SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE
SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE
By Anne Lawton | MA, LPC, REGISTERED PLAY THERAPIST
In my work at Pathways Professional Counseling, I have the privilege of working with wonderful folks ranging in age from three to 100-years-old.
Some days, I play make-believe pirates in a play therapy playroom with a second-grader who longs to fit in at home and school. Other days, I utilize arts and crafts by making a collage with a middle school-aged girl to find out what is significant in her life. As I sit with adolescent and college-aged women who are cutting themselves, I wish their journey toward finding significance did not have to be so emotionally and physically painful. As I meet with grown-ups in therapy and set goals for counseling, I hear a longing to be a part of community, a part of something bigger than their own life. As I meet with grandparents, they say they want to leave a legacy with their family. They desire to pass on traditions, memories, and a lasting heritage. They simply want to be significant to those who are dear to them.
I have noticed that, through the span of life, we are all searching for significance. Relationships, community, jobs, and passing on traditions are all a part of our earthly journey that ebbs and flows. Ultimately, an authentic and lasting significance comes only in a saving relationship through Jesus Christ. And as we walk in relationship with Him, we find our eternal significance—a significance that can only come through knowing Him. I know Him more by communicating with Him through prayer, reading the Bible, and hearing from others about how the Lord is working in their life.
Through Christ, I recognize that I have nothing to offer my Heavenly Father. He does not need me, my church, my counseling skills, or my family to complete any of His purposes. Instead, out of His good pleasure, He allows me, my church, Pathways Counseling, and my family, to be a part of His work for eternal purposes. In that lies our significance. The same is true for all who believe in Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. If this is the case, we must ask ourselves why our focus is turned elsewhere on such a regular basis.
A new Nielsen Company audience report reveals that adults in the United States devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media during the first quarter of 2016. This was an increase of one hour from the same time period in 2015. This is an alarming increase! There are many positive aspects to technology, but I propose, in regard to our significance, we must be mindful of the impact of technology on our mind and our everyday being.
First, advertising and marketing abound. Hardworking people are paid to use their talent to grab our attention and to make us believe we are incomplete until we buy numerous products or believe certain things. When I am aware that I am bombarded by these messages, I can combat the message being communicated with the help of the Holy Spirit and remind myself of the truth. The truth is that I am complete and content in Christ alone.
Second, people often tell me about the impact social media has on them. Pain, hurt, competition, and jealousy rear their ugly heads as we spend time watching others’ lives from a distance. I once heard a pastor say we compare our insides (emotions and struggles) to other people’s outsides. We know what is going on with us, and we are comparing that reality to the pictures and how others present their lives online or in person. For some people it has been beneficial to take a short or long-term break from social media. When doing that, the temptation to compare can be lessened, and we may have more time to focus on our position in Christ and the peace that comes through Him.
Finally, our culture bleeds their ideas and views through media; views that may not line up with a Biblical worldview. We are bombarded with distractions, and we must take time to sift through these differences and discuss with those in our sphere of influence. In addition, we want to take time away from these long hours of consuming media to pray and be in communication with our Heavenly Father. There are very few minutes in my day that are quiet, but I want to continue to fight for them so I can spend time reading, meditating, and memorizing Scripture to learn more about the treasures that abound in Christ.
Pausing in our days can be a real challenge. We all seem to stay busy. Do you ever get lost in your busyness, going from one thing to another without purpose or any sense of significance? Paul reminds us in the book of Acts, “In him we live and move and have our being.” In all things, there is significance when done unto the Lord. Tim Keller, in his book Every Good Endeavor, talks about how even the simplest tasks can be a part of what God calls us to do. There can be great significance in everyday tasks as we seek to honor our Lord. Whether you are writing an annual report, answering phone calls, changing diapers, or cleaning a home, there is great significance in your work when it is done as an act of worship for the Lord. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23)
Paul Tripp asks in New Morning Mercies, “Are you loading kingly burdens on your shoulders today, trying to build what you cannot build and forgetting what God has already built for you? Or are you resting in the peace that is the good pleasure of our Lord to give you his kingdom?” Luke 12:32 says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In our humanity, we long to take control of our day, our life, our finances, family, work, etc. Do you know anyone who does not like to be in control?
As early as the Garden of Eden, we see Adam and Eve try to follow their own way rather than the Lord’s will. Tripp says we try to build what we cannot build. Time and time again, I forget that the Lord has already established His good work in me. I forget when the doctor calls and says that the test came back, and she needs to remove the melanoma as soon as possible. I forget when my husband gets laid off because the budget is tight for the next year. I forget when my son is being rushed by ambulance to Children’s Hospital at 2 weeks-old because his heart is about to stop.
I shake my fist at the Lord because these events are and feel very much out of my control. I hate that feeling! Not only has my Heavenly Father given me the kingdom, but it is His good pleasure to give it to me. That is about the only reason I can think of to relinquish my control. When I am not trying to control, it is then I find peace. As the writer of Psalm 131 says, “Lord, my heart is not proud, and my eyes are not haughty, and I do not go after things too great and too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child on his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. Israel, hope in the Lord now and forever.”
When I am at peace, having relinquished my control, there I find my significance in Christ, the one who will never disappoint. When my hope is in Him, I am resting on Him, rather than relying on myself and things of this world to find significance.
Common obstacles in our search for significance:
Technology: According to a 2016 Nielsen Company audience report, adults in the United States spent 10 hours and 39 minutes each day consuming media. Technology is a distraction. How much time do believers spend in prayer and consuming the Word of God?
Busyness: If we live without margin, we live without connection. When I am in relationship with other believers, they remind me that I have all I need in Christ.
Control: We must relinquish control over our life and circumstances.
Works: My performance and good deeds are meaningless.
Lack of Rest/Quiet
Lack of Discipline
Lack of self-awareness
For Additional Reading:
Search for Significance by Robert McGee
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
Cry of the Soul by Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman
Every Good Endeavor by Dr. Tim Keller
Soul of Shame by Dr. Curt Thompson