Years ago, when I was first starting out in ministry, I frequently filled in for other preachers. One week I was scheduled to speak at a friend’s church while he was away on vacation. I ironed a shirt, prepared my only suit, and did my best to look preacherly.
When I got to the church, Lora, the secretary, greeted me with exciting news: “We’re going to have a visitor today!” A woman had called that morning for directions. Having fallen on hard times, she wanted to give church a try. Visitors to this small church were rare, so we both anxiously anticipated this opportunity to share with a first-time guest.
Lora introduced me to an older gentleman, church fixture named Virgil, and excused herself to finish readying the church. As Virgil and I stood outside to welcome parishioners, I discovered he was serious both about his church and about his post at the door. He spoke passionately about how young people were no longer respectful of God and his church. “They’re just rebellious!” he barked.
As he stood ranting, I saw her—the visitor—drive up in a squealing, beaten-up older car. When she got out, to say she seemed out of place would be a gross understatement. While everyone else coming to church that morning wore suits and conservative dresses, she was in tight blue jeans and a slightly tighter sleeveless shirt. I couldn’t help wondering what her story might be.
She finished a cigarette and headed toward us. I silently prayed that God would give me some kind, encouraging words for her. As she reached the bottom of the steps, Virgil spoke before I could. “We wear our best clothes for God at this church. Is that your best? Or do you just not care what God thinks?”
She froze. Virgil’s sudden rudeness shocked me speechless. My mind raced, seeking some appropriate apology on his behalf, but not quickly enough. The damage was done. She looked us over silently, sighed, walked downcast back to her car, and drove away. “Rebellious,” Virgil muttered.
That instant changed my heart forever. One person’s flawed idea of God caused him to send a message exactly the opposite of God’s true story—the one about his unfailing love for mankind. On those steps, I promised God I would always resist judging someone who doesn’t know him and never turn anyone away from church because of how they look.
In my past, I had been an all-star sinner. I lied. I stole. I even lied about stealing. I did many things I’m ashamed of. But when I finally surrendered my heart to God, his loving words radically transformed my life. Once I felt firsthand the grace he offers every person, I became a passionate, unashamed spokesperson for his love. So now when I see God’s heart misrepresented, it wounds me deeply.
This was my “divine burden,” the weird kind of gift I believe God gives to everyone who commits their life to him. It’s a gift because it points you to the reason you were created. It’s weird because even though it offers something so positive, it burns agonizingly in every fiber of your being. God wants to move us beyond our self-focused, normal understanding of his blessings—I’m “blessed” with: a good job, a reliable car, a fulfilled family life—and into an other-focused, extraordinary experience of his true character.
What breaks your heart? Disturbs you? Frustrates you? Infuriates you? What one thing can stir passion within you more than anything else? If you really want to discover and develop the burden that uniquely connects you with the heart of God, you have to do something—anything—to alleviate that suffering that you’ve identified and embraced as your own.
Normal people want to live a burden-free life. Thankfully, God doesn’t call us to be normal. Paul said in Ephesians that “we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God gave you unique gifts, talents, passions, and experiences to propel you into your life purpose. He put you on earth with a divine assignment—something prepared in advance for you to do.
What’s your divine burden? And what are you going to do about it? How can you start living today for the very reason you were formed?
Craig Groeschel’s new book WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working releases this week. A bestselling author, he is founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv. Craig and his wife and their six children live in Edmond, Oklahoma. Adapted from WEIRD by Craig Groeschel © 2011. Used by permission of Zondervan.