Existential Jitters


For ten years (there-bouts) I’ve been praying for the same thing: for God to tell me what I’m supposed to do. For Him to reveal to me my purpose on Earth. If I could just know that, I could dive into my calling and find some semblance of happiness. Money wouldn’t matter, the odds wouldn’t matter, the toll on my body wouldn’t matter – nothing would matter because I’d be doing what I was born to do. I’d be doing (fill in the blank) and bliss would follow.

But as you all guess: God has refused to answer my prayer. Ten years of fervent prayer, prayed in the name of Christ, prayed with emotion and force, all falling on the deaf ears of God. He simply hasn’t answered me. He hasn’t even given me a hint. That makes a man suicidal. I’m sorry to all the would-be councelors out there: this isn’t something a few pills can solve.

I had a two hour drive last night and wrestled in prayer again over this subject. The entire trip, I pleaded with God to reveal to me the purpose of my life; to tell me what to do. Again, nothing.

As a result, I’ve come to the following possible conclusions:

1: Maybe God only writes actual Christians into His narrative and leaves all the unsaved out of it, to flounder through life as well they may. On this view, maybe God’s not telling me my role in the story because I have no role; I’ve become so cynical, He’s cast me out and given others my part to play in history. I still love Him though and can’t believe He’s abandoned me to eternal darkness.

2: Maybe, as many Presbyterians will say, God has a plan for everyone but, unfortunately, His plan is so esoteric and “beyond” humanity that we’ll never understand it. I don’t believe this view because it makes God no better than an impersonal mechanism, but worse, if this is the conclusion we draw, it’s effectively no different than saying I have no purpose at all. What’s the difference between: “You have no purpose” and “You can never know your purpose”? In either case, I can never know my purpose and I’m in the same depressing boat.

3: Maybe God loves me just fine but, nevertheless, has no real place for me in His narrative? This would lead me to hedonism, praying that God simply allows me to have enough material wealth to pass through life comfortably and with moderate pleasure.

I’ve read a number of authors dealing with this: Nietzsche says we have to impose our own purpose on life. Chesterton says we learn our purpose through our relationships (our web of social connections)…which may have been fine for him, but if I took my cues from my modern status, I’d end up killing myself anyway (it’s what society wants from people like me – be it all at once, or through a slow and humiliating process). Walker Percy says we’ve got to leave our social orbit then re-enter it to find a new perspective, but frankly, I can’t follow most of what he says. That goes extra for Dostoevsky who, in a few of his novels, seems to offer profound answers to all this – darned if I can understand them though.

For my own part (the part of a depressed, exhausted, demoralized simpleton), I’m leaning towards 3.

By the way, there’s a really cynical observation we might make about 3. This might be the most discouraging thought I’ve ever penned at Shotgun Barrel Straight, but here I’ll pen it. It must be dealt with: supposing we accept 3, a question arises. How much to be comfortable? If we love God, we ought to be willing to accept life with as much or as little as He designs to give us.

…only (and here’s the bad part), think of the man in Hell. Even in Hell, he’s not completely destitute. Presumably he’d have presence of mind, some measure of company, some days better than others (maybe?), and even in the depths of the Pit, He’d have some notion of the Glory of God. Such omnipresent glory is inescapable, even in Hell.

So we might say that in taking option 3, we’re no better off than the man in Hell, more or less. That’s a damned sad thought.

Maybe there’s another option?

Maybe, instead of consigning me to Hell (be it earthly hedonism or accolades from the Pit), God really does have some purpose for me – some part for me to play in the grand, constantly unfolding, narrative of Christendom?

…if so, then why hasn’t He answered any of my prayers?!


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16 Responses to Existential Jitters

  1. lazarusnorth says:

    I don’t think it’s just you, Shotgun. One of the problems of our age is that nobody has any clue what their place in the world is supposed to be. In fact, it seems as if the whole edifice of (post)modern ideology is built on the the belief that we have no pre-determined “place” in the world, but can “be whatever we want to be”. Women in the kitchen, blacks on the back of the bus — these ideas are offensive to the modern mind.

    I think, to the contrary, that the first clue to our vocation comes from out identity. Maybe this is similar to what Chesterton says. Let’s say our vocation arises from our identity in its social context. All well and good, as you’ve pointed out, but in today’s social context, we are outcasts…

    So what is the vocation of a social outcast? Like you, I struggle with the question of my calling, but even if I can’t see the big picture, there are basic things to work at in the mean time — helping my family, and preparing my mind, body, and soul for the dark days ahead.

    You were in the military, Shotgun — any chance you could help like-minded youth develop some martial discipline or basic fighting skills? Just a thought.

  2. rogerunited says:

    ‘Society tends to be unjust, but not in the way the conceited imagine.
    There are always more masters who do not deserve their position than servants who do not deserve theirs. ‘
    -Don Colacho

    I don’t know you, but could it be that you don’t really want to know your calling? Or you do know it, but don’t want to accept it? I’m just spit balling… and using this as a flimsy opportunity to post some verses and quotes!

    “The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.”

    + St. Simeon the New Theologian

    1 Corinthians 4
    10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
    14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

    ‘I had a two hour drive last night and wrestled in prayer again over this subject. The entire trip, I pleaded with God to reveal to me the purpose of my life; to tell me what to do. Again, nothing.’

    “When you are weary of praying, and dost not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling upon you, and hast not listened to him, and he has not been angry nor insulted you.”
    –St. John Chrysostom,

    Psalm 46
    10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

    “Prayer comprises the complete fulfillment of the commandments; for there is nothing higher than love for God.”

    — St. Mark the Ascetic

    Luke 18
    13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    “Let your prayer be completely simple. For both the publican and the prodigal son were reconciled to God by a single phrase.”
    + St. John Climacus

    “The best prayer is: “Lord! Thou knowest all things. Do with me as Thou willest!”
    + St. Theophan the Recluse

    Luke 22
    42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

    “Remember that God, during your prayers, is watching for your affirmative answer to the question which He is inwardly asking you: ‘Do you believe I am able to do this?’ To which question you must from the depth of your heart reply, ‘Yes, Lord’ (Mt. 9:28).”
    — St. John of Kronstadt

    Let all involuntary suffering teach you to remember God, and you will not lack occasion for repentance.
    + St. Mark the Ascetic

    “The only hope of salvation from the delusions and the heresies, the innovations and the traps of wicked people and of the devil is prayer, repentance and humility.”
    + Elder Joseph the Hesychast

    “If you have sinned, acknowledge the sin and repent. God will forgive the sin and once again give you a new heart…and a new spirit (Ez. 36:26). There is no other way: Either do not sin, or repent.”
    + St. Theophan the Recluse

    “Christians, have we understood the great responsibility that we have taken on before God through baptism? Have we come to know that we must conduct ourselves as children of God, that we must align our will with the will of God, that we must remain free from sin, that we must love God with all our hearts and always patiently await union with Him? Have we thought about the fact that our heart should be so filled with love that it should overflow to our neighbor? Do we have the feeling that we must become holy and perfect, children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven? We must struggle for this, so that we may not be shown unworthy and rejected. Let none of us lose our boldness, nor neglect our duties, nor be afraid of the difficulties of spiritual struggle. For we have God as a helper, who strengthens us in the difficult path of virtue.”

    + St. Nektarius of Aegina

    John 16
    33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


    • I feel like you’re using all those quotes and Scripture to mask the fact that you don’t know the answer to the question any more than I do.

      • rogerunited says:

        I don’t know what your question is. What should you be doing with your life? What is your ‘calling’? Praying, giving thanks and praise, loving your neighbor, honoring your mother and father, etc just like everybody else is called to do. I know you know this, so what was the question?

        Lighten up a bit.You can get kinda melancholy, lik somebody who spends too much time alone with their thoughts.
        ‘be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ John 16

        I enjoy quotes, I enjoy the thoughts they trigger and I enjoy sharing them.

        “True, one may know man’s final goal: communion with God. And one may describe the path to it: faith, and walking in the commandments, with the aid of divine grace. One need only say in addition: here is the path-start walking!”
        + St. Theophan The Recluse
        [This one is a particular favorite of mine because its a call to action

        “The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.”

        + St. Maximos the Confessor

      • If you’ve never been bothered by the questions I’m raising in this post, then consider yourself lucky; I wont be the one to clarify the issue for you. I don’t want that on my conscience.

        Think of a monster movie where, once the forbidden box is opened, the monster is let out and the characters can’t do anything about it but stave off the inevitable.

  3. lazarusnorth says:

    Thinking about what you’ve written, Jeremiah 45 came to mind:

    The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”

  4. Junius Daniel says:

    Mr. Terry, though it may irk you, it still might benefit you.

    The Jewish perspective on this is that God gave you you, to come up with your own plan.

    Jehovah is waiting on you to come up with your plan, and he won’t do it for you, because of his deep respect for you, and because he regards the puzzle he has given you as a most sacred gift.

  5. Junius Daniel says:

    ‘“Remember that God, during your prayers, is watching for your affirmative answer to the question which He is inwardly asking you: ‘Do you believe I am able to do this?’ To which question you must from the depth of your heart reply, ‘Yes, Lord’ (Mt. 9:28).”
    — St. John of Kronstadt

    Roger quoted this, above, and, it holds a lot in common with the Jewish view, or, if your prefer … ‘Nietzschian’.

    • Fr. John+ says:

      NOT AT ALL. Having worked for, lived among, and even (as a paid person) ‘worshiped’ with the Jews (being a doorman/janitor teaches many things – cf. Ps. 84:10 ) I can say, there is NOTHING the Jews can teach us, that we don’t already possess, in far greater fulness, than any apostate covenant-breaking semitic imposter.


      Roger’s quoting so many Orthodox Church saints was helpful, to me, at least, in reading the responses. Shotgun, I am in much the same state. Doors have been closing for me these last two YEARS, and yet another one shut, yesterday. Part of this comes as a result of NOT desiring to work among the antichrists of this world, as Adam Grey noted so well in his first Faith and Heritage post:

      Cambria just last week brought up the ‘action plan’ model construct- which needs to be discussed, should Trump fail (and possibly, even if he succeeds!)

      I know you are reticent to either: a) Change confessions/churches, or b) MOVE to another locale.

      I knew (some quarter century ago) that, in order for me (for instance) to marry, I had to go ‘someplace else’ to find my wife. I did- 1500 miles, in fact. I also was led (kicking and screaming) toward an Orthodoxy that did not even exist, when I began my pilgrimage- yet I was adamant that somehow, somewhere, some DAY, someONE would be ‘of like mind’ with me. I have that, now, with my wife of 25 years, and with a Bishop, whom I find agrees with me, in ‘all things.’

      Sometimes, it is our celtic stubbornness that makes God’s will unknowable, because we are like rocks, rather than Trees, planted by the riverside. [Ps.1] But reading Nietzsche is NOT spiritually edifying, nor is thinking something will change… if we, DON’T.

      Just some thoughts.

      • rogerunited says:

        Fr John, you may like this quote from another Father John:

        “We ought to have the most lively spiritual union with the heavenly inhabitants, with all the saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, prelates, venerable and righteous men, as they are all members of one single body, The Church of Christ, to which we sinners also belong, and the living Head of which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is why we call upon them in prayer, converse with them, thank and praise them, It is urgently necessary for all Christians to be in union with them, if they desire to make Christian progress; for the saints are our friends, our guides to salvation, who pray and intercede for us.”

        + St. John of Kronstadt

      • Junius Daniel says:

        I agree with Father John. At this time in history, the American Jewish community is vapid and ungodly.

        Though some friends might be made, the community as whole has nothing to offer – not even to themselves.

  6. Ken says:

    I have the same question for my own life. One possibility: maybe the answer is that I am not ready to know my role and place. Another possibility: not knowing or understanding my role at this time is part of the forging by fire process that must by done in order to create the kind of person I will need to be.

    In any regard, have patience my friend. Longsuffering, which can be described as basically patience under duress, is built within you during these kinds of times. Maybe this need for the Godly attribute of Longsuffering is why you don’t currently know.

    Something for you to think about: it’s been awhile since I’ve clicked on your blog (got lost in my list, I guess), but as soon as I did tonight and saw your spiritual questions, I immediately remembered that you’re the guy I discovered about ten months ago who is very close to my age and has the same kinds of spiritual and existential questions. I’m not alone! That makes me feel better. Your struggle here is also mine.


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