I recently visited my sister, who was in hospital recovering from being in a coma for over a week after an operation. As you can imagine I was glad that she was now able to communicate and had retained her sense of humour. She told me that the first question the doctor asked when she regained consciousness was “Who are you?” obviously trying to assess how much she could recall. This was a source of amusement to her, so she asked the doctor “Who are you?” In many ways this is a profound question.
Finding fulfilment in life involves discovering who we are. Psalm 139 v 13-16 states “For you created my inmost being…I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before they ever came to be.” The psalmist is aware that God created us uniquely and had something in mind for us. Our parents only reproduced us.
But this raises another question, “Does God have specific plans and purposes for our lives, or is finding fulfilment mainly up to us in the choices we make?” In Matthews Gospel it mentions sixteen times that Jesus fulfilled what had already been prophesied about him and there are over forty other references altogether in the New Testament. There are also many accounts of Biblical characters whose lives seemed to be on a particular God ordained trajectory of fulfilment, even though many times they messed up.
Another aspect of fulfilment is found in using our God given gifts and abilities for the good of others. Our overall education can help with this as well as personality tests such as Myers Briggs and the Enneagram. These can shed light on why we are drawn to certain careers and why often we offer ourselves voluntarily for particular tasks and projects.
As we pass through different stages in our lives, fulfilment can mean different things. At certain times it could mean getting qualifications, finding a career, a life’s partner, starting a family, moving to a particular location etc. In later stages of our lives it may include what we can pass on to the next generations.
Fulfilment is more than happiness. Sometimes it involves going through suffering as seen in Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul referred to the ultimate fulfilment – resurrection – but only through ‘sharing in his suffering’ (Philippians 3v10). This is an encouragement to us especially if we are experiencing tough times and we cannot see any fulfilment in them.
According to the Christian calendar we are in the time between Easter and Pentecost – a liminal space. For the disciples they had left past events behind but perhaps unsure of what lay ahead. At Pentecost however, they found a new fulfilment as they were projected into the future being filled full of the Holy Spirit. Whatever our future holds let’s be filled full and so be fulfilled!
Paul Lancaster, Hope for the Nations