Finding Purpose in the Shadows – Day 26

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:19–21)

Sister Ita Ford served as a Roman Catholic missionary in El Salvador. On December 2, 1980, at the age of 40, she was captured, raped, and brutally killed by members of the El Salvador National Guard.

She had devoted her life to working with those in the most desperate of circumstances. In the midst of suffering, in the midst of poverty, in the midst of violence, and in the midst of the shadow that God had called her to walk, she found purpose.

In a letter she wrote to her sixteen-year-old niece just four months before her death, she penned these words:

The reasons why so many people are being killed are quite complicated, yet there are some clear, simple strands. One is that many people have found a meaning to life, to sacrifice, to struggle, and even to death. And whether their life span is 16 years, 60, or 90, for them, their life has had a purpose. In many ways, they are fortunate people.[1]

There is no greater purpose in life than to follow in the footsteps of Christ. This does not mean that all of us will be martyrs. It does not mean that we will all be missionaries. But it does mean that we will live lives of sacrifice. It is in this sacrifice that purpose and meaning are found.

Ita Ford reminds us not only that the Gospel is worth dying for but that it is worth living for as well. Following in the footsteps of Christ means that life, struggles, suffering, shadows, and even death will have purpose.

Too often when we think about purpose or when we think about God’s call on our life, we think about the big and grand, “Where is God calling me five or ten years from now?” or “What big sacrifice is God calling me to?” But it is in the small, daily sacrifices that most of us will sense God’s purpose most clearly. It is in the day-to-day shadows of loving and helping our neighbors or in lifting up the needs of those around us that God will use us. These are the crosses we are called to bear, and these are the steps of Christ in which we are called to follow.

In what little things is God calling you to sacrifice and to find purpose this week?

Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs, suffering, and shadows of those around me so that I can find purpose in walking with them by walking in your steps. In Jesus’s name, amen.

[1], accessed February 9, 2018.