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Finding your highest, best in life

Most of life can be described as a struggle to understand God’s great love for us and to understand his purpose for us.  He designed us to bask in his love and partner with him in reclaiming the earth for himself.  This is something I didn’t start to understand till I was in my 30’s and…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Most of life can be described as a struggle to understand God’s great love for us and to understand his purpose for us.  He designed us to bask in his love and partner with him in reclaiming the earth for himself.  This is something I didn’t start to understand till I was in my 30’s and have only recently (at 50!) come to any clarity about.

The sad thing in my life and the lives of so many of us is that we spend the majority of our lives working to earn his love and settling for some compromised version of his highest and best for our lives.  Life throws a lot of pain our way and what we feel seems at odds with the notion that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

It certainly has been a long, uphill struggle for me.  I was fortunate at a relatively early age (17) to see God’s heart for the poor and destitute.  My experience as a teenage missionary in Guatemala and Peru opened up my eyes to the fact that many people in this world have needs that are far greater than my own.  When I worked with Cambodian refugees spilling into Thailand in the wake of Pol Pot’s reign of terror, it confirmed a general sense of purpose in my life.

Because I’m a practical guy and because it was all I knew at the time, I began trying to help poor people to improve their economic lot.  I helped start microenterprise loan agencies in Indonesia and the Dominican Republic and then went to business school.

The path of least resistance was to use my growing skill as an entrepreneur and a manager to make a difference in the world.  But God interrupted me and gave me the gift of pain.  He showed me my brokenness, pushed me in the direction of declaring spiritual bankruptcy and then, when I was at the end of myself and my resources, asked me the defining question of my life:  “Would you rather be a father or a manager?”

And he laid it out there without any particular sense of obligation or shame attached.  It truly was my choice.  My administrative skills were being honed to a sharp point.  That would have been a fine and decent choice.  And what I didn’t understand about fathering at that point in life was a lot.

But something in my spirit knew that was the path for me; it was my highest best.  It was what God had designed me for.  People need organizers, but what is really in short supply are fathers.  Of course, there was the obvious fact of being a father to five wonderful children.  But the sense I got was that God was calling me to expand my calling to a generation calling out to fathers.
So, that’s my story.  Yours is going to be different, but maybe you can relate to the struggle.  You may wonder what it is that you really excel at.  You may feel as though there are too many options or that the options available don’t really fit.  Or you may feel hemmed in by life, overwhelmed by obligations and debts.  What’s probably similar about my story and yours is that there are so many things  that are fighting for your time and attention.  There are so many people telling you “you should do this,” when whatever they’re recommending seems at odds with the cry of your heart.
We don’t just fall into our highest and best in life.  We often have to meander a bit first and we may well have to fight and take mad risks along the way.  But God gave you your heart and your passions for a reason.  He expects you to listen to your heart and to not dismiss your passions.  You are worth it.  Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t compromise; I’d put all my chips on finding my highest, best in life.

Comments (9)

  • Just wanted to share that was just what I needed to read as I have been struggling with how the Lord can gift on in areas but yet call them to something else…. it remains me however of how the Word tells us, he is strong in our weakness, he must be more , I must be less etc etc

  • Thanks for your honesty about the struggles to find you place. It’s also encouraging that you really started to understanding how the Kingdom is working until your 30’s, which is where I’m at. I pray that God will continue to use you to “father” a future generation of disciples.

  • Seth –

    I finished Red Letters and just started The Art of Listening Prayer. I’ve been in Africa, so I apologize for the delay in writing. I will post again soon on your book, but to answer your questions on Tom’s book…

    1. What did God move you to do? God moved me to speak up! I’ve been to Africa multiple times and work in a mission’s ministry, but still feel like I’ve been too quiet. In response to Tom’s book, I’ve pushed a ton of people to his website and his ministries, encouraging people to pray and to support those that your ministries defend.

    2. What did you learn from his book? I certainly loved a bullet-form list of what poverty is. We often think of poverty as someone who simply cannot afford food, but it is so much more.

    3. How did this make a difference? Well, I was in Africa while I read his book, which made it hit home in a very unique way. I was in the middle of those that I was reading about. It did the same thing that the Word of God does each morning – pushes you to those that need help, affection, prayer, healing, hope, love and assurance.

    Thanks, Seth. I’ll email soon about your book. – Adam


  • thanks seth.

    sometimes i just wish the “meandering” wouldn’t last so long 🙂 ha. wise words as always.

    tell miss Talia i love her for me!

  • Thanks so much for investing your time each day into this blog, I look forward to reading it every day, I love how you keep us thinking, never letting us get complacent to where we are in our lives, encouraging us to get out there, to get passionate in our relationship with the Lord and to “listen to our hearts”. I miss Aim, it is so much harder out here in “the world” to stay focused, so many things “fighting for our attention”. Coming here each day your words help keep me focused. God has also given me the gift of pain and though I am still not clear about his plan for me I am certain that in his timing he will make it very clear to me. Blessings to you Seth!

  • Hi again Seth,

    Thanks for this, it again really touched my heart. I’ve been thinking for many years about what the best ways to make a lasting difference are and the idea of what you did, setting up loans and helping to create microenterprise, sounds really appealing. I just wanted to ask you, looking back, would you recommend that as a course of action for people who want to change the world?


  • Saz,

    It is certainly one way to change the world. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs starts with physical needs and having a job (created thru a microenterprise) helps a person provide for those physical needs. Ultimately, God moved me up the ladder so to speak and asked me to help meet spiritual needs as a main priority.

    But your highest and best, Saz, is going to depend on what he has given to you as an assignment and empowered you to do.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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