In the last few weeks, I've been talking a lot about purpose in terms of:
#1 What it is
("The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists").
#2 The common misconceptions associated with it and how to avoid them
Misconceptions such as:
- The road to purpose being linear or 1-dimensional
- Purpose always being about following your passions or pursuing what you love
- The idea that you can come into purpose by yourself or without mentorship
(If you missed that, you can catch up here).
In doing all of that I've been laying the foundation for all of the theory and (Christian) theology surrounding purpose but, I'm sure you're absolutely itching to know-
"How does all this talk of purpose apply to my everyday life?!"
Okay, okay...I hear you!
I'll tell you...but, be warned, it's one of those good news/bad news situations.
First, the bad news...
According to the World Health Organistion (WHO), women are more likely than men to experience depression. They also state that, although more research is needed, "depression is not only the most common women's mental health problem but may be more persistent in women than men".
The reason for these differences, you ask? Well, some of these are because of issues that I have previously discussed in great detail (via articles featured in Relevant Magazine and Radiant Health Magazine)- gender specific risk factors for this (and other mental health issues) such as:
- Socioeconomic disadvantage
- Rape culture
- Low income and income inequality
- Low or subordinate social status and so on.
And, although it varies from person to person, symptoms of depression typically include (among other things):
- Continuous low mood or sadness
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Feeling tearful
- Not getting any enjoyment out of life
This makes sense given that "from a clinical perspective, depression is typically categorised as psychological, situational or some combination of the two". But, did you know that depression can have another cause which is:
- Spiritual in nature?
- Often overlooked?
Well, it does!
Depression is also associated with a lack of purpose.
Well, part of the reason for this is because of a type of depression (which can stand alone or co-occur with others) called "existential depression". Existential depression typically occurs as a result of an existential crisis, which is:
"a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life [and whether it] has any meaning, purpose, or value".
and lapses into depression as a result.
A Biblical example of this is King Solomon via his writing in Ecclesiates, in which he repeatedly mourned the meaninglessness or "vanity" of life (Ecclesiastes 1:2, Ecclesiastes 4:4 and Ecclesiastes 4:16). In other words, he was asking questions that you may have found yourself asking lately. Questions such as:
- "I went down the path laid out for me by society, now what?" or-
- "I don't agree with the route that religion, culture and tradition dictate I should take as a woman. Is there something wrong with me?"
- "Surely there's more to life than just having to hustle to survive?"
- "Am I really destined to live the same day for 60 plus years and call it life?"
- "I am tired of the mundane. Is this it?"
- "What's the point of all of this?"
- "This is not where I saw myself by this point. What have I actually done with my life?"
- "What is my purpose and how do I find it?"
The good news?
Although the impact of depression and its symptoms are:
- Real and not to be trivialised, by any stretch of the imagination
- Still highly stigmatised, particularly within Christian circles
Existential depression can be a positive thing!
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God "has put eternity in [our] hearts" and that is really what we are discussing here- discovering the purpose and meaning of your life, yes...but as it relates to your ability to serve and positively impact your fellow man thereby:
- Leaving a legacy
- Glorifying God.
As such, existential questions and thought processes can be positive in the following ways:
#1 It makes us not take life for granted
One of the things that we discussed in last week's devotional on Esther, is the fact that:
"Esther 4:14 [shows] that we were not only made for a purpose, but that it is meant to be fulfilled within our lifetime or “for such a time as this”. In other words, our time of birth; when and where we exist in the world and so on is no accident. Like Acts 13:36 says (and we see illustrated through Esther), we are called to 'serve [our] generation by the will of God'”.
There are many scriptures, apart from those mentioned in Ecclesiastes (above), that explore the transience of life. For example:
- Psalm 90:12, in which David prayed "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom"
- James 4:14 where he asks, "For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away".
These scriptures demonstrate the positive side of existential crises in that they typically make us more aware of our mortality. However, rather than this becoming a destructive thing through:
- Getting weighed down and paralysed by this
- An excuse to live recklessly (as in YOLO culture)
We can do what Esther did in Esther 4:16:
- Accept that death is an unavoidable part of life
- Use this as the fuel we need to pursue and walk in our purpose while we still have the chance
For, as Solomon mused in Ecclesiastes 9:4-5:
"But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward..."
#2 Asking questions about the meaning of your life will eventually yield answers
Matthew 7:7-8 says:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened".
And in Isaiah 1:18, God says:
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
I quote these scriptures to say:
It's okay to ask God questions
If your upbringing was anything like mine, you were taught that it's wrong to question God, However, Isaiah 1:18 shows that this is not the case. In fact, it's quite the opposite! And-
It is only through inquiring about and seeking after the purpose of our lives that we will find it
As was the case with Esther:
- When her uncle asked her "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
- When she and her people engaged in fasting and prayer for three days (Esther 4:16)
Basically, God welcomes our questions and is ready and willing to give us answers (if and when He so desires). You just need to make sure that you are asking the right questions...
#3 it's a reminder that you are a vessel
Another example of a scripture that contains existential philosophies is Genesis 3:19, which says:
"...Out of [the ground] you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return".
This theme of being like dust or clay is then continued in Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18, which both make it clear that God is the potter and we are the clay. In other words, we are but vessels. He may have placed eternity in our hearts, but He actually holds it in His hands (John 10:28).
Recognising this, in addition to the afore-mentioned points (such as- He made us "for such a time as this" (i.e. to complete something meaningful within our lifespan), life is fleeting and you only live once), are all the tools we need to surrender to God's will and begin the journey to walking in purpose- just as Esther did.
But what about you, lovely?
If you're ready to:
- Find the answers to your existential questions
- Begin your own journey to discovering and living on purpose
I would like to remind you that I will be launching a mentoring programme in the new year! Here's how it will work:
6 (weekly) one hour 1:1 calls with me, where we-
- Do purpose discovery through skills/gift assessment
- Unpick and bust through your blocks
- Develop an action plan
- And much more!
And here's what you can expect from me, as your mentor:
- Clarity provision
- Spirit-led counsel
- You-centred sessions (rather than a blanket approach)
- But, most of all, results!
Sound good, lovely?