Building Meaning in Life: Personal Reflections by Ben Dean and A Postscript On Why It Matters To Us Here at Titus 2
Ben Dean, a positive psychology proponent and life coach writes, “Life coach Mike Steger has written that meaning in life includes two central components: comprehension and purpose. Comprehension involves our ability to find patterns, consistency, and significance in the events and experiences of our lives. Purpose refers to highly motivating, long-term goals about which people are passionate and highly committed.
I know for me, there have been a few times in my life when I have been “all in” with my life purpose, when I was so clear on what my overall purpose was and my immediate one as well. One time that stands out was the period when I came back to Washington DC in 1987. My longer term purpose was to help people to make transformative changes in their lives. But now I was newly licensed and my immediate mission was to go from ground zero to a full private practice. I was on fire. Virtually everything I did worked. I joyfully put in long hours and loved it. I was easily connecting with new clients and having wonderful experiences with them. A similar time was the period in 1997-1999 when I first started doing coaching workshops for processionals. I was so energized and focused on what I was doing.
And here’s a very recent and miraculous example in which events throw purpose into high relief. When someone’s life is at risk and people are doing all they can, with intense focus, to save them. Barely three weeks ago, a car carrying a mother and her toddler flipped over a bridge at night, landing upside down in an icy Utah river, out of view. A fisherman discovered the wreck 14 hours later. News video captured the dramatic, story as police officers raced to the accident, hyperfocused on their effort to see if there were lives to save. With enormous effort, they flipped the car upright and discovered the mother had died but her 18-month-old toddler–who had been suspended upside down in her car seat for 14 hours–might still be alive. The toddler, Lily Grossbeck, was hypothermic and did not have a detectible pulse. The bodycam footage shows a policeman saying “Come on, sweetie. Come on, sweetie.” She ultimately survived and is now thriving with her father.
You can bet that for the moments of this rescue video, the police officers’ and responders’ long-term and immediate purposes were crystal clear, congruent and enlivening. Similarly for me there have been powerful times when my life purpose has been clear and fully aligned with what I was doing, day after day. But there have periodically been other times when there has been a disconnect, when something wasn’t right. I know I’m always better–and more effective–when I’m aligned with my purpose and when it is congruent, as Mike Steger’s teaching suggests, with my comprehension of my life.
The research is so clear. People—(read YOU) –who report a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives experience a huge array of benefits such as:
- Living years longer
- Protection against heart attack or stroke
- Being half as likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease
- Protection against depression, anxiety, insomnia, illness, and disability
- Greater happiness and well-being at all life stages
- More life satisfaction
- More satisfaction with work
- Enjoying better sex and greater intimacy in marriage
- Being more resilient when difficulties arise
- Being less likely to stereotype others
- Handling pain better
- Having better repair of chromosomes
- More satisfying relationships with families, co-workers, neighbors, and friends.
As Vic Strecher, an expert in the study of meaning, has observed, if there were a pill that would reliably render these benefits, people would go CRAZY for it. It would be on the cover of Time Magazine. People would want to put it in our water supply. That’s how beneficial having a life of meaning is and yet it is a variable whose scientific study and understanding has largely been absent from the training we receive at the hands of our culture. We have a chance to become more expert in the understanding and nourishment of meaning and purpose in our lives.”
This time here at Titus 2 is your opportunity to comprehend the meaning of your life and discover your purpose. There are patterns, consistency, and significance in the events of your life. God has a purpose and plan. You can know what it is and live within it with a sense of satisfaction that can bring these benefits to your life. These are not lofty and unreachable “pie in the sky” goals. These are the things that make life joyful and worth living. And you can have them. God wants it for each of us. When our lives have been clouded by a multitude of hardships- some that were unforeseen and beyond our control, others that resulted from our own poor decisions, it can be difficult to comprehend the meaning of our lives and discover purpose. But it is not impossible. We must apply ourselves to the effort and trust that God will reward the effort. Everyone loves to read, embrace and quote Jeremiah 29:11, “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” But hear the rest of that thought in the verses that follow: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” We are all captive to the lies, deceptions, unholy desires, bad habits, toxic relationships, uninformed and impulsive decisions, manipulations of others, and so much more. But we don’t have to continue to live there. We can find meaning and purpose in our lives. Do you want that? If so, use this time wisely.
Words of Promise and Assurance
Psalm 119:10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
Isaiah 45:19 I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.
Isaiah 51:1 Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
Isaiah 65:1 I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
Isaiah 65:10 Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me.
Hosea 5:15 Then I will return to my lair until they have borne their guilt and seek my face— in their misery they will earnestly seek me.
Amos 5:4 This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live”
John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Romans 10:20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me;I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.
Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.