comprehensible by human intellect, like:
- Why do cars exist?
- Why is it dark at night?
- Why must proper nouns begin with a capital letter?
Such why questions help you know when a particular concept is no longer living up to its purpose. Some why questions however, evoke responses that defy comprehension by human intellect, like:
- Why is the earth spherical?
- Why is red a colour?
- Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice his only son?
- Why was I born?
The last two instances are conscious references to the fact that the response to a why question, while incomprehensible at first, could be discovered. If it can be reasoned that various concepts are at various degrees of discovery (of purpose), it can then be concluded that the purpose of everything can eventually be discovered. Therefore, everything has a purpose, whether alive or inanimate; abstract or tangible, substantial or insignificant.
“Everything in life has go its time and season; so you don’t have to ask me why.”
A popular dictionary (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary) describes purpose as “that which a person sets before himself as an object to be reached or accomplished”. It also renders an alternate definition as the end or aim which the view is directed in any plan or exertion, and suggests synonyms like aim, design, view, intention and plan to be contextual substitutions for the word purpose in certain diction.
This definition has a subtle and intriguing paradox to it. You could already have grasped the dual interpretation, but if not, I’ll give you a clue: regarding purpose, nobody or thing is autonomous.
“A body at rest will continue to remain at its constant state of rest until it is set in motion by an external force.”
Sir Isaac Newton
Before you decided to set so many things in motion in your life, you did have a purpose in mind, right? And with that purpose came a process. You had a purpose for getting an education. In the process, you probably worked or starved to pay fees; kept up late nights to study, made friends, made enemies, missed classes, missed tests, wrote exams, passed some, failed some…you know every bit of external force you had to exert to set in motion realities that will bring you closer to your purpose, which I assume was/is to get an education. This applies to learning to drive, executing a project, acquiring a skill, doing business, keeping a family together, leading a nation, and so on. These achievements you set before yourself would’ve remained in a state of constant rest except you exerted some force to set them in motion. This is commensurate with the Webster’s definition of purpose. However….
Have you ever paused to ponder what set you in motion?
Don’t be quick to reply that your parents did. The purpose of a human being’s life is far too valuable and precious to be determined inside ten minutes of effervescent sexual intercourse. Consequently, neither of your parents knew how your blood was separated from your brains. Nor did they know if you might be born with a defect? They did not know your character? What you might like or dislike? You probably never played with some of the toys they bought you, right? Because their guess was wrong! Your parents gave you birth, they did not give you life. If parents had the power to give life, there would be no stillborns, for nobody wants to parent to a dead child. Yet, the question stays: have you paused to ponder what set you in motion?
This is what God said:
Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations–that’s what I had in mind for you.”
Jeremiah 1:4-5 (The Message Bible)
The keywords “shaped“, “womb“, “plans” and “before“, lend themselves to the fact that everybody’s purpose was shaped and planned before they were placed in their mother’s womb. Acceptance of this truth is the first step to discovering your ultimate purpose in life!
“We are nothing but instruments in the hands of our Creator.”
Super Story (Popular Nigerian TV Show)
Having discovered that one has a purpose for which they are born, the greatest tendency is to launch all out in an effort to discover what that purpose is. A deluge of motivational books on the subject of discovering one’s supposed purpose already exist. Why then are more people mushed up about their purpose than ever before? Having read one too many such books on this subject, I’ve witnessed that some authors make it sound like rocket science. They use one-size-fits-all approaches, and rule-of-thumb illustrations to enumerate a long list of “HOW TOs” that the reader is expected to memorize and be overly conscious about. I sometimes end up more befuddled and bored after reading some of these books than before I began to read them. Not altogether disregarding such books, I’m only pointing out that some of them plainly miss the point.
Some books on this subject have placed emphasis on discovering one’s purpose in life on one’s talent, but Joseph the son of Jacob proved otherwise: his job as Prime Minister (at the prime of his life) did not entail interpreting dreams. That gift was only a platform that launched him into limelight and brought him before kings. It cannot be said of him that his purpose in life was to interpret dreams. His purpose was much higher than that.
Some books have emphasized on one’s education, but Apostle Paul proved otherwise. Paul himself said he counted his education, along with everything else in his life, as worthless for the sake of Christ.
“Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant–dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ.”
Philippians 3:5 (The Message Bible)
I’ve come across some books that say it’s in what you love, but shall we begin to tell the tale of King Solomon or Judas Iscariot.
Some books have asserted it’s in your career, but well, Jesus didn’t prove so. He was into carpentry with his father Joseph, but that had little to do with his purpose which was to save the whole world from sin. Also, Peter was a fisherman, but he was not the most successful fisherman in Galilee. His purpose in life was not to be a fisher of fish, but of men.
Once again, I’m not altogether dismissing all such premises, for some books have postulated that it’s in what you hate, and truly, Moses hated injustice and proved to become one of Israel’s greatest leaders ever. All I can say is that these are all pointers and compasses that lead towards what could possibly be one’s destiny. They are clues, they help prepare you and are mostly not the fulfilment of the purposes themselves. Have you ever seen or heard a dying or aged person confess that if given the opportunity over again, they would invest more time and effort in their career or education? What do they always say?
This is what I have to say about discovering one’s purpose:
It is far easier for your purpose to find you, than you can find your purpose. This is because your purpose brought you into this world; it knows where to find you at all times. You didn’t choose your purpose; your purpose chose you.
If Joseph had launched out in search of his purpose shortly after his teenage dream, would he have come any close to discovering it? What exactly would he have known to look for?
How about Moses after the burning bush encounter? Had he the slightest clue how famous, even till date, he was going to become?
What can we say of Gideon, whose purpose came upon him at a time when he was not prepared for it? Of course, he never went out actively searching for that kind of purpose!? He couldn’t have chosen to pursue a purpose that grossly revealed the coward in him.
If David were actively looking for his purpose, would he not have killed King Saul at the first opportunity? But he spared Saul’s life twice! He had been anointed King, and knew that the sooner Saul was dead, the earlier he would be king. With the way the purpose gospel is preached today in most media, I can bet that 49 out of every 50 people would have already killed Saul before they even had David’s first opportunity! The meeker ones would call it a sign from God that “their time had come”.
A careful tour through history reveals that bible and contemporary heroes who made great impact upon their generation and fulfilled their life’s purpose did not do so by initially and actively pursuing it, for they had no idea what the purpose was! The exception here is where they have specifically heard from God what exactly to do or look for, in which case, doing nothing about it will amount to disobedience or rebellion. You cannot actively pursue what you do not know. You can however actively expect your purpose, while actively building your capacity to shoulder the responsibility your purpose will weigh on you when it eventually comes; and that is exactly what Father Abraham did.
Let’s learn a lesson from bible and contemporary heroes who achieved their purpose. What did they have in common?
- They developed exceptional and often impeccable character and skill that stood them out from the crowd.
- They were often not expecting the circumstances that exposed their abilities or revealed their purpose to them. (Moses, Gideon, Joseph, Joshua, Esther, Mother Theresa, William Wilberforce, Mary Slessor, Nelson Mandela, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Martin Luther and so on, are vivid examples)
- They never pursued selfish gain. They always thought of other people first.
- They used their talents to help people around them and this prepared them with the abilities required to accomplish their purpose when it came.
It’s not too much talk or being overly conscious about discovering our purpose that makes any difference to humanity, it is developing the kind of lifestyle and character that will usher us into opportunities to make a difference to humanity; and when that happens, we find that we have found purpose in life.
In life, we all come and go at different times, so also do we come and go along with our purposes. Everyone’s purpose is a solution to a peculiar problem. Different problems manifest at different times, and this demonstrates that our purposes manifest as solutions to problems whenever they arise. There is no set time or age in life for everyone to discover their purpose. Moses discovered his purpose at the age of 80 and spent the rest of his life accomplishing it, while Jesus died at the age of 33 after completing his assignment. King David began the journey into his purpose after killing Goliath as a teenager, and King Asa, who brought about one of Israel’s greatest spiritual revival, and is one of Israel’s few most successful kings, was crowned King at the age of 7. God spoke to Abraham and gave his life purpose at the age of 75 and that purpose only began to manifest at the age of 100. It’s different strokes for different folks. What suits one does not necessarily suit another. The common denominator however is that they either prepared themselves well in advance, to the best of their abilities, or had the right people or company around them, before the time to begin the journey in their purpose came.
Your purpose brought you into this world; therefore, your purpose always knows where you are. Just like a workman always knows where to find his tool. You are a tool in the hand of your purpose. The tool is not in the habit of going in search of the workman for it to be used, because the workman always reaches out for the tool to accomplish his work. This is why I say, it is far easier for one’s purpose to find them, than to find one’s purpose.
So what is your life’s purpose. If by now, you’re beginning to wonder if God is your purpose, then you have been reading between the lines. God is the workman, you are the tool. He uses you to accomplish the task that you are best suited for. You do not know what that task is beforehand until he begins to use you for it.
What should you do then?
You have to give your life (the priceless tool) over to God (the Workman) through His Son, Jesus Christ. Stop living carelessly in gay abandon, oblivious of impending doom. You want to live a doubt-free life, but have no idea how to go about it. Here’s how! You should give in to those little intermittent nudging of your conscience, you know the still small voice that tells you all is not well with your life, that you can be a better person. It is the voice of Jesus for He says:
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.Revelations 3:20
- Accept Jesus Christ into your life.
- Ask Him to forgive you your sins past and promise not to return to that wayward life.
- Confess with your mouth that you believe in His name and that He died on the cross of Calvary for your sins.
- Believe by faith that He has heard you and forgiven you.
- Study your bible everyday to learn the kind of life that Jesus Christ intends for you to live.
A life of walking with Jesus is possible for you and the time to begin this walk is… now!.
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”
John 4:34 (World English Bible)