Project HELP blog Loss of Purpose
Compassion Ministries

When Hope Is Gone, Can the Loss of Purpose be Far Behind?

The Apostle Paul once said “the burdens laid upon [him] were so great and so heavy that [he] gave up all hope” (2 Cor. 1:8 GNT). I know the feeling — only I didn’t have burdens but rather disappointments — disappointments that began with an exhilarating phone call and ended in a loss of purpose.

The Call that Changed Everything

My college administrator husband was working at a community college when he was contacted by a major Christian university in another state about a position. Bob had not applied for the job or sought it out in any way. He had, though, been praying about a job change, so we assumed the call was God’s doing.

Bob took the job, and we moved. Before the year was up, Bob was told his contract would not be renewed. Christian higher education was saturated with applicants at the time, so Bob was unable to find another college position; he ended up taking a job with a Bible training center. While the center wasn’t accredited, we felt Bob’s skills could help the school prepare men and women for ministry. Bob thrived in this position, but for reasons we never learned, he was fired within a year.

As my husband earnestly looked for another job in higher education, we tried to stretch his severance pay. He worked at a factory for minimum wage, and I added babysitting to my small writing income.

During this time, we wondered whether God might be calling Bob to ministry. He had a seminary education and excelled at preaching and teaching. We talked with our pastor, and he concurred. He even implied one of the church’s current job openings would go to Bob. Bob, though, wasn’t hired by our church.

Now here is where I added burdens to burdens. I brooded over the church’s rejection. How could people we fellowshipped and worked with reject us? Ruminating is typical of many prone to depression, something I knew nothing about at the time.

Words that Hurt, Words that Comfort

Comments made by fellow Christians stoked my ruminating. I bristled when they said things like “God has something better in mind for Bob” or “When God closes a door, He always opens another one.”

In one particularly painful conversation, a group of women told me my lack of faith was what kept Bob from getting a job. Another said it was my unforgiveness of the man who fired Bob from the Bible training center. I hadn’t given the man a thought. I was concerned with finances and encouraging Bob.

One friend grasped what was happening. She realized how devastating it must have been to not be hired by our own church. She called me every weekday morning, checking on me and engaging me in conversation.

Through it all, I held on to hope that God would eventually open up a college position for Bob. That is, I did until the severance pay ran out. We couldn’t get by on minimum wage and babysitting, so Bob took a job totally outside of his field. He became an executive recruiter, and I “went to work” (more ruminating!) trying to make sense of what had happened.

We had tried to follow God’s leadership each step of the way, yet nothing had panned out. This didn’t make sense, and I concluded God didn’t have a purpose for our lives. Without a purpose, I stopped wanting to get up in the morning, something unusual for me as I’m a morning person by nature. This indicated something was wrong, but we didn’t know what.

I don’t know how long I would have gone on like this if my back hadn’t started hurting. When I went to the doctor, he failed to find a physical reason for my pain. He said I was depressed, and he connected me with a psychiatrist who helped me recover. Through talk therapy, my physical symptoms disappeared, but my spirit also needed to recover.

Reviving the Spirit

Leaning on one of Jesus’ prayers from the Cross, I prayed honestly. Just as He asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), I tearfully prayed, “How could You do this to us? We tried so hard to follow You and to do Your will.” It took several days of praying like this, letting the hurt go, before hope fluttered in my heart once again.

To strengthen that hope, I needed to believe God had a purpose for us. Through depression, I learned I needed a sense of purpose to live, so I prayerfully affirmed that God had one for us even though it wasn’t apparent. I did this until “the God of hope” filled me with “joy and peace” (Rom. 15:13), and I was able to live meaningfully and purposefully once again.

Brenda Poinsett is the author of several books about depression, including When Saints Sing the Blues: Understanding Depression through the Lives of Job, Naomi, Paul, and Others and 30 Days of Hope for Dealing with Depression.

Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.