The Purpose of Life

The Purpose of Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Does that seem challenging to you? It does to me. It’s often really hard to step up and make a difference. More often than not, it will involve some discomfort, and we can expect our lives will sometimes need to deviate from the course we’ve planned. But history is full of men and women who stepped up, sacrificed, and played their part in making a difference—and who were changed for the better and were happier for it.

Take the apostle Paul. He probably didn’t own a house or lands or livestock. He didn’t have a wife or children. He had no stable income or paid vacations. He suffered almost unbelievable persecutions,1 and he spent his final days in a foreign dungeon. But his letters are peppered through with words like “joy,” “rejoice,” “gladness,” and “cheer.”

The Bible says, “God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”2 Whenever we serve others in any way, we’re actually serving God and fulfilling one of His purposes for us—living our destiny.

The British poet David Whyte put it like this: “When people struggle through the weeds, pull back the moss, and read the inscription on my tombstone, I don’t want it to say: ‘He made his car payments.’” Neither do I. We were made for more than that. God used Paul, and He can use you and me to make a difference.

1. See 2 Corinthians 11:23–28.
2. Ephesians 2:10 CEV

Ronan Keane

Ronan Keane is the executive editor of the Activated magazine. 

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