What’s your Why?

Posted by on Jan 10, 2012 in Gary | 9 comments

“For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world.” Jesus

“I’m bored with my life” and “I’m afraid to make a change.”  I hear these two thoughts almost daily in conversations with others and I’ve uttered them more than a few times myself.  Apathy and anxiety.  Seemingly opposites and yet we can somehow live with both.  Perhaps this is a bi-polar heart.

Several nights ago I pulled a book from a bookshelf in our bedroom that caught my eye – Viktor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Laying on my bed wondering where to start, I found a dog-eared and underlined page which is where I began reading.  Frankl wrote about the need to reorient our heart toward the meaning of our life because most people live in what he calls an “existential vacuum” – a life without a meaning worth living for.  He states the effect of which is life in either a state of boredom or distress.

I remember my dad telling me, “there is nothing worse than boredom, so find something to do and work hard at it.”  In other words, get busy.  It works, except you end up walking away from boredom across the “existential vacuum” right into distress.  And in that state, you dream of moments of boredom once again.  It’s ridiculous!

But it’s more than ridiculous, it’s tragic.  Frankl went on to say, “People today in this existential vacuum either wish to do what other people do (conformism) or do what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).”  When I ask people how they got into the job or ministry they are currently doing, their answer is usually because they were told they should do it or they wanted to have another’s life.  In doing so, we actually give up our life, our place and our contribution.  The only way to resist such a temptation is to understand your calling, the unique glory you possess.

One evening during my three days alone with God, I asked Him where He wanted me to direct my thinking.  He asked me to think back through each shift in my working life. I realized that each change was centered on the issue of the alignment of my life to what I had discovered was truest about me, my glory.  Sometimes the incongruity between who I was and the position I was in was resolved by a new opportunity that I could easily step into.  Other times, I had to leave one place before I could find the next.  Some decisions were made out of personal conviction and faith, others out of the coercion of souring circumstances.

With God, the issue is always the aspect of His glory which He has given you and where He wants you to offer it; it’s not “job fit”, advancement or benefits.

Viktor Frankl quotes Nietzsche as saying, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”  Okay, that’s huge.  We must pursue God on our why and trust Him with the how.

Jesus said to Pilate, the one who would brutally beat and crucify him, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world” (John 18:37)  Jesus knew his why so He could bear the how.

What is your why?

“God’s calling is the key to igniting a passion for the deepest growth and highest heroism of life”. Os Guinness

With you in the pursuit of a fruitful life,


9 Responses to “What’s your Why?”

  1. this is flat out dead on the mark! i never looked at my life with a WHY in front of it. Just huge in giveing me hope!

  2. Mark Wager says:

    Hi Gary

    Great insight, as usual. I’ve been feeling the need for some reorientation lately. I think the “why” question is a good one. I like your note about conformity and totalitarianism… I hadn’t really put it together until now. I think these have shaped my past too, but with your help I’m resisting and taking back lost ground. It is a slow and difficult path, but worth it! So worth it! You encouraged me a while back to just keep walking in it and let the results be their own. I’m making headway… And this reorientation will be a good reminder to stay the course.

    Learning and growing

  3. My struggle is not so much with apathy and anxiety but rather contentment vs. complacent. I enjoy my work and I believe that I bring my calling to it, but I think I’ve become complacent because I’ve been doing it for so long and I’m comfortable with it. Your “Cold Front vs. Season Change” newsletter helped me with this struggle. As I get older, I think I’ve become more complacent and I tell myself that I’m content. How much of our life is supposed to be as Jesus said, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world”? There have been times in my life where I can say that, but they are certainly more the exception rather than the rule. I don’t know what my expectation should be in this regard and again my struggle of contentment vs. complacency. Thanks for the newsletter and thoughts!

    • Russell, your welcome. I’m with you on your thoughts. What I find helpful is knowing & remembering my “why”, know & remembering that my calling is to bring the effect (splendor/brilliance/strength/glory) of my life to those in my world, and to listen to / for God’s voice throughout the day. Then life becomes an adventure and mission once again.

  4. Richard McAlister says:


    At this late stage of life I am just figuring out that there is the question of why. For years I pursued what I thought was my calling but through a set of circumstance walked away from it and spent the past 25 years mostly floating along the river of life. As I began the slow process of healing the flicker of dreams and long lost passions began to bubble to the surface. Your book and your insights continue to bring healing to my heart and the glimmer of hope. Thank you for helping to guide me back into the light. The dark was a cold and lonely place!

  5. Gary,
    Great insight, as always! I often struggle with the ‘how’ and I almost forget there is a ‘why’. Then God reminds me that stress and boredom are not my calling – that He loves me and put desires in my heart for His glory. I’m still wrapping my head around that, but I love it. Thanks.

  6. Drew Hampshire says:

    Gary, as I am looking through old e-mail I came back to this blog. I’m struck by the line you wrote near the end that says “We must pursue God on our why and trust Him with the how.” I know its been awhile since you wrote this, but what does that pursuit look like? Anything you can share would be appreciated.

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