In his 2005 Commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs (1955-2011), co-founder of Apple Inc., made this statement:
“If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later.”
Steve Jobs understood that we recognize purpose best in hindsight. Certain experiences become meaningful only as the future unfolds. With the passage of time, at least partial answers to the “why” questions regarding painful life circumstances can emerge.
Consider an athlete like Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack. She inspires others today because she first overcame hardship in her own life. Her pain became her platform for ministry.
Of course, not all pain we experience may be as dramatic as a shark attack. Sometimes pain comes through lost relationships or career setbacks. Only with time do you learn how your loss altered the course of your life. Years later, you may find that your geographical location, your present employment, and the birth of your children all exist as they are because your life was redirected through a loss. Everything you love about the present may have come into your life through an unwelcomed ending long ago.
The English romantic painter, John Constable (1776-1837), who is known for his beautiful landscape paintings, once remarked,
“I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, – light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.”
In many ways, your life is like a painting. When you look at your life from the right perspective, you find beauty. Each experience, both joyous and burdensome, creates a portrait of a life with purpose.
Questions to ponder: Do you believe that your present setback could become a future asset? When you connect the dots in your life, do you see mere coincidences or a greater purpose?