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Knowing Your Why

Knowing Your Why

Surviving and thriving in a creative field requires knowing your “why.” Your purpose must be 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 requires a greater vision and purpose if it is going to fulfill us the way we were designed. As Victor Frankel 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)

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. But 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

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. It is great to be recognized for your talent and hard work. The core issue is always the heart. Some people find their dignity in an award they have won while other people I know have lost track of where their Emmy or Grammy Award might be. They are great accomplishments, but they cannot bear the weight of carrying your identity.


The question for you and me is this: 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?

Is Your Why Big Enough?

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 talent. 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. Now, 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 can discourage us from where God wants us to follow. It may be the voice of a well-intentioned friend or an unloving critic. We can’t let those voices overshadow what we know God is calling us to do. If you want know how to get real clarity on your calling and to clarify or redefine your “why”, I invite you to check out our Free Masterclass: An Artist’s Calling.

What’s Your Why?

Now it’s your turn: What’s your why? What is the greater purpose that fuels your creativity as well as your worship? What do you know deep down God has gifted you with, and do you see clearly how all informs your sense of calling in all areas of life? Please leave a comment down below. I would love to hear from you.

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 © 2022 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

7 comments on “Knowing Your Why”

  1. Leonardo Ramirez Reply

    I love this. With this in mind, a while back I had prayerfully written both a personal artist statement and a mission statement:

    1. Personal Artist Statement: To reveal God’s authentic nature and love through my creative gifts.
    2. Mission: To reveal the depths of God’s love and the authentic nature of His character through books, screenplays,
    film and/or all other forms of entertainment.

    • Joel Pelsue Reply


      I love this!
      One question comes to mind – how often do you review or look at these?
      For instance, are they visible where you write, or when you plan your week?

      beautifully stated.

      • Leonardo Ramirez Reply

        Hey Joel!

        These remain in my line of sight not just when I create but as I live. They are easily accessed on my desktop. They have changed many times but not on a set schedule of review. The change often happens when I’ve gone through a spiritual growth spurt and the Holy Spirit brings them to my mind and exposes a richer truth that is more pertinent. That’s when I go back in and edit. They upgraded in stages. The first one was simply pointing others towards God. From there, it moved to pointing others towards His faithfulness and from there, pointing others to His authentic self. The implication in the last one is to remove the obstacles between us and Him (traditions, unhealthy beliefs, etc.).

        Hope that makes sense!

  2. Daniel Abraham Nuru Reply

    Thank you Rev Joel Pelsue,My name is Daniel Nuru,I am from Nairobi,Kenya.I always read your blogs and they have been shaping my creative journey.

    • Joel Pelsue Reply


      Thank you so much for letting me know. I had a friend in College from Nairobi. What kind of art do you create?

  3. Chris Lovie-Tyler Reply

    Thanks, Joel. Your writing is always a breathe of fresh air—and a challenge.

    I’d actually started writing a blog post on this exact topic when I came across your article. I knew I needed to work through this question of “why”:


    Obviously, I need to distill it a bit (), but it’s a starting point, and something I’ll return to regularly.

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