What does God want me to do? This is a common question that is sincerely asked by individuals seeking to live a good life and wanting their actions to be in alignment with God’s will. It is a familiar quest that many embark on, to try to figure out what work they were preordained to accomplish. What’s their personal mission? What’s the purpose of their life? These are valuable questions to wrestle with.
Is There a Personal Plan for Me?
At a pivotal point in Esther’s life when she was weighed down with the task before her, Mordecai inspired her with these words: “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). That truth, that Esther’s life had a specific meaning and purpose, perhaps was a source of strength to her as she faced the possibility of risking her own life without the certainty that her actions would help others.
Mordecai was not the only one anxious to share the truth of our personal missions on earth. President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “Before we came [to earth, we] were given certain assignments. . . . While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” general conference, October 1979).
John C. Pingree added, “God has important work for each of us. What an ennobling truth! Our Heavenly Father has specific and significant things for you and me to accomplish. These divine assignments are not reserved for a privileged few but are for all of us—regardless of gender, age, race, nationality, income level, social status, or Church calling. Every one of us has a meaningful role to play in furthering God’s work” (John C. Pingree, “I Have a Work for Thee,” general conference, October 2017).
We have the potential to offer something meaningful, something valuable, and something significant. This truth has the power “to wake [us] up from the spiritual amnesia the adversary so cleverly administers,” as Sister Wendy Watson Nelson puts it (Wendy Watson Nelson, “An Evening with President Russell M. Nelson, Worldwide Devotional for Young adults,” January 10, 2016, Brigham Young University—Hawaii).
Discovering Our Personal Work
The desire to find ways in which we can make a meaningful difference can bring you to your knees as you struggle to figure out what you can offer and do. Sister Nelson sees this as a productive struggle. She explains, “When we’re desperate to become the people we were born to be, our vision changes . . . and suddenly we see things about ourselves, others, and our lives we’ve never seen before.”
I was a young teenager when I received my Patriarchal Blessing. It filled me with excitement and anticipation at the possible opportunities that awaited me and the work that I could be involved in. I began trying to figure out what the specific blessings referred to were. I would ask God over and over to help me know what work He wanted me to do. But years passed, and I never found any direct answers as to the specific work I was to do. I grew frustrated and impatient and told God that it was going to be really hard for me to fulfill those commitments I had made with Him if I didn’t know what they were. It didn’t seem fair for God to hold me accountable for not completing the work I was supposed to do if I didn’t know what work I was supposed to be doing!
Waiting for God
When asked about creating goodness in our lives and finding our purpose, Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a licensed therapist, says, “We tend to focus on a pre-determined plan for our lives in God’s mind that we need to ascertain and fulfill. Sometimes we look too much to be commanded in all things. I believe we need to trust in God and goodness enough to be anxiously engaged in any good cause, in our own unique way, and to have the faith to tolerate the inherent exposure and uncertainty of this, while pursuing goodness anyway. It requires doing things that feel hard and without any guarantee that it's all going to work out. It requires tolerance that you don't know how it will all work, but are willing to move forward anyway.”
There is a lot of wisdom in this observation. We limit ourselves when we sit around and wait until God tells us what to do. The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, tells a story centered on Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal world of conformity and contentment. Within this community, Jonas and other children are given their “life assignment” at age 12 in a big ceremony. These various jobs have been expertly chosen by leaders of the community who have watched and studied the children since birth, taking note of their capabilities. To some degree, in the Latter-day Saint culture, we sometimes grab ahold of a similar frame of thinking—waiting to have revealed to us what our unique work will be and how we will contribute to God’s work.
Move Forward with Faith
God doesn’t want us to stand around and wait to be told how to go about creating goodness with our lives. Even Christ said, “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).
Dr. Finlayson-Fife goes on to say, “We don’t live in the Garden of Eden. It’s a mess down here on earth. I believe God wants us to get busy and do what we can to make the world better. God wants us to not be commanded in all things and to use our capacities to make a difference. I believe God blesses us with inspiration and capacity to make a difference, but we have to do the work first. We have to truly desire to do good and use the capacities we have. We have to be willing to stick our necks out, in any meaningful effort to create or affect something. This is faith. Your desire, your effort makes you more able to receive inspiration or insight into how a problem might be solved or to feel what direction might be best. But I don't think it's all predetermined and we should therefore wait for the ‘correct’ answers. I believe God is in a relationship with us and will offer things to us as we demonstrate the desire to create a better world—When we are truly seeking, as manifested through our behavior.”
Maybe, rather than being anxious about trying to figure out what the specific work is that we're supposed to be doing, we can focus on finding ways we can use our skills, desires, talents, knowledge, and abilities to create goodness. As Elder Todd. D. Christofferson taught, “I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives. . . . My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with” (Todd D. Christofferson, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves,” general conference, October 2014).