What’s the meaning of life? Why do I exist? Why does anyone exist? What difference can I really make?
If you’ve heard questions like these from your teenager, it would be understandable to think that they are slipping into a state of depression. But there’s no need to stress. This is a normal process that everyone needs to go through as we struggle with our life’s purpose.
According to the Fuller Youth Institute, there are three big questions that every teenager asks. These are the questions of Identity, Belonging, and Purpose.
- “Who am I?”
- “Where do I fit in?”
- “What difference can I make in the world?”
- How can we help teenagers navigate these three questions?
- Perhaps more importantly, does God have anything to say about these questions?
In this article, we’re going to approach what the Bible says about our PURPOSE. If you’ve just joined us make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 where we looked at Identity and Belonging, respectively.
THE DIFFICULTY WITH PURPOSE
In the bundle of questions bouncing around a teenager’s mind, the questions around purpose are perhaps the biggest. The question of our PURPOSE also relates to the other two big questions of identity and belonging which can make it seem like an impossible hill for many teenagers to climb.
It’s very difficult to achieve your purpose without knowing who you are or what kind of being you are in this world. Imagine if Apple computers had an identity crisis and dropped technology out of their catalogue. They would be the world’s best…what? What would they focus their energies on if not producing high-quality devices for the world’s technology addicts? Without knowing who they are, they couldn’t achieve the purpose for which they exist.
It’s equally difficult to achieve your purpose alone. Think about the last academy awards show you watched. What did you notice (apart from the slap) when an actor gets up to accept an award? Usually, their speech is just a long list of thank-yous to all the important people and “little people” that got them where they are today. It’s virtually impossible to achieve anything meaningful in life without the help and support of a community of people around you. None of us is an island. Think about all the people in your life, your parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, bosses, youth leaders, and sports coaches who have made you who you are today. They have each either helped or hindered you in finding your life’s purpose.
Teenagers today need help to understand both who they are and that they belong before they can really find out what they are made for. Maybe that’s the reason that so many teenagers don’t know what they want to do after they leave school.
DOES GOD HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY?
In the Bible in 1 Peter 2:9, God speaks to our PURPOSE. It says,
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
In order to achieve your life’s purpose, you need to know what the problem is in the world and how to fix it. God says in this verse that the world is in darkness, and all of us are in the darkness as well. But then God turns the lights on and calls people to join Him in the light. That’s what the story of Jesus is all about. People joining God in a new way to live. The problem is when we try to live on our own terms, we stumble around in the darkness. Being in the darkness makes it hard to navigate around obstacles and get anywhere you want to go. Remember the last time you got up to go to the loo in the middle of the night? But when the lights are turned on, you can see where you are, where you are going, what you need to do and what you need to avoid to get there. When you live in God’s light, your PURPOSE seems a whole lot clearer.
WHAT TEENAGERS NEED TO HEAR
We need to help teenagers understand that they are created for more than just to exist. They are created for more than just to be entertained. Teenagers, like all of us, exist in a dark world and need to know the light of God. They need to know that there is purpose to life, they just might not be able to see it yet.
What is that purpose? To glorify God. The Bible says “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him [i.e. God].” The whole reason that your identity is chosen, royal, holy and his own is to glorify God. The whole reason that you belong to a race, a priesthood, a nation and a people, is to glorify God. To glorify God means to declare, by the way you live and by what you talk about that God is great. When you live like that, your life has so much more purpose than trying to make yourself great. It has so much more meaning than trying to make yourself rich. Life is really worth living when it’s more about God than about yourself.
If you’re interested in exploring these topics in more depth, check out 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager. You can even download the first chapter for free.
Isaiah Logan, College Pastor