Choosing Purpose Over Pleasure
What comes to mind as you think of walking in your purpose? Do you think of living a perfect life? A life where you’re doing what you love and nothing can possibly go wrong? A life where your friends and family rally around to champion you and cheer you on in your purpose?
To be honest, that’s what I thought life would look like as I chose to follow God’s call. I thought that everything and everyone around me would come into agreement with what the Lord was calling me to do. I thought that I wouldn’t experience much hardship because unlike others, I knew I was dedicated to God’s way. And because of that, I expected that life would be easier because I surrendered and submitted to the call. But as I dove deeper into my purpose, I realized that I had it all twisted.
As I coach my private clients through their purpose, evolve through my own personal development journey, and study more on the topic, I realize that the journey of purpose isn’t pretty or pleasurable. Sometimes it can be downright discouraging. We will inevitably go through wilderness seasons that produce a lot of pain and pruning. Why? Because suffering is a part of purpose too, and we can see this clearly demonstrated in several stories in the Bible.
Joseph, for example, went through many seasons of suffering. In Genesis 37, Joseph gets a glimpse into his purpose when God gave him a prophetic dream that one day people would bow to him. Immediately after that revelation, he was thrown into slavery where the Lord refined his character. During that time, Joseph won favor with one of his master’s and was promoted to being a personal attendant where he was very successful, and just because he refused to sleep with his master’s wife, he was thrown into prison. Joseph had several peaks and valleys in his journey until he was fully prepared and released to operate in his purpose of bringing restoration to his family and people. But here’s the thing: even in the midst of suffering, Joseph was still operating in purpose. In every stage of his journey, he was being shaped to carry out his purpose.
Even Jesus had to choose purpose over pleasure. He had the ultimate purpose of bringing redemption back to God’s people but that came with suffering as well. With the miracles and followers also came pain, suffering, and rejection. Isaiah 53 gives the perfect depiction of the suffering Christ experienced:
“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.” -Isaiah 53:3-10 NLT
The pinnacle of that suffering was displayed on the cross as Jesus died for sins that He didn’t commit, yet it was all apart of God’s purpose and plan.
If Jesus went through pain and suffering, what makes us think that we are exempt from it? Many great people in the Bible went through suffering as they carried out their purpose. In Hebrews 11, Paul gives an account of the greats of faith — many who died without seeing the fruits of their purpose. He talks about how purpose can lead to great suffering and loss but also has rewards. This makes purpose not as glamorous or popular as we often imagine it to be. In these cases, suffering and loss are just as great as accomplishments and gains because both offer great impact in building God’s Kingdom.
It’s so important that as we pursue our purpose that we embrace our seasons of suffering. Whether you’re going through a wilderness season or through a trial, there is purpose in your suffering. Suffering is a tool in God’s plan and even a gift, in some cases, that is often used to refine and empower us in our purpose.
But here’s the good news: God can use everything and anything, even the bad for your purpose. We see that in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” So even in the midst of suffering, you can trust that God is at work in everything. His hand is over your life as He works to shape you more into His image and equip you for what He has called you to do.
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