Feeling fulfilled is one of the greatest longings I believe any of us have. By fulfillment, I mean having that feeling of fullness and gratitude well up in our hearts, as we look at our lives and say, honestly, “Wow it’s been a really good life, and I’m so glad about how I used the time I was given.” The opposite of fulfillment would be something like despair (Erik Erikson’s idea), or in the same broad category, regret, or shame or embarrassment. Those are feelings we want to spend the least amount time in.
All this raises the question, how do I increase my level of fulfillment in my limited time here? As I’ve thought about it, I believe there are four basic ways for us to experience greater fulfillment in our lives.
Doing Great Work for Others in Our Wheelhouse
There’s a lot here. Work is a big big deal. Most of you know that Adam was given work to do before the Fall. That means work is important, and inherently good. When we do our work well, it can fill us up in substantial ways. Each of us have a unique gift set, and when we use it, and as we grow in mastery within it, whether that is writing code or building houses or crafting a talk or whatever it might be, when we do that well, man it feels good. Then, if we can escape the trap of working for own glory, and actually do what we do to serve well, more and more of the time, there is an added level of fulfillment that hints at the servant heart of our Creator.
Coming Alongside Others Well
Work can only get us so far on the fulfillment bucket. At some point, sooner or later, we ideally begin to understand that helping others feel safe and valued, and then helping them grow and flourish, fills our hearts up with fulfillment like nothing else really does. What I’m getting at here is that when we learn how to value people by things like how we listen, how we affirm, ask questions or confront, for the sake of their growth and chance at flourishing, man, that creates a unique kind of fulfillment that is almost breathtaking.
I’ll admit, this one can certainly seem counterintuitive on the front end. But becoming mature means that more and more often, you enjoy a greater and more stable sense of peace and joy in your heart, and frankly, you are not annoying or draining for others nearly as often. (I’m working hard on this one!) When you find yourself more and more able to weather the ups and downs of life, without losing nearly as much perspective or freaking out, and when you are able to take care of your soul, and help others simply by the inspiration of who you are becoming, it creates a kind of fulfillment that registers deep in our souls.
Framing Your Life as an Offering
I didn’t really think about this much until doing some recent research. At the end of the day, I believe what is the most fulfilling is when all of the above is brought into our relationship with God, and living out our lives as a Spirit-led offering to Him. There is a ton here as well that goes way beyond this post. Yet, living and framing our lives more and more as an offering to Him, to be found pleasing by Him, I believe will yield the greatest fulfillment that life has to offer. One reason I believe that is true is that affirmation coming from the One who has the most meaningful and powerful perspective of all, and who is the truly happiest, can fill us up with more delight and happiness than anything else in the Universe.
What is often the most challenging when it comes to fulfillment is actually slowing down enough to even let fulfillment seep in to our souls. I encourage you to take time once a week, ideally at the end of the week, to reflect on how you well you served, engaged, grew, and lived your life as an offering. Ideally you’ll notice that well of fulfillment filling up a bit more. Hopefully too, you’ll be able to sense God’s generous pleasure in your humble efforts to follow and obey Him.
I am genuinely curious about your thoughts here, dear readers. What area is it easiest for you to feel fulfilled? The hardest? Any suggestions on how we can grow in enjoying greater fulfillment would certainly be welcomed!
Here’s to your journey towards greater fulfillment!