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Ask a Latter-day Saint Therapist: I Feel Like My Life Doesn’t Have a Purpose

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Q: What if I don’t have a purpose in this life? I can’t seem to fathom why God put me here and what He hopes for me to accomplish. How can I find meaning for myself?

A: When it comes to our suffering, our experiences, and our lives, we often get hung up on the question: "What does this mean? Why is this happening to me? What am I supposed to learn from this?" We turn to Heavenly Father looking for meaning, for purpose, so that we can endure. Sometimes He has specific lessons for us to learn. Other times He expects us to make our own meaning.

The scriptures make clear that all of us have the same general purpose for being here: to serve God and to serve one another. Abraham saw us before we were born, when the Redeemer said, “We will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25). We are here to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:9).

We also have our individual purposes and individual missions that we were sent to accomplish, which will be revealed to you, in part, through your patriarchal blessing. If you have one, study it regularly. Or, to quote Woody from Toy Story: “If you don’t have one, get one!”

But the fact remains that we are individuals with free will. We make choices every day. And while we should seek the guidance of the Lord, we shouldn’t wait for Him to give the go-ahead before we act. The Savior has said: “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness. For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28).

Part of the choices we make every day include choosing what our experiences mean. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and renowned therapist, said that "Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is being asked." While we may not fully choose our circumstances or experiences, we do decide how we see them and what they mean to us. While God may have things He wants us to learn, He also wants us to take what we’ve been given and choose how to multiply and improve upon it, as with the parable of the talents.

There are always at least two ways to see things. For example, a person with debilitating illness may decide that God is punishing them, or they may decide that God is teaching them to appreciate life and to have compassion for others. A person in poverty may choose to see their circumstance as the result of bad luck and/or a broken system, or they can choose to see it as an opportunity to overcome and be grateful for what they have. A person with a string of broken relationships may decide that "all the good ones are already taken," or they can examine why they keep settling for less and how they are blinded to the true character of deceivers, leading them to change their outlook and dating practices.

If the meaning and purposes you see for your life, struggles, and experiences aren't helpful to you and don't empower you, change them! Change the reason, change the purpose, change the meaning in your mind. Turn it into something that gives you power, strength, and the ability to make a difference, even if that difference is only within yourself.

God bless you. I hope this helps.

Lead image from Getty Images.
Jonwe

Jonathan Decker, LMFT

Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Your Family Expert. He offers online relationship courses to people anywhere, as well as face-to-face and online therapy to persons in several states. Jonathan has presented at Brigham Young University Education Week and at regional conferences in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. He is married with five children. Contact him here and join his Facebook group for daily Gospel-based relationship tips. 

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