When I was about your age, I was wondering what my life was going to be about. I had grown up in some difficult circumstances so I definitely knew what I did NOT want my life to be about.
My parents were divorced, we were poor, and it seemed like my parents had too many problems to be concerned about me. I tried staying out of the way and, looking back, it seems like I practically raised myself. I spent most of my pre-college days trying to escape and secure a better future for myself.
I was extremely driven to achieve athletic and academic success, which I did, and for which I took all the credit. I was so focused that I didn't have time for other things in life, like relationships, which I didn't know much about. But once I found myself at college with new opportunities, in a new place, with new and unforeseen challenges, I realized I didn't know what I wanted to live FOR.
I had always been a goal-oriented person, and once I had reached my goals of making it to college and pursuing a good career, I had run out of goals. Growing up, I had thought our family just needed more money and then things would be better. But I started to wonder whether money, power, or fame were worthwhile pursuits.
Do people who obtain those things actually end up happy with how they lived? The problem for me was that I knew people who had achieved those things and still weren't happy. So what does 'success' in real life look like, anyway? In my quest for answers to my questions, I collected quotes in the hope of finding some guidance. (You can check 'em out (plus some other stuff) at www.m_sternhagen.tripod.com/index/.)
I also wondered why God had put me on Earth. But while I didn't know my life's purpose, I knew even less about God. I believed God existed, but that was about it.
In my junior year of college, one of my professors and some other friends, who were some of the kindest, most wonderful people I had ever met, introduced me to Jesus and God's word in the Bible. Once I started reading it, I began to realize that God certainly knew ME, even cared for me, and had actually been paving my way all my life. When I looked back on my circumstances growing up, I saw how impossible my accomplishments would have been without God's intervention.
Neither one of my parents was athletic or had graduated from high school. Yet I was an All-Conference athlete in two sports and had graduated co-valedictorian of my class. My family couldn't afford college so I really needed a scholarship. And after some rules got changed the very year I was eligible for it, I did receive a full-tuition scholarship from State of Wisconsin. 🙂 Mid-way through my college career, the State decided to reduce the scholarship amount because tuition kept rising. But I was in the last class that received the full-tuition scholarship. 🙂
These were just a few examples of how God had clearly provided for me to excel in spite of the difficult circumstances in my home life as I was growing up. Once I realized how He had already gotten me through so much in my life up to that point, I knew I could entrust Him with the rest of my life as well.
I knew I had transgressed against God in many ways, like taking all the credit for my achievements and generally just being selfish. But in reading the Bible, I learned that if I trusted in Christ and His resurrection, then His sacrificial death on the cross would reconcile me to God. I couldn't reconcile our relationship through my own efforts. In accepting God's pardon, I also committed to living my life as Christ would have me live.
One of the obstacles to my faith was being afraid of what people would think of me. My family had always made fun of 'religious people' when I was growing up. But I've come to see (and am still coming to see) that it's more important what God thinks of you than what people think of you. Another obstacle was my lack of understanding about spiritual things. But since my college days, I've learned more about God AND my purpose in life. God has abundantly blessed me, even through hardship (since He always walks through it with us). He has transformed (and continues to transform) me into a new and far better (e.g., kinder, more thoughtful, generous) person than I ever would have attempted to be in my own making.
He has taught me more about relationships and has given me a spiritual family in His church. And He also promises that those who put their trust in Him will get to spend eternity with Him. So now, with my remaining time on Earth, I live to know God even more, honor Him with my life, and bless others, just as He's blessed me.