The Surprising Power of Pets
A doctor once persuaded the administration of a nursing home to bring in animals to be cared for by the residents: rabbits, hens, dogs, cats parakeets. Through this simple change, the entire community seemed to come alive. People who had stopped talking or walking asked if they could take the dog for a walk. Parakeets were named and adopted. Mortality rates dropped and fewer psychotropic drugs were needed. Why? Because the pets gave people a sense of purpose.
To need purpose is part of being human. No cow has ever pulled its head up from the grass and asked, "What's the point of it all?" They don't need an answer. But we do. In fact, when we lack a sense of direction to our lives, we begin to fall apart. We become depressed, unmotivated, joyless. We need something that gives meaning to the grind. We need purpose. We need to have a sense that these steps of one thing after another are all part of something bigger. That our lives are about something, that we’re part of something important. It’s not just that we desire it—there’s something fundamental to what we are, he we were designed that means we need an awareness of purpose.
But where do we find it?
The Gospel Gives Purpose
We have a real problem in our day. The central conviction of our culture is that we need to do whatever makes us happy. This is just a fancy way of saying that we need to live for ourselves. The problem with this is that purpose and meaning in our lives are only possible when we live for someone or something beyond ourselves.
And it can't be just anything that we live for. If we live for success and accomplishment, our failures will crush us. If we live to make others happy, we will be undone by their unhappiness, and they will also disappoint us. If we live for a cause or a country, we will be discouraged by lack of progress or virtue.
The Christian gospel calls us away from the emptiness of belonging to ourselves and the disappointment of giving ourselves to someone or something that cannot satisfy. You don't belong to yourself. You belong to the Creator of the Universe, who loves you more than you can possibly imagine. You belong to Jesus, who died to give you life. You are meant to give yourself in service to him.
In his service is perfect freedom. In belonging to him is found real purpose.