“It’s not about you.”
These are four powerful words.
One of the best-selling non-fiction books of all time is Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life. The first line of the first chapter of the book begins with these words – “It’s not about you.” In my personal opinion, this is one of the best openings to any book ever. And I’m not sure the book ever reaches this height ever again.
Warren was obviously on to something. The book sales of that book testify to its resonance. Over thirty million copies of the book were sold and it is reported to be the second most translated book behind the Bible.
Humanity and Purpose
The popularity of the book illuminates our universal longing for a purpose which gives our life meaning and significance. We long for a purpose bigger than ourselves. This purpose cannot be self-indulgent; it should benefit others before it serves us.
Part of our purpose is to be a light for others. Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
The Apostle Paul made similar remarks to the people in the church at Philippi. He told them, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
The Power of Light in Darkness
As a pastor, I get the privilege to speak to large groups on a regular occasion. On multiple occasions, I’ve asked gatherings of people to pull out our their cell phones and turn on their flashlight apps. After everyone has their lights on, I’ve asked the team running the lights to turn off every light in the room.
It’s amazing the contrast before and after the house lights go out. In that moment, one thing changed – a well-lit room became a dark room. The lights of the crowd moved from non-essential to essential. I then ask everyone turn off their lights, so only my phone’s flashlight app remains. I talk about the power of one light to help each and every person in the room.
When the light comes back on, my next slide says, “Light makes the biggest difference in the deepest darkness.”
Being a Light for Others
You know, even a little light can push back the darkness. Light makes no difference in a well-lit room. But in darkness, a light changes everything. Light transforms the darkness.
Many of us struggle to live with hope. We fight to have hope on a daily basis. Life circumstances, personal challenges, relationship issues, and even our own mental health can be obstacles to hopeful living for us.
For me, one of the ways I’ve found purpose amidst these kinds of adversities is recognizing my opportunities to be a light for others. I’ve found purpose and meaning when I’ve become aware of the places where I’m a light. When I recognized the people who were looking to me for hope, I realized my actions, words and days meant something greater than I once thought.
5 Ways to Find Purpose in Sharing Hope
The following five steps have helped me and I believe they can help you discover this kind of purpose and hopeful living.
1. Remind yourself daily of the influence you have with others.
On this website, I’ve recently clarified my purpose. I’m a voice of hope. I want to empower others with a new perspective. I have a reminder on my phone, it goes off at 5 pm each day. “Did you add value today?” Just asking that question often helps me connect my purpose with the events of my day.
How about you? Did you help one person today? Is someone more hopeful or seeing the world more clearly because of you?
2. Determine the kind of influence you want to have on others – what is your purpose?
Repeat your purpose each morning. Make it into a mantra. In the words of Warren, we need to ask ourselves “what on earth am I here for?” I’m not sure we have one answer – one sentence – to last us forever. But we need some sense in our current season. We need to able to say, “This is my purpose. This is the influence I want to have. This is the meaning I want to make. Here’s what I sense God has me in this space to say, do or think.” Without purpose, we flounder and wander.
3. Choose that purpose over any momentary feeling or temptation.
One of the first people I met in my current church shared with me about a value of his – he calls them “pre-decisions.” They are the values and purposes of his life which guide his daily life. Lysa TerKeurst outlines this kind of approach in her best-selling book, The Best Yes. She described the importance of saying yes to the most important things in our life, which makes it easier to say no to lesser things. Once we’ve said yes to our purpose(s), it makes our other questions much easier to answer.
4. Celebrate the influence and impact God accomplished in others through you.
If you don’t pause to celebrate, you’ll get discouraged. That’s why I have that question set to go off in my Reminders app every day at 5 pm. I want to celebrate (at least) every 24 hours the places where I’m making a difference in the lives of others. When’s the last time you pause to celebrate? Are you discouraged? Could it be you’ve lost your sense of perspective on the difference you’re making?
5. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is the medicine our hearts needs to inoculate it to entitlement and discouragement. Like a muscle which gets stronger with regular use, gratitude strengthens us and makes us more resilient. Scientific research continues to reveal the power of gratitude in our lives. Gratitude increases our goodwill towards others, motivates us to exercise, improves our overall health, grows our sense of connection with others, and decreases the likelihood of feelings of depression. Realizing our sense of purpose in sharing hope with others leads to a long list of items to be thankful for in the future.
Called to Be Torchbearers
In her book, Illuminate, Nancy Duarte issued a challenge for speakers, artists, and communicators which seems appropriate here.
“The future is a formless void, a blank space waiting to be filled and then a torchbearer envisions a new possibility. That vision is your dream, your calling, and it burns like a fire in your belly. But you can’t create the future alone; you need travelers to come along. Yet the path through the unknown is dark and unclear. You have to illuminate the path for travelers. Torchbearers communicate in a way that conquers fear and inspires hope. Some say being a torchbearer is a burden, some say it’s a blessing. Either way, those who light the path are the ones who change the world.”
-Nancy Duarte, The Torchbearer’s Challenge
If you want to find hope, decide that you’re going to light the way for others. You might not change “the world”, but you will change someone’s life.