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What Was I Made For?

Posted by Theology of Home on
What Was I Made For?

By Muji Kaiser

Shortly after the 96th Academy Awards aired, I stumbled upon an article announcing singer Billie Eilish’s win for Best Original Song, “What Was I Made For?”, on the soundtrack for the movie Barbie. I was familiar with Eilish but couldn’t recall the song, and took a moment to pull it up on YouTube. “What Was I Made For” is a sad song, sung beautifully by Eilish:

Think I forgot how to be happy, something I'm not, but something I can be. Something I wait for. Something I’m made for.

I was taken by the feelings of emptiness it conveyed. Also striking, however, were the comments in response to the YouTube video. Listeners resonated deeply with the song and spoke candidly about their feelings of depression, anxiety, grief, and addiction--questioning the purpose of their existence amidst various forms of suffering. One commenter wrote, "When you lose your purpose, that’s the saddest situation a person can be [in]. You live but don't know what for.”

The comment section seemed to reflect the larger search for meaning and feelings of emptiness that many are currently experiencing--a possible consequence of contemporary secularism among other things. Whether we realize it or not, we all yearn for God, and as St. Augustine writes in Confessions, "Our hearts are restless until we rest in thee.”

This restlessness can be seen in Americans’ increased dependency on prescription medications for depression and anxiety, and an overall increase in those diagnoses. In a heartbreaking statistic cited by the Center of Disease Control, suicide rates among ages 10 - 24 increased by a staggering 62% from 2007 through 2021. Simultaneously, the US is experiencing a continuous decline in Christianity. According to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009. Our nation is experiencing a spiritual crisis.

In a recent interview with EWTN, Bishop Robert Baron spoke about this spiritual crisis: "If you are told that there is no transcendent point of reference, that there is nothing beyond this world—that produces a deep thunderstorm in the heart and in the soul. This thunderstorm and separation from God also gives rise to a spiritual longing which you can see in people--we try to fill that empty space with anything the world can give us.” 

There are many examples of this in popular culture--celebrities who, in a worldly view, seem to have it “all”: money, power and fame. I once looked at Anthony Bourdain as someone who appeared to have an ideal life, getting paid to travel the world and eat delicious food. Between you and me, he was the initial reason why I studied Journalism. Like many others, I was shocked and saddened by the news that he--who 'had it all'--had committed suicide.

As Catholics, we are generally raised with the understanding that we are meant to be in the world, but not of it--and that true contentment can only be attained when our lives are lived for the love of God and in service of others. But what does it take to more deeply internalize this understanding? In my early-twenties I left home for the first time, relocating from Ohio to California. The move was very hard on my mother. She and I emigrated from Nigeria to the United States when I was three and were incredibly close. As I wrote about before, she saved my life after a childhood illness nearly claimed it and was my dearest friend. Leaving her was difficult, but I felt a need to assert my independence and venture into the world by myself for a period. My mother had always been my anchor to the faith, so separating from her also meant that it was now my sole responsibility to remain faithful to my Catholic upbringing.

While in Los Angeles, I worked as an assistant to a talented Hollywood agent who represented A-list celebrities and prominent figures within the agency’s Foundation and Speakers department. I was surrounded by some of the most influential people in the entertainment industry, working alongside brilliant young minds--knee-deep within the hustle and bustle of la la land. Yet, I had persistent, inexplicable feelings of sadness and isolation. It was difficult being far away from my mother and the rest of my family and friends back home. I found a parish locally and attended Mass regularly, but never really found a faith community.

I later discovered that there were, in fact, communities of young, Catholic faithful in the area--but I imagine that God, in His providence, deemed that I have that time with Him alone. During that period of spiritual isolation, I had nowhere else to turn but toward God, and knew that my lukewarmness would no longer suffice. As a multigenerational Nigerian Catholic, and like many whose faith is so closely tied to their cultural and familial identity, I didn't truly understand why I was Catholic. It took time to educate myself on the history and teachings of my faith. Along the way, by the grace of God, I discovered the beauty, goodness and truth of the Faith I professed, and will be forever grateful and moved by the re-presentation of Jesus’ death on Calvary at each and every mass, and am humbled to be able to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist.

Thanks be to God for that period of isolation for it drew me closer to Him. Many of us have to reach a low point before truly seeking God, whereas He has sought us all along. As the comments in Eilish’s video show, there is a great hunger for something--but they aren’t yet sure what “it” is.

St. John of the Cross wrote about this innate hunger for God, coining the term “spiritual cavern”: "When these caverns are empty and pure, the thirst, hunger, and yearning of the spiritual feeling is intolerable. Since these caverns have deep stomachs, they suffer profoundly; for the food they lack, which as I say is God…"(LF 3.18)

Among the Christian faithful, there are also experiences of deep pain and suffering. We see powerful examples of this in saints who reached such holiness that they experienced the Dark Night of the Soul, a term also coined by St. John of the Cross, in which a soul is deprived of God’s consolation.

Among the everyday faithful, there are daily hardships, tragedies, and suffering, which are part of the human experience. Time and again we can remind ourselves as the Church teaches that no suffering is in vain. Such experiences are  opportunities to grow in greater unity with Christ and His passion and death. All things work for His ultimate good. Christ loves us so much that He not only gave His life for us, but He allowed Himself to experience the fullness of human emotions. He knows our pain not only because of His omniscience, but because He experienced even greater pains during His humanity. God seeks to comfort us - yearning for us to reach out to Him and waiting ever-so-patiently until we are ready to do so, like the loving Father that He is. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."(John 14:27)

“What was I made for?” To the faithful, the answer might seem obvious: we were made for God--to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. Yet, how easy it is to forget this through the secular distortions around us and the frailty within us. It is our duty and honor as Christians, however, to fight against such distortions by living lives full of faith, love and hope, especially during difficulties, as an example to the world that it is God and God alone who can grant us the lasting peace that we so greatly desire.

As St. John Paul II said: "It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise."

We, dear friends, were made for God.

Muji Kaiser is a Catholic writer, speaker and founder of the Okaja Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit that provides aid to Catholic organizations serving orphaned and poverty-stricken children in her home country of Nigeria. She lives in Southern California with her husband and five children. To learn more about her ministry, visit

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