What To Do When You’re Struggling To Feel Relevant and Purposeful

Are you struggling to feel relevant and purposeful in some area of your life? This can be any place where we think we don’t matter as much as we’d like to or used to. Christ followers know that we are of great value to God but when humans don’t echo that, well, it stings and can be discouraging.

Many years ago, when God called my husband Ken and I out of ministry into the marketplace for a while, I transitioned from being a worship arts director, leading three different services a week, to one of 35 sopranos in our new church’s large choir. The first two rows seated the brightest and best of the sopranos. I started in the third row.

The abrupt change from lead dog to follower, created weird sensations inside me. I felt unnecessary. Eventually, God restored me to leadership ministry but first taught me some deeper lessons about humility. That time in God’s waiting room, stirred up junk I didn’t know was inside me and provided the opportunity for God to cleanse me and change me.

There are so many circumstances that can make people feel like a rotary dial phone surrounded by smart phones.

  • All your kids fly the coop, and you’re left with a house of deafening silence and recipes for six.
  • Someone else got the promotion you deserved at work while you’re still slogging it out in your cubicle.
  • Your last preschooler climbed onto the kindergarten bus. You stare at jelly hand prints on the walls with tears in your eyes.
  • Your spouse died and your couple friends don’t know quite what

to do with you.

  • Retirement isn’t quite as meaningful as you imagined. Your adult children don’t have as much time for you as you expected, and you feel purposeless and unproductive.
  • You’ve been trying to have a baby for years and the pain of that is hard enough, but most of your friends are knee deep in diapers and Legos and conversations have become awkward.

Whatever set of circumstances is conspiring to make you feel less-than, in any way, take heart. The great news is that you are strategically located in a place where God often looks for candidates for his next great story. Think with me for just a moment, about the people God likes to partner with to accomplish miraculous stuff.

  • The Israelite’s were slaves, treated like animals, when God pulled them out of Egypt and chose them to be a light for the nations of the world. The rest of ancient civilization knew little about them, except for their brick making skills.
  • Gideon was one of the smallest men of his tribe and by his own words, lacked courage.
  • Noah was a faithful man of God but clearly, the people around him didn’t think he was anything special since no one else believed God through his testimony and joined his family on the ark
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a nobody teenager from nowheresville.
  • David’s brothers and father deliberately minimized him when the prophet Samuel came looking for God’s next anointed King. They still didn’t recognize God’s favor on him when he showed up on the battlefield volunteering to fight Goliath.

 

If you feel like the unused coffee cup at the back of the cupboard, I’m telling you, that’s where God will hunt for a useful mug. As I’ve noticed the way God directs the changing seasons of my life, I’ve learned to relax in the truth that my life is a treasure, masking as a jar, or mug of clay. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Ceramic ware becomes stained, cracked and worn out and eventually useless when it’s heavily used non-stop. So too would we, if God didn’t provide resting places between our seasons of life. Thus, sometimes we feel back shelved and unconnected.

When God moves us into a back row or simply a different row, it’s often because he wants to do some interior work in us. He needs to remove the coffee stains that the acid of trials left inside of us. We may need cracks repaired from our hearts, minds or bodies being broken. Sometimes he breaks us up entirely and does a completely different work, setting us into new relationships, careers or opportunities, just like those recycled mosaics that are made of broken ceramic dishware. My husband Ken attended seminary to become a pastor. Never did he dream that God would make him a successful business owner for several years.

In Zechariah 4:10, I found this precious verse that encourages me when I’m feeling like the unused mug. “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”  Zerubbabel was the governor of Judea, overseeing the rebuilding of the temple during the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The construction lagged and workers sagged for twenty, discouraging years of “small things,” progress-wise.  I love what the Enduring Word commentary says about this verse.

“In many of God’s choice workers He uses a powerful season of small things. Those days are not a mistake nor are they punishment; they are days of priceless shaping and preparation. They are not days to despise. When Satan tempts us to despise the day of small things, he shines as an outstanding liar because Satan does not despise the day of small things. Satan fears the day of small things in our life because he sees what great things God does in them and brings out of them.”

 

If you are currently in a back-row spot in some area of your life that does not mean you are no longer relevant, and your life is not purposeful. Often, process matters much more to God than product. I encourage you to relax and submit to God’s methods. If you remain humble and obedient, he will use this time to prepare you for the next part of your unique destiny. Don’t despise your “day of small things.”

 

#purposefullife #relevantlife #Godswill #Godspurpose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Closes Doors

Everyone experiences slammed doors, either symbolically or literally.  When easy access to something or someone stops, it hurts. We grieve what used to be.  When an entrance to something new is unexpectedly blocked just as we are about to walk through, the disappointment can level us.  We grieve the loss of the life we imagined might exist on the other side.  In those halting moments, people may say things like:

“Sorry, not interested.”

“You and me? We’re through.”

“Your services are no longer required.”

“I’ve found someone new who makes me happy.”

“We decided to go a different direction with this position.”

“Family gatherings just aren’t my thing anymore.”

“You’re actually over-qualified for this job.”

At times, people firmly shut us out of their lives, organizations or businesses and say

nothing

at

all.

People reject us for a variety of reasons but without explanation, our imaginations can run crazy.  I remember one job I felt certain belonged to me. When I didn’t make the final cut, it surprised me. I called and inquired why.  Turns out, the other final candidate possessed two more years’ experience than myself. That became the tie breaker. (Wish they’d shared that on the first phone call.)  Knowing that helped somewhat, but I still lost the wind in from my sails.

When we are vetoed, Satan seeks to direct our responses. After the initial blow, our own insecurities and our enemy whisper negative ideas to us that contradict God’s written Word and the plans he’s spoken to us personally.

“This is probably a stupid dream anyway.”

“Who would ever want someone like me?”

“I’m too old to keep doing this….”

“Things will never work out for me.”

“I can’t keep hitting my head against closed doors.”

“I’m not _________________ enough.” You fill in the blank.

 

I love the word picture about open and closed doors which F.B. Meyer creates in his book, “Paul, A Servant of Jesus Christ.”

“Be not afraid to trust God utterly.  As you go down the long corridor you may find that He has preceded you and locked many doors which you would have entered; but be sure that beyond these there is one which He has left unlocked. Open it and enter, and you will find yourself face to face with a bend of the river of opportunity, broader and deeper than anything you had dared to imagine in your sunniest dreams.”

I don’t want to forfeit the best God designed for me because I’m loitering outside of closed doors.  Far better for me to keep looking for the ones that are opened wide in welcome, even when they don’t seem to be the kinds of opportunities and relationships which I imagined.  As a professional daydreamer, I confess I’ve spent too much time in fantasies of what might be instead of developing my intimacy with the great I AM who knows what he destined me to be.

As we seek our wide paths, here are a couple more suggestions (the first two are in post one of this series) for knowing where they are.

  • God’s will is discovered in God’s presence.

In Exodus 36, we learn about the physical symbols God used to indicate his presence to the Israelite nation.  If they wanted food, shelter, safety and victory over their enemies, they needed to follow the Cloud during the day and Pillar of Fire by night.  Those who didn’t, became lost and died or captured, we can presume.

 

Some Christians spend their days chasing desires and asking God to bless them.  Can you imagine the Israelites telling God where they were going and assuming the Cloud or Pillar would follow dutifully?  Exactly.  We will find our paths and our purposes when we do what Jesus commanded in Matthew and seek his kingdom first. That doesn’t simply mean doing your devotionals in the morning, then running your own show the rest of the day.

 

Just as the Israelites lived under the Cloud and Pillar of his presence, so too we must go about our days with that inner consciousness.  We stay in step with him, not the other way around.  When we are sensitive and soft-hearted towards him, he will tell us immediately when we’ve wandered away from him through carelessness or sin.  If we grieve or quench the Holy Spirit inside of us, it becomes difficult for God to guide us.  Imagine the Israelites staring at the desert floor all day instead of keeping their eyes on the sky.

 

  • God opens doors which match your gifts, talents, experience and nature.

All the Apostle Paul’s early years prepared him to become the man we know through his many books.  His Roman citizenship, Jewish birth, education, hometown, relationships, experience in the synagogues, eloquent speaking technique all opened doors of opportunity for him, which were closed to others.

The same is true of you.  If, you walk intimately with God, then everything which precedes this moment is preparing you for future assignments.  For example, once I finally cracked my way into the education sphere, I thought that might be my world for many years.  Not so.  God used that season to awaken my dormant writing skills, to bring me here, to you.   The discipline I developed to write hundreds of lesson plans back then is now what keeps me writing at my computer these days.

As you seek your next open door, don’t be afraid to journey past closed ones.  It’s all part of the process of fulfilling our destinies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knocking on Heaven’s Doors

An oily, forehead mark on a glass door tells a story.   Years ago, a salesman spent time in our home, pitching for us to buy his product.  When he realized we’d not be allowing him beyond our foyer, he opened our interior front door with a gusto saying, “Well, thanks anyway for your time.” In his haste to make a quick exit, he forgot about our second, exterior glass door and plowed into it, full throttle, face first.

The resounding thud startled all three of us and caused him to stagger backwards, towards us.  Ken and I dug deep for every fruit of the Holy Spirit to keep from laughing.  His wire-rimmed glasses bent in two different directions, smashed into his nose and eyebrows.  A red mark formed quickly on his forehead. We expressed our concern (we’d both done the same thing on the same door) and asked him if he’d like to sit down for a moment and fix his glasses.  Like a true door to door champion, he gushed, “Oh, I’m fine, just fine. I’ve got another pair in my car,” and let himself out the door where he proceeded down our sidewalk in a cockeyed fashion.

I’ve let my forehead mark on many doors, physically and metaphorically. We all know that feeling of body slamming a firmly shut door.  We are turned down for job opportunities, relationships, dreams we pursue, organizations in which we desire membership and many other life experiences that involve open and closed doors.  I mean, I tried out for cheerleading and pom poms girls three times before I realized God never designed that into my destiny.

It hurt deeply when friends achieved what I wanted, be it a cheerleader uniform or a lead in a play.  Now I understand that setbacks are part of our training in God’s school of discipleship. Greater humility, a deeper desire to listen to God, discernment and lots of other good stuff can occur during these times.

In some instances, we are on the inside and must endure the pain of being pushed towards an exit which will then shut firmly behind us.  Whether it’s the end of a marriage, career, ministry, home ownership, our health or anything we value, the sting of our departure can stick with us a long time, especially when we didn’t leave by choice.

This month I’ll discuss entrances and exits.  God’s word says much about our ins and outs, ups and downs.  Unlike people, God will never shut a door in our face maliciously, but he does close them. Sometimes, he swings that same door open for us down the road.  Conversely, every lit path isn’t an entrance into adventure with God.  An appealing opportunity can turn out to be an unwanted side trip away from our destiny.

How do we find our way to the doors God designed for us to walk through and minimize smashing ourselves into an unmoving object?  Here’s a few guidelines:

  • God’s opportunities never contradict his Word.

I’m concerned when people plow through God’s boundaries to walk through a doorway.  Marrying an unbeliever, engaging in an unethical business venture, sacrificing your health or family relationships, becoming unfaithful in church attendance and service to others are all things I’ve observed people do for the sake of a great opportunity.

God will never invite you to work alongside him in a way that leads you to disobey his commands and principles.  If you are currently engaged with someone or something that causes you to behave like the world, ask God for the way out.  You are walking a hard path that will not end well.  “Good judgement wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.” Proverbs 13:15

  • God’s opportunities can start with small beginnings.

 

During the end of my years as an educator, I sought to teach English.  I’d been a minister of music for many years and taught vocal music and piano for many more. I longed to flex the Language Arts Degree I’d worked for so diligently.  I turned down jobs to teach vocal music again until one came along I felt no peace about rejecting.  Once again, I started up as a music educator and gave it my all, but my heart still longed to teach writing, literature and poetry. In the Spring of my first year, my principal unexpectedly asked me if I’d like to take over sophomore English classes for the upcoming year and beyond.  Boy, did I, and loved it until the day God led me on to the next thing.

 

Sometimes, we overlook an open door because it’s small.  Ken and I say that we never want to miss Jesus riding on a donkey. The Jews of Jesus’ time believed the Messiah’s coming to be a momentous earthly event.  They believed he’d overthrow the Roman government and rule the world in their here and now.  Clearly, they didn’t study the O.T. prophets well, as Jesus fulfilled every prophecy made about him. People living alongside Jesus, missed the King of Kings, walking and riding in their midst.

 

Be careful not to miss something God brings your way because it doesn’t look exactly like you imagined.  My pastor often tells the stories of his early days as an evangelist, sleeping in Sunday School rooms and being paid with offerings that featured more “love,” than money.  My husband’s successful run as the owner of an insurance agency started with him applying for the job of office manager.

 

Next time, we’ll examine more ideas for discerning God’s purposes and will for us. Between now and then, check out the lives of the Apostle Paul, (Acts and the Epistles) the apostle John (Revelation), King David (2nd Samuel) and Joseph (Genesis).  These great faith heroes all imagined their lives rolling a lot differently than the paths God chose for them.  Greatness in the kingdom comes hand in hand with sacrifice, obedience and faith.

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