By Jonathan Decker, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
When it comes to our suffering, our experiences, and our lives, we often get hung up on the question: “What does this mean? Why is this happening to me? What am I supposed to learn from this?”
Cosmic purposes and divine designs are issues for theology and philosophy, and interpretations and beliefs are so varied that I won’t impose my own upon you. That said, regardless of the plans God, the universe, or fate have for you (or perhaps in conjunction with them), the fact remains that we are individuals with free will. We make choices every day, and that includes choosing what our experiences mean.
You Decide The Meaning of Your Life
Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and renowned therapist, said that “man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is being asked.” While we may not fully choose our circumstances or experiences, we do decide how we see them and what they mean to us.
There are always at least two ways to see things. For example, a person with debilitating illness may decide that God is punishing them, or they may decide that God is teaching them to appreciate life and to have compassion for others. A person in poverty may choose to see their circumstance as the result of bad luck and/or a broken system, or they can choose to see it as an opportunity to overcome and triumph. A person with a string of broken relationships may decide that “all the good ones are already taken” or they can examine why they keep settling for less and how they are blinded to the true character of deceivers, leading them to change their outlook and dating practices.
If the meaning and purposes you see for your life, struggles, and experiences aren’t helpful to you and don’t empower you, change them! Change the reason, change the purpose, change the meaning in your mind. Turn it into something that gives you power, strength, and the ability to make a difference, even if that difference is only within yourself.