How To Make Your Life Matter

Erik Cooper —  October 9, 2012 — 2 Comments

My grandfather dreamed of becoming an FBI agent. Unfortunately, life dealt him a less glamorous hand. Born to an alcoholic father (who preferred to spend his evenings and paychecks at the local bar), he ended up playing de facto dad to his nine younger siblings on Chicago’s Depression-ridden south side.

He was forced to drop out of school to help his dad pay bills and his mom change diapers, so the dream of busting Dillinger settled into 40 mundane years at a local steel mill – pension, gold watch, and all.

I wonder how my grandfather thought about himself. Was he a failure? A disappointment? Did he live below his potential? Did his life matter?

It did to me.

And to my mom, and my aunt and uncle.

And to his 9 younger siblings.

And to the countless others his life routinely touched.

You see, my grandfather was an (oblivious?) paradigm changer. He and my grandma were first generation Christians. Not famous. Not grandiose dream chasers. Just faithful. Steady. And they changed the trajectory of our family forever.

He had a dream, but he wasn’t defined by it. He found identity in Jesus Christ.


When we look to anything but Him for approval and definition, we’re always at risk of losing who we are. Your job may get downsized. Your children could rebel. Your house might be foreclosed on. Your spouse could up and leave you.

Or perhaps less dramatically, you just might never become someone others are posting and tweeting about.

Faithfulness and consistency are undervalued qualities. They may not be attention getters, but they’re difference makers. A steady gaze upon the only One that gives you worth is worth more than you think. In fact, it’s the only thing of any worth at all.

Below is an excerpt of a little back and forth I had with my good friend Lois Solet. We just got to wondering, have we devalued the simplicity of a quiet faithfulness to the Gospel?

Me: Lately I’ve had this one central thought: have we made it too complex?

Lois: YES. I can’t keep track of the hoops I’m supposed to jump through or how many times I’m supposed to do it.

Me: Have we sent people on a wild goose chase to “find their passion,” or “live their dream,” or “take their risk,” and forsaken the simplicity of everyday faithfulness to the Gospel?

Lois: YES. This one particularly bothers me. It’s enough that I homeschool my boys and love my husband well.

Me: Have we looked for our identity in these things instead of in Jesus?

Lois: YES, which is why we are the most neurotic people on earth. That neurosis stems from the ever changing line of success when our identity is caught up in things other than Christ. If we don’t define ourselves by Him through grace, we are constantly striving to perfect or please, two things we will NEVER be successful at given our imperfection and people’s fickle opinions.

Listen, I’m in no way suggesting don’t dream. I don’t promote being riskless or lazy. I’m not elevating a cop out. All I’m saying is that simple faithfulness to the Gospel just might be more radical than you ever thought possible.

Do you agree? How would you answer those questions?

2 responses to How To Make Your Life Matter

  1. I think you are on to something here. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that I find freedom in seeking to be faithful first and letting the rest fall into place where it will. I wish I had learned that faithfulness to the gospel is enough a long time ago.

    • So beautiful Sharon. Me, too….

      It’s not that we shouldn’t dream, pursue passion, set goals, take risks….it’s that at the end of the day, only the Gospel defines us. Only the gift of Jesus gives us value, worth, and freedom.

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