When I read this question in Kari Patterson’s book Sacred Mundane: How to Find Freedom, Purpose, and Joy, I immediately thought of my life purpose statement. Surely that defines me, I thought, and in many ways, it does.
But then Kari goes on to reference 2 Kings 5:1, where Naaman is described in one sentence:
“He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.”
That’s an impressive description spoiled by the “but” in the last part of the sentence. The words that come after it completely obliterated Naaman’s ability to live the ones that come before it.
Kari points out that we all have a “but” — the hang-ups that limits our freedom to live our purpose. It may be a habit or a handicap; anger or unforgiveness; lack of confidence or need for approval. The list could go on and on.
Just as Naaman was desperate to rid himself of his “but,” so must we. Living with our “but” hijacking our identity and purpose is not how God meant us to live.
Kari writes, “Change happens when the discomfort of our problem exceeds the discomfort of changing. Change is hard, but nothing is harder than living bound by our limitations and trying to convince ourselves that this is abundant life. Nothing is harder than living stuck.”
Kari points out that there are likely quite a few “buts” in all of our lives. She says, “This definitely isn’t a one-and-done sort of deal; in fact, it may take us a while to work through just the first half of our sentence. We need to know who we are before we can tackle what we’re not.“
Removing the “Buts” to Our Purpose
God will remove our “buts,” but not on our terms. Naaman wanted Elisha to just pronounce him clean of leprosy. Don’t we all! And while He certainly can miraculously eradicate all of our “buts” in an instant, in most cases He chooses to transform us through ways that seem beneath the status of the identity and purpose He’s given us.
Certainly, dipping seven times into the dirty Jordan seemed undignified for a “mighty man of valor.” Namaan had to swallow his pride, not just once, but over and over again.
Suffering eradicates our “buts” in order to free us to live our God-given purpose. This shouldn’t surprise us. Both James and Paul have already told us this:
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” -James 1:2-4 CSB
“We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our heartsthrough the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” -Romans 5:3-5 CSB
“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18 CSB
It’s encouraging to know that all those struggles we go through have a purpose to bring us into our purpose. Those seemingly pesky road bumps and detours are necessary to refine us, strengthen us, and equip us to fulfill all that God created us to be and to do.