Many today are getting lost amongst the busy consumer culture, bogged down with appearing successful and fitting in with those around them. This culture tells us that the newest and fanciest cars will make us happy. It tells us that having a multimillion-dollar home will finally bring us that satisfaction that we have been seeking. This culture lies to us. Rather than reminding us about what is truly important, it fills us with goods that we do not need and those that will only bring us a temporary happiness. We need to remember what is truly important, and redirect our paths towards it.
As time goes on, culture has become increasingly secular, driving religion and faith from the public sphere, and relying only on the world’s standards and definitions of success. The mention of God for some elicits an eye roll, or a “here she goes” type of look. Rather than holding ourselves to the standard of the saints, we hold ourselves to the standards of today, one that can lead us astray quickly and often without our notice. If we hope to live a life that is beautiful and fulfilling we must focus on the One that truly matters, God. Everything we do should be oriented towards Him, and towards the plan He has for our lives.
Finding True North
I recently graduated from Southern Methodist University and the commencement speaker, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, talked about determining our true north. He reminded us that in everything we do, in the way we live our life, everything must be orientated towards our “true north.” He talked about how success is measured in many different ways both throughout time, and in the multiple different environments we experience each day. He did not outright tell everyone that God was the true north; he merely encouraged each member of the audience, especially the graduates, to search within themselves to find what they identified as their definition of success. We had graduated college, and that alone is a success in the eyes of many today. But what was it that kept us going through every difficult midterm, final, or paper? What was the driving force behind what we did and where we were going?
As I was listening I could not help but wonder what those around me were thinking. I knew what my “true north” was. I knew that grades were important during college, and that having a good resume was important for my future employment, but only when I felt like I had too much to do in a small amount of time did I begin to stress. I almost never stressed about grades while I was in college because I knew that grades didn’t matter in heaven, a phrase that was often repeated in my apartment amongst my roommates in that last semester. Even when those around me were stressed about the jobs they would get or not, I saw their trust in God and I could see, just like myself, that our definition of success, our “true north” was God Himself.
Living with Purpose
Thanks to the people I was surrounded by and the support I had been given, as well as the example of my mother when I was growing up, I knew that God had placed me on this earth to serve Him, to be His hands and feet, and to serve those around me. Sitting in that stadium I knew what I was doing this summer, and I knew that in everything I did in the future I wanted to serve Him, and carry out the mission He has placed upon my heart.
Each of us is born with a unique purpose, and we are the only ones who can fulfill it, because each of us is uniquely created by God with this role in mind. No matter how successful we are in any of our fields, nothing truly matters if it is not first centered on God. He has given us everything, and He continues to bless each of us as we work to serve Him.
In Dr. Collin’s address he reminded us of three things, first, we should be prepared for things to not go our way. Second, the path is not always going to be smooth, and lastly, we should clarify our definition of success. Even when we can’t see why we are where we are, God always has a plan, He sees the holistic place we need to be. God may lead us somewhere that we ourselves cannot understand. We may go there kicking and screaming, at a loss as to why he would have lead us so far, but He has a plan, and sometimes He places us in these different places not because we need to be there, but because there is someone else there that needs us.
Staying the Course
In seeking this true north, if God is your focus, if you place everything into His hands, life will not necessarily run smooth, but because our focus is on Him, all the heartache and sorrow will be worth it. In a world where culture tells us it is okay to kill our unborn children, that there is no true difference between man and woman, and that the union between husband and wife can be redefined, those who follow Christ will be looked down upon and judged. While we will be persecuted for our beliefs, as it says in the Gospel of Matthew, Christ also reminds us in John 16:33, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”
No matter the trouble we face we should remember that God has a plan, and He already knows where He is leading us. He has conquered the world, and everything that goes wrong around us is only temporary.
Understanding the “How”
With Christ as our true north, we each have our ‘why.’ A quote from Friedrich Nietzsche says, “he who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.” Just as Dr. Collins asked at the commencement speech, what is our true north? What is the why of what we do? The Why is God Himself. It is the God of love, Who loves us so unconditionally, Who wants only to bless us if we will let Him. We often know how we are going to pursue our desires. Those who know they want to go to medical school know how they will. They know they will take basic classes, get good grades, and take the MCAT, and a variety of other things. But is a “how” enough? If we do not have our why, if we do not have a clear reason and understanding of why we are doing what we are doing, it all can become very uncertain.
When everything seems to be coming down around us and we do not have a reason to keep going, it is easier to give up hope. But when we have a why, we can muster the strength to do anything and make it through everything. All it takes is that we place our total trust in and surrender our lives to the hands of the Father, so that He may mold us like clay and send us out, leading us and opening up the path for us to do His will.
The Peace of True North
Have you ever noticed how much more at peace and how much easier everything seems to be when we surrender it all to Him? As a college student, I had numerous instances when I felt so much more peace after leaving my worries in His hands. That is how it can be in our everyday lives, no matter where we are or what we are doing. It is only when our lives are not centered on God, when our true north, our moral compass is focused on the ideals of this world, and not God, that we feel lost and uncertain. If we have God before us, even in the most difficult and stressful situations, what we are going through will not feel as bad as one would think. That is not to say we will never suffer, as Christ tells us that we will, but the suffering and the pain will be for a purpose, and when you have your why, anything is possible.