“A man’s heart plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Most of us start early in life with a goal in mind—maybe a certain amount of wealth, the perfect family, a certain level of career success, and certainly an eternity in heaven. We see this path in life and imagine the line we must follow in order to get there. Yet life’s journey is more like a maze than a straight line. Looking back as we get older, we see that we have taken some wrong turns, hit dead ends, and even twisted and turned in unexpected places. We thought we were going one-way and then had to head in another. We are born into this maze and begin to move along, driven by needs and wants, sent out by parents and schools, pressed upon by society and sometimes simply drifting along with time.
But what is the purpose? Some believe the journey is the purpose. They believe that exploring the turns, hidden places and long runs is the reason we exist, move, and live. But if the journey of life is the point rather than our destination, it doesn’t matter where you start or where you end up. You should just simply be. Enjoy. Breathe. The difficulty of this philosophy is that you can never remain at a good place all the time. Its been said you cannot step into the same river twice. That’s because the water is always moving down stream. So you should enjoy the journey but realize that is not the point of life.
Some believe the purpose of life is self-enlightenment. As we face different situations in life we learn who we are, what core values we truly hold, and what is truly important to us. But the search for self is not always enlightened. In many ways our identity is forced upon us by things such as family background, our history, social acquaintances, and the roles that we must fill in life. Our view of ourselves changes with age, with experience and with responsibilities to family and others. Our search for meaning and identity is shaped from the inside and outside. But eventually we learn that only focusing on ourselves leads to loneliness and selfishness. A person wrapped up only in themselves makes for a very small package.
The true meaning of life depends on our destination. Great riches and societal acceptance are nice, but they are no more than geographic positions that we pass through on the maze of life. For the things and the opinions of this world are only temporary. The path that leads to true fulfillment is the Lord and our shaping ourselves to be like him. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 did not realize during their lifetimes that they were heroes, but they were. Moses, Noah, Abraham, and others fought through their circumstances to glorify God and show their trust in him. The path on this journey for us today is rarely straight, but knowing our true calling will help us to arrive at our destination and not be discouraged by society’s dead ends, our personal detours and comfort’s tar pits. Knowing our calling can give us richer, deeper meaning to the awareness of our experiences. We have to remember that no one’s life moves in a straight line—whether you seem close to your goal or you have wandered far away—you can turn your life towards Jesus and find true peace and joy. The test case study of a man who sought out fulfillment in the worldly things of wealth, reputation, self awareness, and relationships wrote at the end of his journey, “Here is the conclusion of the matter (journey): Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all” Ecclesiastes 12:13. Wherever your journey has led you, turn and seek God.