Jerry Duncan

Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP

There are many ways to develop a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. If you ask others what gives them a sense of meaning and purpose, you will probably hear many answers.

Some will say they find a sense of meaning and purpose in their job, in their family relationships, or in the relationships they have with their friends.

Others will tell you they find meaning and purpose in the volunteer work they do for some charitable organization.

If you are willing to consider that God had something in mind for us other than living in a garden and naming animals, your first question becomes, “OK, what am I designed to be and do?”

Good question.

When we create things, it is usually for some instrumental purpose.

We create things with the idea in mind that what we create will bring us pleasure or make some area of our lives easier or more productive. It shouldn’t surprise us that God thinks differently than us, and has different motives for His creative efforts.

God appears to have designed us with the intention of our greatest sense of meaning and purpose to come from relationships.

As odd as it may seem, this creator wants to have a personal walking/talking relationship with us.

He wants tohear from us (prayer), and He wants us to desire to hear from Him (speaking within us or through some Scripture we might read).

Remember what it feels like to really like, love, be in love with someone? You think about them all the time.

If you could, you would be hanging out with them every waking moment. You really look forward to the next time you get to be together. That is the way God feels about us- and wants us to feel about Him. We matter to Him.

God said we were also created for relationships with others. He even told us how to do it.

In the 10th chapter of John, Jesus carefully explains the difference between loving and caring for others as a “hired hand” or a real and committed “shepherd.”

“The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.” — John 10:11-15

Do the “sheep” matter to us? When we see others in need, are we quickly courageous?

Is it obvious, without us verbally declaring it, that what we have done is truly sacrificial?

In New York in 1964, Kitty Genovese was returning home from work late one night when she was attacked in front of her apartment building.

She screamed for help, and many apartment residents, at least 38 of them, heard her cries for help and looked out their windows. The attacker fled, but no one intervened.

The attacker returned and continued his assault for another 35 minutes before finally murdering her.

The first person in the apartment complex to call the police did not do so until after Genovese had been killed.

She needed someone to be quickly courageous and someone willing to be sacrificial.

There are a lot of “Kitty Genovese opportunities” out there for those who are willing to understand their original design.

Want to be a good shepherd?

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