How Do You Find Joy and Purpose and Live Well?

Who comes to the end of life with a sense of living well and to the fullest? Who among us has the fewest regrets?

Jesus gives us the answer: Those who serve others. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).

Jesus gives us our job description and the path to fulfillment and joy in this uncomfortable truth that appears in the context of those who want exceptional standing and privilege.

Jesus came into the world to be a servant of all—to live and die for others. Think about this: Jesus, the Son of God, the Man for others, gave his life for us. He died in our place for our sins and paid the price we couldn’t pay. He lived out his teaching that this is the key to life’s purpose and happiness.

Over the centuries, believers have discovered that true joy and fulfillment lie not in doing what we want and accumulating more riches for ourselves but in serving and giving to others. Those who have willingly and joyfully given up the heavy burden of me-first and have helped feed, shelter, rescue, and love others have found joy and purpose.

Some of the happiest people we meet are those who spend time sacrificing for others, who give their gifts and energies to the Gospel, and the work of lifting the broken—physically, materially, or emotionally.

The greater joy is found in giving rather than receiving (Acts 20:35) and building loving and caring relationships with others. Being others-focused is life’s secret to happiness, and this truth provides us with a key to how we are built. This advice might seem upside-down because it goes against everything our culture likes to tell us about the key to happiness and success.

Yet happiness and fulfillment studies are now counter-culturing counterculture and confirming this biblical principle. Harvard Professor Michael Norton and his colleagues conducted a study on money and happiness. He states, “This study addressed a paradox that economists have talked about for a long time—that increases in income don’t tend to lead to big increases in happiness. People buy bigger and bigger houses, but they don’t seem to get much happier as a result.” Norton and his team found that when people spent more on others, what his team called “prosocial” spending, people were happier. Spending on themselves had no impact on increasing a person’s happiness.

An 85-year Harvard study found that “strong relationships most accurately predicted people’s happiness throughout their lives.” Building relationships is the key to finding joy. In this age of technology, the tyranny of the urgent, and FOMO, one of the greatest gifts we can give someone is our undivided attention—a way to demonstrate our love for them. When was the last time you turned off your phone or computer to spend time with your loved ones?

Dr. Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the new book The Good Life, says, “It’s not that accomplishment isn’t important and satisfying. It is. But when we sacrifice our [relationships], that’s when we end up regretting it, and living a life that isn’t as good as we might have.”

In John 15:4, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” After calling us to be servants, Jesus shows us that joy and fulfillment are impossible without a relationship with him.

It’s not that many things aren’t good; it’s just that they are distractions from the greatest good—a life in Christ, abiding in him, and following his call to serve. We would be happier, receive more answers to our prayers, and grow in faith and joy as we intercede for the needs and welfare of others and less for ourselves. In this cheerful, God-dependent self-forgetfulness, many of our needs and desires are met, even without asking.

The good news is that it is never too late to change in Christ. You are never too old or too young, too early or too late, to find your purpose and life in contentment and joy. Our lives start to heal when we invest them in the troubles of others. When our instincts tell us to look out for ourselves, hide somewhere, and nurse our sorrow in solitude, the best medicine is to turn outward toward the brokenhearted around us and help them in their suffering.

How to begin the change?

Read your Bible, pray, be a part of a church or faith community (actively ministering to its neighbors), and find a way to serve others—beginning right now!

Try it—it works.

-Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

John I. Snyder
Broken: If You Want to Be Used by God, Prepare to Be Broken

Broken: If You Want to Be Used by God, Prepare to Be Broken

Who comes to the end of life with a sense of living well and to the fullest?

I Hate You, God Bless You!

I Hate You, God Bless You!

Who comes to the end of life with a sense of living well and to the fullest?