Learning How to Have a Meaningful Life

I have felt stuck the past few months, maybe even a little longer than that.  As I have dealt with some really difficult relationship issues, I have let it get me a little off the path that I had thought I was on.  I am feeling the need to get back a little direction.

My vision all along has been to help people to not only avoid some of the pitfalls that I have fallen into in life, but also to live a full, victorious life.  My question at this point is, "How exactly do I do that?"  I have found that I have the desire, but not necessarily the plan.  I'm sure there are a lot of people who can relate.  I know that I want my life to matter and to count for something, but what?  

As I have wrestled with this question and stumbled through trying to find the answer, I have found a process that I am going to go through that I hope will help.  I will be sharing about it with you and we will see how it goes!

It's called "Creating Your Life Plan" with author Donald Miller.  Miller is one of my favorite authors and I have read most of his books.  I like him because I feel like he's honest about the Christian life and doesn't sugar coat how difficult it is to walk with God--yes, very rewarding and the true way to find fulfillment, but difficult none the less.  

As he was going through a similar life struggle that I have been in (although much younger at the time than I am now!) he was introduced to the writings of Victor Frankl and he went through a process similar to the one he has developed. Although I have gotten a little skittish of programs and processes, this one sounds purposeful.   

He learned that the premise of Frankl's theory of finding meaning in life was tested as he endured his own "life challenge" in a concentration camp during WWII.  He had lost his family and his wife and was faced with he reality of finding meaning in the most difficult of circumstances.  If he can find victory in this environment, I think that I should be able to find some victory in my much less difficult circumstances.  

As a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, he disagreed with Freud's assessment of life.  Freud felt the greatest drive in man is the pursuit of pleasure while Frankl suggested that it is actually the drive to find a deep sense of meaning.  He also added that when man couldn't find meaning, he numbed himself with pleasure.  Sounds like a breeding ground for addictions.

Frankl said that people could experience a deep sense of meaning in 3 ways:

     1.  A person needs to have clear roles, goals and ambitions.  We need to feel useful and to have a specific tasks or purpose.  We need a project to be committed to.

     2.  We need healthy, meaningful relationships.  We were made for connection and community.  

     3.  We need to develop of redemptive perspective toward our suffering and challenges.  This is a tough one.  Frankl believed that we need to stop making a list of all of the ways that our hardship is hurting us and make a list of the many ways that the difficulty can also serve as a blessing.  Wow, that is hard to do.  It's really hard in a concentration camp and even hard in the depth of the pain that we go through.  

I am just now starting to read Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning" so I will let you know how it is.  I am also going to start through creating my own life plan and share with you what it is all about.  Maybe you too would be interested in going through it yourself.  I will serve as your "guinea pig" of sorts. 

As a follower of Christ, I however filter all of the teaching that comes in through the Bible and how it works in conjunction with what God says about us.  I feel that Frankl's theory works well with the purpose we have in loving God and others and in serving them, in the importance of connecting to those around us, and in experiencing joy amidst our trials.  

This kind of a course is a challenge for me.  I am often fearful of having a purpose or having a project that others depend on me to follow through on.  I am often very fearful of developing deep relationships with people because there is a lot of risk involved with that.  And I have a hard time looking at the bright side of my deepest pain, but I am going to give it a shot.  

These worries remind me of a great quote that I have taped above my desk from a book on codependency that I read a few year ago called "From Bondage to Bonding" by Nancy Groom.    She says "God invites us into pain because loving always costs us pain.  He offers us danger because fighting evil is never safe.  He promises us persecution because God's people- including His beloved Son- have always been misunderstood and opposed.  Resting in Jesus is infinitely harder than accomplishing our own agendas.  Trusting grace feels more demeaning than earning our salvation.  Coming alive to hope is more painful and cruel than being dead to our emotions.  But it is life.  And once we've tasted being alive, we can't go back to being dead.  Aliveness in God is addictive."

Now that sounds like something I can push through my fears to get.  How about you?