Finding Your Purpose as a Creative
Finding your purpose as a creative is essential. You cannot find hope, joy and deep satisfaction in your creative life or your spiritual life without a purpose. Animals may live by instinct, but you need something far more profound. As a man or woman made in the image of God, you are created with a desire to live life from a deep sense of purpose. You also want to experience the success in your artistic field that validates your talent, hard work, and creativity. This is not vanity.
God created you with a longing for community and a longing for others in your community to enjoy you as a person and to celebrate your contribution to that community through art or anything else. I’m sure Jesus found tremendous satisfaction when the Father said of Jesus, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Nothing Goes As Planned
Here’s the kicker: this side of Eden nothing goes as planned. Producing a film, a video game or an art installation can feel like a battle to get to finish the project. There are too many things that need to fall in to place and colleagues that need to come through on the project. Even military strategists know the first casualty in any war is Plan A. So don’t be surprised when you need to pivot. But if you are going to pivot effectively, you need a long-term vision like a sailor that keeps adjusting to catch the wind, but never loses sight of where she is headed.
Setbacks & Disappointments
Don’t question your purpose, calling or giftedness simply because there are setbacks and massive disappointments. We all have to face the reality of our own limits, our weaknesses, and the evil in this world. There is no creative or spiritual success without obstacles and challenges. Don’t get discouraged. God uses these challenges to lead us toward maturity.
These challenges force us to ask ourselves the “why” question: “Why are we creating and what is our core motivation”, and “Are we striving to honor God with our life”? Without an answer to these questions, we are like a script with no plot, rambling along with no point.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
– Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Knowing Your Why
Surviving and thriving in a creative field requires a vision and a purpose greater than any setback you encounter. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, and there is no story worth reading that does not possess a struggle. The fascinating truth is that your life and your art possess this same dynamic. The more our art/film/choreography has meaning, the more it becomes worth all the frustration and agony.
Our career has the same dynamic, though it is easier to lose sight of it. Our career needs to have a greater vision and purpose if it is going to fulfill us the way we were designed. As Victor Frankl realized in surviving life in a concentration camp, we can endure almost anything in life when we have a reason and a purpose for what we are pursuing.
This reminded me of a passage I haven’t reflected upon in quite some time:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11)
Facing the Dark Night of the Soul
If you are willing to endure the struggles, frustrations, and even face your dark night of the soul, what is it all for? Living in L.A., New York, or any other city where you pursue a career in art and entertainment is going to be hard. You have to ask yourself, deep down in your heart of hearts, are you doing it to honor God, or to get an award, etc.? Naturally there is nothing wrong with awards, accolades, or other success. The core issue is always the heart. I know people who lost track of where their Academy Award is, and people who have multiple Emmy’s but have a healthy response of not putting their identity in those achievements. They are great accomplishments, but they cannot bear the weight of carrying your identity.
The questions for you and me is what is all your hard work and talent serving? Every season we will find ourselves tempted to serve ourselves and our own desires and to give up on the grand story God has for us. This is the struggle of being living sacrifices – we have to keep choosing to serve God instead of wealth, success or some other idol. As D.L. Moody said it with great simplicity and clarity: “the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar.” We must examine our hearts and keep asking ourselves what our core passion and purpose are really about.
Stories and Purpose
When we were youthful and lacking wisdom, we were prone to want the power without the struggle. We also tended to want the courage without having to face our fears. But then we were awakened through the great stories of cinema, epic novels and the very narratives in scripture. Those stories possessed challenges, struggles, and wars that raged both within the human heart and without. We loved those stories because we saw the main characters fighting and struggling for something worthwhile and meaningful. This is the picture of a deep and rich humanity that seeks to grow spiritually, relationally and creatively. Is this how you envision your life?
What is Your Why?
I remember being a pastor at a church here in Los Angeles years ago when a young man working at Sony met with me for coffee. We met near the studio in Culver City, got to know each other and found out his primary goal was to be a millionaire by the time he was 30. Surprised by his short-sighted vision I asked him, “… and then what?”
He paused, as if he hadn’t considered that. He thought for a moment and said he would sip margaritas and live on the beach in Malibu. Well, naturally you would need a lot more than merely a few million dollars to live that life in Malibu, but my challenge to him was simple:
“You lack imagination for what God has for you, and what God can do through you. You love the challenge of working with other creatives and the business side of the industry, but you have lost the point of why God gave you a sharp mind for business.”
Surprisingly, he grew up in the church and was even a pastor’s kid. Yet his vision fell far short of what God had for him. He ended up making quite a bit of money over the next few years, but his life fell apart. His marriage and his character unraveled as he allowed his heart to pursue nothing greater than money. This man lost the greater story, and settled for a short-term, shallow vision for his life. He accomplished his dream, but “what does it profit us if we gain the world and lose our soul” in the process? (Mark 8:36).
Your vision must be greater than something you can do in a few years, or a single decade. If it is going to stand the test of time throughout your life, your purpose must have an eternal focal point and have an eternal impact.
God placed you right where you are for a reason. He gave you your talents, passions and relationships. He is calling you to find joy in living a life the way he intended. The question is whether you will follow his calling upon your life and get a vision for His purpose for your life, or will you settle for something far less significant and satisfying. I don’t want to oversimplify this.
People get tripped up in trying to discern their calling and their passion for a host of reasons. We all have voices speaking to us that seek to discourage us from where God wants us to follow. If you want get real clarity on your calling and your purpose, check out our Free Masterclass: An Artist’s Calling.
Application Right Now
Consider a few questions as we prepare for Passion Week, and the events leading up to Easter:
1) If the Savior you follow endured the cross, are you not also prepared, and considering it a privilege to pick up your cross? (Luke 9:23)
2) If Christ was willing to endure the 40 days in the desert facing real temptations presented by the enemy, are you expecting the enemy to tempt you? (Matt 4:1-11)
3) If Christ had to die on the cross, before he attained the resurrection, are you also expecting to suffer, struggle, and live as a disciple in order to “know the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10)
Positive thinking is all around us, and unfortunately it is in the church too. It isn’t biblical. Our hope is in God, not ourselves. It is valuable to hold on to God’s promises and His love for you.
However, God never promised an easy road, regardless of our attitude or calling. Just consider the lives of Daniel, Joseph, and Esther. Our real calling and hope is growing closer to God and becoming more Christ-like. That usually happens through the struggles of life and because God is pruning us whether we are bearing great fruit or bearing none (John 15:2).
There is no resurrection Sunday without the dark night of the cross. It is true of Christ, and true of all creation – Romans tells us of creation groaning as with birth pangs (Romans 8:22).
Preparing for Passion Week
So, as we prepare for Easter, take time to pray. Ask God to show you where you may be focused more on yourself than on Him.
Is your lifelong goal to become more like Christ? Are you enduring hardship for your own ego, or for God’s glory?
If you have drifted from the narrow road, then take time to repent, and embrace the Father who runs to embrace his daughters and sons as they return home. But don’t stop there. Then rejoice fully in your forgiveness as you try once again to honor God with your craft.
God didn’t call a bunch of Christian men and women into the art world or entertainment industry to win awards or to “take back” some aspect of culture. He didn’t call you to be perfect. He called you to be Christ-like. That is what the watching world is waiting to see in His people.
Preparing for Easter
As you prepare for Easter, take a few minutes to pray and consider the words of Paul to the Christians in Philippi. He wrote this while in prison after planting countless churches and serving Christ with all he had. He was never surprised with the struggle, and never lost sight of the goal.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
– Philippians 3:8-11
And remember, You are not alone— we are here to help–if you want get real clarity on your calling and your purpose right now, check out our Free Masterclass : An Artist’s Calling.
Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
For more resources about your calling as an artist read these other articles: