July 19, 2024

By Lois Heron

When author and evangelical Protestant pastor Rick Warren wrote “The Purpose Driven Life,” he attempted to answer the question, “What on earth am I here for?” The book became a best-seller because our society is always searching for the answer to the same question. That book is just one of the many that try to answer the same question.

The search for meaning and purpose is as old as humankind. Why can’t we answer the question and be done with it, instead of looking for another opinion? The struggle to know who we are and why we are here, I believe, is because we don’t realize God’s unfailing desire for us to know him. In knowing him, we learn to know our purpose for living.

St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ” (1:11-12). God chose us; we are his beloved! He created us in his image. It was perfect and beautiful, and it was enough.

That is until we chose something other than him.

And the rest of history reveals what happens to us when we stop listening to God. We distract ourselves with the seemingly fascinating options for self-fulfillment that move us further and further away from God’s intention for our lives—always coming up short and dissatisfied. How may we return to the intention of God’s will for us?

We begin by silencing ourselves and our surroundings, which takes a herculean resolve in a distracted society. Reminding myself that Jesus often withdrew to a quiet place helps my resolution. Just think of what he can do when we retire from our noisy surroundings to meet him there. His Word to us can pierce through our darkened understanding about ourselves to restore us to the intention of his will for us.

So, if we’ve silenced ourselves and inclined our hearts to God, then what do we do?

Socrates wrote, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Examination of our life requires introspection, and we just aren’t comfortable with that, are we? St. Ignatius of Loyola developed a guide of spiritual exercises to help us examine our lives and discern God’s desires for us. In considering our lives, we allow the Holy Spirit to reorient the inclination of our lives toward God. We learn to know ourselves—strengths and weaknesses. We understand how our unique nature can “exist for the praise of his glory.” St. Ignatius provides a template, so to speak, for prayer called the Suscipe (the Latin word for “receive”) that will guide us in examining our strengths and weaknesses and giving them back to the One who created us the way we are.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding,
and my entire will, all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace; that is enough for me. Amen

Beginning the prayer with the word “take” assumes we will give up. What do I hold too tightly that needs surrendering to the Lord? What is the disposition of my heart? What does the essence of my heart incline me toward? Remembering the saying, “Everywhere I go, there I am,” is a good place for me to start when answering those questions.

Do I recognize a running theme in my conversations and relationships? Do I see a pattern of behavior toward others that repeats in every circumstance? I must stop and consider if disordered pride, fear or anger motivates my words and actions, dragging me further away from God’s intention.

What liberties do I take with myself and with others? What memories keep me from entrusting myself to the Lord? What do I have difficulty understanding about God, myself and others? Most of the confusion and conflicts we have in life come from our unwillingness to understand ourselves and others. The Holy Spirit is always faithful to affirm our strengths and counsel us in our weaknesses if we remain silent before him, desiring to seek God’s purpose above all.

This examination prepares us to entrust our entire will to him, where all questions about our existence are answered. St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “… be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (12:2).

What are we here for? Not ourselves. No, we are here for the praise of God’s glory. That is the abundant life worth living!

Go deeper
Consider reading
St. Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises” to learn more about examining your life.