Finding Purpose in a Person

In 2007, I experienced a purpose-crisis. I was finishing my last semester of college alongside my husband, just six months into marriage. Monday through Friday we were just students together. But every weekend we got in a car or on a plane and performed together. Jimmy had just signed with a record label in Nashville, and a couple of his singles were doing well on radio. So every weekend I stood next to my celebrity husband as he sang about Jesus, preached about Jesus, and signed autographs to thankful fans whose lives were changed. 

His work in this season of life was highly visible. It was on the radio. It was plastered on posters. It was on websites. It was on stages. But it wasn’t just visible, it was memorable. His work of writing and performing songs and sharing gospel truth stuck with people and left an impact. Not only was it visible and memorable, it was specialized. It used his unique combination of skills and gifts—singing, preaching, and song-writing. And because it was visible, memorable, and specialized, it seemed meaningful. 

I, on the other hand, did all the background work. I booked the flights, responded to the emails, ordered the t-shirts, deposited the checks, and trained the merchandise volunteers. The verbs in my day weren’t driven by my unique skill set; they were the leftover tasks that just had to get done. They were invisible to most and certainly not memorable. And so it seemed my job was the ugly step-sister of Jimmy’s work; it was related but unattractive, necessary but unlovely. If I could only find meaningful work for myself, I thought, surely I would be more fulfilled

Made for More

Have you ever felt this way? Like you were made for more than the life you were living?

Eventually I settled into the role of “support staff” to my husband. I made peace with the fact that this was what God had for me and began to fight for contentment there. But even as I made peace with my place in our life, I was still deeply committed to the idea that what I do is what gives me meaning. And since visible and memorable work were inaccessible to me, I settled for a different kind of work: measurable work.

My days may have been full of small, hidden, mundane tasks, but you better believe those tasks were itemized on a to-do list that I proudly checked off throughout the day. It became cathartic to see what I had accomplished. 

Dishes, check.
Flights booked, check.
Packages mailed, check.
Merchandise ordered, check.

I desperately needed to know that my labor had value. I needed to see the effects of the work. It was the only measuring stick I had left to know my activity was meaningful.

Purpose in a Person

Eventually even that was stripped away as I became a mom and entered the season of multiple children in diapers. Most days I couldn’t even check “get dressed” and “do dishes” off my list. My life was a three-hour loop of nursing, toddler-chasing, diaper-changing, and napping. Other necessities like doctor’s appointments and phone calls got squeezed into the cyclical pattern, but usually at the expense of something else. Every day my progress waned and my list grew longer. One step forward. Three steps backward.

Of course I loved my children. After three miscarriages, I did not take their presence for granted. But something in me was deeply affected by the inability to measure my activity. I had unknowingly tied my sense of purpose to my productivity.

Ultimately I began to learn that what I do cannot give me meaning. And God, in His kindness, was releasing me from that lie and ushering me into a freedom I didn’t know I needed. He was untangling my purpose from my verbs. He was introducing me to the glorious truth that I wasn’t made to do something great but to know someone great. I wasn’t made for verbs but for One Great Noun. My purpose is a Person. 

Knowing over Doing

For the first time in my life, I felt liberated to fully embrace my gnawing hunger for significance. It wasn’t wrong that I ached for more than administrative tasks. It wasn’t wrong that motherhood didn’t feel like enough for me. I was truly made for more! My longing wasn’t wrong, it was just misplaced. I was made for more, and that more had a name.

I began to believe the words of Isaiah, that God created me for His glory and formed me for Himself (Isa. 43:7, 21). I began to embrace what Paul declared, that I was created through Him and for Him (Col. 1:16). Jesus was tethering my purpose to Himself and that had wonderful implications!

If my purpose is a Person, then life is more about knowing than doing. I am free to stop and enjoy extended time with Jesus, even when it slows my productivity. 

If my purpose is a Person, then abiding is my main job. So long as I stay close to Jesus, He promises that fruitfulness will come (John 15). I don’t have to work so hard all the time. I can rest with Him knowing that even my rest will be fruitful as long as I remain near Him.

If I exist for Jesus, then I’m not the main character in my story. He is. I don’t have to be impressive all the time, because I’m not the protagonist in the story. I’m free to live ordinary, boring, plain Jane days and let Him be the star.

And last, if Jesus is my purpose, and if He’s always with me, then every circumstance in my life is suddenly infused with meaning. Every detour, every unexpected delay, every extraordinary and ordinary task set before me becomes significant because I do it with Him and for Him.

No matter what verbs your life is full of today, there’s good news. Your meaning doesn’t come from what you do but who you know. Your purpose is a Person!

Would you like to hear more from Kelly on this topic? Check out her new book, Purposefooled: Why Chasing Your Dreams, Finding Your Calling, and Reaching for Greatness Will Never Be Enough. It’s available for purchase right here at

Whether you’re a leader, a teacher, or a student of the Word, the Revive Our Hearts Summer Bible Study Sale is your source for trustworthy resources for your fall Bible study needs. Shop the sale July 24–August 14 to save up to 50%. 

About the Author

Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham teaches the Bible at her home church where she co-leads a Women’s Teaching Program, training women to accurately handle the word of truth. She is the author of Friendish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusion and … read more …

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