In the movie the Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith’s character Chris Gardner experiences the depressing, and hopeless reality of being homeless. Chris, motivated out of love for his son and the need to provide, refuses to let his current status define him and works on climbing the uphill battle of achieving a successful career. As he desperately pursues “happiness” he is met with constant defeat and seeming failure. However, his strength and determination to create a better life for him and his son eventually pay off. At the end of the movie, Gardner is offered a full time position as a stockbroker in lieu of the unpaid internship he had been working in for the last six months. In a full circle moment, the last scene reveals Chris as a wealthy business man walking down the street with his son – a picture of the final attainment of happiness.
This story is beautiful, heartbreaking and at the same time inspiring. It contains all the elements that are necessary for a good story: a relatable character with overwhelming obstacles, overcoming them in spite of all odds, and in the end winning the day. Stories like this motivate us to pursue similar goals. We tell ourselves upon watching or hearing them that with a little self determination and strong motivation we too can achieve whatever we want to.
The problem that I see with this story in particular though, is that I have a hard time believing that Chris Gardner ultimately achieved true happiness in the end.
Yes, he got the job he worked hard for, and was able to give his son a better life, but he still lost his wife in the process. His ultimate goal in life, (beyond providing for his son,) was personal success and achievement. He had nothing outside his life that was giving him greater meaning and purpose. “Happiness”, was depicted as nothing more than the escape of hard circumstances and the attainment of wealth and social standing.
That, if you ask me, is a very depressing story from beginning to end.
Let me explain.
When speaking of living purposeful lives, we often think in terms of personal excellence or achievement. Come January 1st, we make our long lists of how to better improve ourselves and reach our goals for the year. We listen to the messages around us that tell us to shoot for the impossible. We devour self help books that teach us seven special steps to obtaining lasting fulfillment.
We do this because there is something instinctive in our nature that causes us to need to work toward something.
We want to be excellent at what we do and we want to be happy while we are doing it. We want to be remembered and our days here to count for something.
The problem is however, that we are too near sighted. We seek to leave legacies that serve no greater purpose than pointing to our short little lives.
I want to suggest something to you, now.
What if we are consumed by a desire to do great things, because we were created to live out a greater purpose?
What if we are continually not being fulfilled, because there is something out there that is meant to fulfill us?
What if we are so obsessed with making our story count for something, because our story is actually a part of a bigger one?
If we are going to be talking about purpose, we need to get something straight here –
If you are still living like your story is all about you; it is meaningless and serves no eternal purpose.
Your story, my story, all of our individual stories, are not about us.
They are a part of a greater story that is still being written:
This is vital to understanding our purpose and how to glorify God with our lives! We will never be able to fulfill our true callings if we still have it in our heads that this life is about us and what we get out of it!
This is also why Chris Gardner ultimately had it wrong in his pursuit. The story of his life had no greater meaning beyond his achievements. Instead of living His life to glorify God, he ended up only glorifying himself.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis
We have to realize that the desire we have to do great things is there for a reason. We are hardwired this way because He has great plans for us to carry out!
Stories that Matter
The Lord of the Rings is hands down my all time favorite movie. From the time I was introduced to this story as a child I have been forever inspired to live a life of adventure. Something about the way that the heroes in this story conquered their overwhelming obstacles has just always inspired my heart.
They knew, that were players in a bigger story.
Despite the terrifying circumstances, the hopeless odds against them, and the intense suffering that they were required to go through as a part of their quest, they knew that all these circumstances were not just worth it, but they were necessary because of the greater good that would be accomplished by them.
Their primary goal was not for personal fame, recognition or success, but for the benefit of those who were suffering around them. They were not constantly pursuing how to escape their terrible circumstances, but they instead viewed them as opportunities. They were not at a loss as to how to move forward with their personal missions, because they had a leader, a king, whom they followed with affectionate loyalty and whom they trusted to make decisions.
Regardless of how small or insignificant they might have thought they were, they recognized that they each had a role to be played in this grand story, and that that role was necessary.
These are the kind of stories that matter! These are the kinds of stories that we should be living. And this is what I want more than anything for you to know:
Because of God, we can.
Your story is significant to God. He has skillfully orchestrated every aspect of your life to be a vessel for His glory.
God wills for your life to be an adventure, to be beautiful, and to have purpose.
It doesn’t matter if you think it is mundane, or pointless, or if you have no idea where you are going.
And He wants to take you through valleys and deep waters and high places so that ultimately you can know Him more.
He longs for you to live a life of purpose, but He knows that no purpose or goal that you set for your life can bring you true, lasting satisfaction. Only a life surrendered to His plans can bring true fulfillment. So He has written a masterpiece for your life that is just waiting to be unraveled.
God doesn’t just want to use you for His glory, but He wants you to see His glory! And He gives us the opportunity to see it every day that we follow Him and let Him write the stories of our lives.
So will you dare to believe in a story that’s bigger than yourself, and embrace the adventure of the purpose He has for you?
I hope you do, because it is so worth it.
Reflect and Respond
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
What is your story? What are the plans that you have made for yourself? Write them down. Have you ever considered that your story is a part of God’s greater plan for this world? How does knowing this make a difference in what you value and pursue?
How do you think God wants to use you as a part of His epic masterpiece? How does it make you feel knowing that you get to be a part of the greatest story in history?
This post is the seventh post in a 31 Day Series titled, Discovering How God Makes a Difference. To read the rest of the posts in this series click here.
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