Summary: Having purpose, what is it?
We all may have wondered why we are here and why we are alive. Some people have wandered around most of their lives looking for their purpose. Some would define it as being successful in the business world, having a lot of money, to be the smartest or number one at work, or having a solid retirement pension in their golden years. Maybe they would say it is to provide everything for their family, seeing their children succeed, or living long to see their grandchildren. Some people believe there is no real purpose other than day-to-day survival.
An American psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a theory of life’s motivation, called Maslow’s Hierarchy. He describes the process by which an individual progresses from basic physiological needs such as food and shelter to meeting their safety requirements, on to satisfying their social needs and then satisfying one’s self esteem. This top of the hierarchy is what he calls called “self actualization,” or taking pride in your life after all the other needs are satisfied. Is this what our purpose in life is, to reach self-actualization?
Tim McGraw a country singer recently released a new Compact Disk (CD), “Live Like You are Dying.” Think about that for a moment. How would you live if you knew you were dying? As Tim’s song goes would you go skydiving or climb the Rocky Mountains? What would you do? What would be important? How would you change how you live? What would be your main purpose if you knew you were dying?
The average person lives for 657,000 hours, which equates to 75 years. Most people do not think about how many years they have left on earth, let alone how many hours. However, if you are 30 years old you have already lived 262,800 of your life. If you are 45 you have already lived 394,200 hours, over half of your life expectancy. If you are 51 years old like me, you have already lived 446,760 hours of your life. Saying it another way, I hopefully have another 210,240 hours left to live if I make it to 75 years old. If not, take 8,760 hours off for each year under 75 years of life that I do not live. This is a sobering way to look at life. It makes knowing your purpose for life very important as there is not an unlimited amount of time to figure it out and then live it out.
Having purpose is essential for a healthy life. It reduces stress, simplifies life, and brings satisfaction and peace. Some say that life without purpose is worse than death. I am not totally sure about that. I do know that when a person figures out what his or her purpose is on earth, life seems to become easier, more rewarding, and more satisfying. This is not to say finding purpose eliminates suffering, pain, sickness, turmoil and evil situations. It does mean that when we are suffering, sick, in turmoil or in evil situations we will survive as we have purpose to do so.
Corrie ten Boom was born in Holland in 1892. During World War II the Germans invaded her country. The ten Boom family was providing a hiding place for Jewish people. In 1944 Corrie at age 52, her father at 84, and sister Betsie were arrested and taken to prison by the German Nazi soldiers. Corrie was severely beaten, tortured, placed in isolation and given very little to eat or drink. The German soldiers wanted her to talk about her connection with the underground that they believed were assisting her family in hiding Jewish people. A severely beaten, whipped, starving, cold, and very weak Corrie did not give in and never gave up to die like so many others did. Why? Corrie ten Boom had purpose to live. What was that purpose? During her isolation in a small cell with no bed and only straw on the cold damp floor on which to rest she had but one friend – an ant! She gave it a few crumbs of her slice of bread whenever it appeared from the crack in the floor. Although a seemingly insignificant purpose, this was her purpose for surviving. Corrie read and re-read a very small book of the four gospels that she was hiding in her possession. Corrie prayed all day and all night. Her faith and understanding of the life and suffering of Jesus became more real to her than ever before. She began to see that all her suffering might have a purpose. The death of Jesus brought forgiveness to mankind. In the same way, she felt that God will bring something good out of the troubles she was experiencing. This gave her fresh courage, strength, and most of all, hope. Later in her imprisonment she was placed in a barracks with other women. In the evenings, after a long hard day’s work and a miserable supper, Corrie would take out her little Dutch Bible and read it, providing others with hope. With death all around, the promise of eternal life and the glory of heaven gave all the women hope for the future. Corrie ten Boom survived the Nazi prison camps and was released from prison at the war’s end. Corrie spent the rest of her life passing on the message of God’s love and forgiveness. For over thirty years Corrie visited many countries telling bitter, sad, and lost people how wonderful God is. She demonstrated forgiveness that Jesus first gave us. Corrie was able to forgive others, even her German captors. Corrie wrote many books about her life experiences and faith for the sole purpose of serving God and God’s people. She died in 1983 at the age of 91.