Find Purpose Through Faith- One person’s journey to find purpose
This is the life story of a friend, Samuel, and his search for his predestined purpose. Searching doesn't always lead us down the same path as finding purpose through faith.
How to find purpose- based on a true story
Now available on Podcast!
As far back as he could remember, Sam always seemed to excel in everything he attempted. Even without much effort, he seemed to just luck out and never had to face the feeling of disappointment or failure. He was envied by many of his classmates, who took notice of his constant success, but never saw the part of Sam that struggled on the inside. Even with so much success, he felt like something was missing in his life; he wanted to find purpose.
So, when a friend asked him to visit his church, he actually jumped at the opportunity. He didn’t know why, but he was soul-searching and wanted to see what the whole God thing was about. From the first moment he arrived, he was surprised by how much he enjoyed the youth group and became a regular on Wednesday nights. After almost a year of attending, he found himself seeking more and prayed to God for salvation.
He was baptized two Sundays later and knew in his heart that God had great things in store for him. He thought that this must be his purpose and committed himself to finding the answer. So he prayed every night, feverishly, for God to utilize his gifts and talents. During the day, he day-dreamed of mission trips around the world, writing best-selling books, and guest teaching in front of thousands. Sam was convinced that his purpose was to put a face to Christianity and be recognized the world over.
The prayer for Sam’s vision of purpose
He was so excited to pray each night before bed, certain he would hear the sweet soft whisper of God’s voice in his heart, calling him to this great purpose he could almost taste. Night after night he prayed with no answer, only his own voice and racing doubts filling his dark bedroom. He started to shout out loud in prayer, tears rolling down his cheeks, pleading with God to give him a glorious purpose in this life; he would do anything to see himself on top of a pedestal doing God’s work.
After months with no answer, Sam started questioning if God was listening to his prayers at all. Day after day, he questioned God more and more… Soon he found himself questioning his faith, then God’s very existence, and eventually decided to stop going to the church where he once found so much joy. He decided that perhaps he was focusing too much on religion and maybe he could find purpose elsewhere. So after high school he went on to a prestigious college whose name alone would grant him the recognition he felt God wouldn’t provide.
Find Purpose Elsewhere
He had such an emptiness being away from home and began focusing too much on partying and not enough on studying. He started to make new friends at the parties and bars, and anytime that empty feeling came around he would fill it with alcohol. The emptiness never ended, and soon he was no longer going to class and took a job just to pay for his new habits. Eventually, he received a letter in the mail from his college, suspending his attendance due to poor performance, and it felt like his life was spiraling out of control. He spent his alone time drinking and lost himself in one-night stands and drug use, eventually losing his job with no other options but to return home.
His father gave him a part-time job at their family’s hardware store, but Sam just couldn’t kick the habits he formed in college, drinking and living a life that pushed his hometown friends away. He would drive by his old church on the way to work and was disgusted with the time he wasted there, knowing that God had never loved him or heard his cries. When he considered his time there, his thoughts drove him to more drinking to hopefully drown the loneliness he felt. He was slowly convincing himself that he couldn’t find purpose, that joy was for childhood, and he was the only one who would determine what path he takes in life.
Walking to his car from his favorite bar one night, he noticed his tail-light had been hit. Sam couldn’t believe his luck. “One more thing tonight,” he screamed in the parking lot, “and I swear I will just find a bridge and jump,” slamming his fists and forehead against the trunk of his car with unrelenting anger. Full of liquid courage from the bar, he stumbled into his car, throwing gravel in the air as he peeled out into the street.
He cranked his stereo up to settle the anger in his mind when he noticed blood coming from his eyebrow; must have been when he headbutted the car in his drunken rage. Sam lowered his mirror to see the damage when he saw a set of blue lights flashing behind him. He thought it must be his taillight, so he had to settle his heartbeat and try to remain calm. He pulled over only to meet an angry police officer, shouting at him to turn down the music. The officer smiled as he explained that Sam did have a taillight out, but was also going 75 MPH in a 45 and swerving; he needed to get out of the car.
The roadside test didn’t go much better and he soon felt the cold steel of handcuffs against his wrists as he was placed in the back of the patrol car. His mind was still spinning from the alcohol but Sam saw all his plans of wealth and fame leaving him behind. More proof to Sam that life has no purpose, purpose was only a fairy tale they told in church.
Finding Rock Bottom Before You Rise
Jail wasn’t much better. As he realized where he was, he put up a strong front but was dying on the inside. He felt lifeless and empty with nothing but a cold bologna sandwich to fill his empty stomach. The next day, Sam rolled his eyes when the guard explained a pastor would be coming to the jail. First impressions, Sam joked on his combover as the older pastor preached, word by word, from John 3:16.
What happened next was etched on Sam’s soul for the rest of his life. The group of prisoners started singing a hymn… Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me… Sam had heard those lyrics a thousand times but this time the meaning hit him like a ton of bricks. His body went numb, his mind emptied, and the hairs on his arms stood straight up.
For the first time in his life, he had nothing to say, he just started crying right there in the middle of everyone. After the song was over, an inmate came over and wiped the tears from Sam’s eyes hastily with his own shirt. All he said was, “God loves you, even in here. Always has and always will.” They waited behind for a moment at the advice of his new friend, while Sam got himself together before returning to their cells.
faith of a friend
It wasn’t more than an hour after he returned to his cell that Grace, a friend from Sam’s old church, posted his bail money. Grace’s Dad was a police officer and had told her Sam had been arrested and was not in good shape. Without a second thought, she headed straight for the bail bondsman, emptying her little bit of savings in the process. She knew in her heart that Sam was a good person but really needed a friend. For someone who never faced failure before, he was crumbling now. He didn’t treat Grace with much respect when they dated in high school, but now he found himself walking behind her out of the jail, too ashamed to look her in the eyes. Now he wasn’t concerned about where to find purpose, but where his life would even go from here.
Sam realized he was missing something in his life and started attending AA meetings regularly to get help. And he started to pray. Sam prayed in the car to work, he prayed before class and he prayed when his mind got quiet. He still never heard God speak to him, but he felt him more and more in prayer. He smirked the first time he stepped into the local community college, remembering all the people he talked down about who had attended there right out of high school.
Now he realized it was a privilege to attend and be close to home to help care for his ailing father and help run the store. In class, instead of telling everyone his accomplishments and dreams, Sam started listening and discovered just how much some of his classmates had overcome. He started seeing individuals differently, seeing potential in everyone he met and respecting their tenacity to overcome their obstacles. He was no longer surrounding himself with “popular” or “accomplished” friends, but he found comfort in people he could just be himself around.
Sam was no longer praying to find purpose, but he did pray for the people he met and genuinely took comfort in their accomplishments. And he never felt more joy than when he was able to help someone, Sam even joked that the accomplishments of others made him happier than his own. He never imagined he would have so much joy in how others would find purpose in their lives.
steping into a new, old path
Then he stepped back into his old church, wearily. The entire time he listened intently and wrote down the scriptures to study later. He held his head a little lower than the last time he was there but he took so much more away. First, he wanted to feel God and do great things in Jesus’s name. Now he just wanted to learn to live a good life and trust God with all his burdens. He soon became a leader in his AA group and that same old church he hated for years, recommended him for a job at a local home that helps prisoners and addicts get back on their feet.
Within a year of getting his degree, Sam became the director of that home with oversight of two others in neighboring counties. He was even able to welcome his friend who comforted him in jail, set him up with a great job and he later became a licensed electrician. All-in-all, between AA, former prisoners, and addicts, Sam prayed with a total of 3,926 people for their salvation, he was very proud of that number and said he counted every individual because each individual mattered.
Sam never flew oversees for a foreign mission or preached in front of thousands. But before he died, he told his wife, Grace, that he was so blessed in his purpose. He wouldn’t change his time in jail or in AA. And he was more proud of that degree from community college than any ivy league could ever give. He was most thankful for seeing the beautiful soul of his wife, who once saw him at his lowest point. She always knew that God was working a great purpose in Sam’s life. Grace knew the man he would become over the man he thought he would be.
What I learned from Samuel
From this story, I hope you don’t take away that you shouldn’t pray to God for purpose, quite the opposite. The lesson from Samuel’s extraordinary life is that you should pray for God’s will on your life. He is the one that will give you purpose. Once we become children of God, we relinquish control through faith in God’s perfect plan. Jeremiah 29:11 told the people of Judah that “For I (God) know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” They were on their way to slavery in Babylon! Just like Judah, God is telling us to have faith in his plan. Even if the future looks bleak. God is our Father, with more love for every individual than we can contemplate.
He does not plan for your harm or hardship, he plans on you fulfilling the purpose he has for you. With Sam, he made decisions that led him down a hard path. But that path also taught him humility, compassion, love, understanding, and trust in God’s infinite wisdom. Once he came back to God, he was blessed with love, friendship, work, happiness, fulfillment and yes, a divine purpose.
So pray for your purpose, ask God to reveal it to you even. But trust in God and live your life according to the blueprint that Christ gave us. If you walk the path God asks us all to walk, God will place purpose along your travels. I never thought I would be submitting Christian photography to galleries or publicly sharing my salvation story. But God laid that in my path and I just followed his lead.
You may hear his voice, you may get convicted. You may have a good Godly husband or wife by your side helping you along your way… If you take the time to speak to God, he will answer in his own perfect way. That could be audibly, through bible readings, through others, through conviction, through signs. So many ways to hear from God.
But remember to ask. Even Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” He asked God if there was any way other than the cross. But he had full faith in God’s will and followed through every step he was asked to take. You won’t always know that purpose until you look back and see the amazing miracle God worked in your life. But through faith I can promise you, you will see your purpose if you give your life to God. Let him guide you to it.
Photography and writing by Jon Frederick