Little in life is as important as finding purpose. If you know a certain experience has a purpose, you can endure all kinds of hardship because of it. But if you don’t see a purpose, any hardship—however small—feels like drudgery.
I’m convinced that if we could get a hold of God’s purpose for us, really sense what he has for us, that it would completely reshape how we see our lives. It would transform what we do with our blessings; it would transform how we interpret our pain. Nothing would ever look the same again.
Most people want to know God’s purpose for their lives, but they simply don’t know where to look. Is it possible to even know God’s purpose for our lives? And how do we discover what it is?
Psalm 57 teaches us three truths about our God-given purpose:
1. God has a purpose for you – but it’s not about you (Psalm 57:5,11)
David’s situation in Psalm 57 is pretty dire. The little note at the heading of the psalm indicates that David is writing this while he’s hiding in a cave (not ideal writing conditions). Saul, the current king of Israel, is applying every lever of force to find and kill David, so David is on the lam. To say that this was not David’s “best life now” would be an understatement.
But as I read through Psalm 57, I don’t see a single request for God to change his circumstance. Instead, we keep hearing David say, “God, may you be exalted above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” Superseding David’s desire to be rescued is his prayer for God to be glorified.
The ultimate purpose of your life is not about you. You exist for God’s glory. I exist for God’s glory. Every person you meet and have ever met exists for God’s glory. Even creation cries out: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). This is by no means easy for us to grasp, since our default setting in life is self-centered. For instance, my kids are self-centered, just like me, but not because I trained them that way. No one ever has to teach their child to say, “Mine!” And while most of us learn to temper that unbridled selfishness as we get older (most, not all), our prayer lives often reveal how little has changed in our hearts. For most of us, our prayer lives can be summarized in three words: “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” We live as if God exists to glorify us as the center of the universe.
If we’re going to discover God’s purpose for our lives, we need to have a Copernican revolution of the soul: the world does not revolve around me. Jesus didn’t come to be an important planet in our solar system; he came to be the center of it. We will never understand our purpose—in times of pain or times of blessing—until God’s glory outweighs our self-centeredness.
2. God has a purpose for you – and it’s mostly about what he’s doing in you (57:1).
When life seems unfair, our refuge and faith must be in God, knowing that he is doing something in us. Most of us think that if our life is not full of rainbows, sunshine, and puppies that God must not be happy with us. But God is more interested in making us holy rather than just happy.
Notice how many times in verse 1 David talks about his soul finding refuge in God: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” David’s refuge was not in the cave he was hiding; his refuge was in God’s presence. And that’s God’s purpose for you, too.
All of us have a place of refuge, something or someone we look to for safety, security, and identity. For some it’s in a job or a bank account. For others it’s in prestige or recognition. For some it’s in a relationship. For others it’s in the bottom of a bottle. But it doesn’t matter how acceptable or unacceptable the refuge seems. If your refuge is not in God, it will fail, because God will often attack your place of refuge to teach you that it isn’t permanent. This can be painful, but God is more interested in your character than your comfort.
3. God has a purpose for you – and if you are surrendered to it, he will fulfill it (57:2).
In verse 2 David says, “God will fulfill his purpose for me.” David understands that God is a perfectionist: when it comes to his purposes, he will not let anything come in the way of what he is doing.
Here’s the irony: only when you say, “I don’t want to be the center of the universe,” will God reorder all things in the universe to fulfill his purpose for you. Make yourself the center of the universe, and nothing will work for you. Make God the center of your universe, and the entire cosmos is realigned for God to fulfill his purposes for you.
Once you’ve surrendered to God’s purpose, you’ll be able to lie down and sleep even in the midst of “fiery beasts,” and rise up with joyful song even in the midst of heartache.
God has a purpose for you. He wants to use you to exalt his name in the earth and he wants to teach you to trust him. Whatever situation you find yourself in right now, know that it’s okay—even good—to pray for God to change the situation. But God’s first purpose is that you would be able to pray, “God, glorify your name through me in this.” “Help me know you more.” Don’t waste your pain, and don’t squander your blessings: they’re both gifts from a good God who has a purpose for you life.