A Key to a Meaningless Life

Some time ago, a couple came to the local churches asking for financial help. When the pastor asked, “Where do you attend church?” the answer was, “We don’t.” They are professing Christians, but they don’t go to church anywhere. This is common.

I was thinking about why folks who call themselves Christians don’t regularly fellowship with other Christians, and while I know there are a variety of reasons, I think one reason is because they have been injured in the past. Sometimes avoidance of church is symptomatic of aversion to social interaction in general.

However, God created us as social people. The phrase, “It is not good for man to be alone” does not only reveal the origin of marriage, but verbalizes our need to interact with others. This interaction is essential if our lives are to have real meaning.

Paul Borthwick stated this well just over two decades ago.

It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man’s ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and his sufferings will be increased on every side. (Paul Borthwick, Leading the Way, Navpress, 1989, p. 86)

Borthwick says a mouthful in those few words. He speaks of being significant. He encourages sanctified ambitions. He addresses the purpose-driven life.

To me, he’s saying: Brave the pain, risk the injuries, and dream big for the sake of being significant in the eyes of Christ.

How do I find meaning in life?

In his book, Kingdom Triangle, J. P. Moreland says this:

The current addiction to the cult of celebrity and professional sports, along with our preoccupation with happiness, tells us something about our true nature and the bankruptcy of our culture.

There is no debating the reality that people are hungry today. No one knows that better than those who are selling things that cannot fill your heart. Whether they are selling beauty, sex, dreams, talent, sports, or success — they are capitalizing on a reality that people today are starving. And there is no question in my mind that the very things provided to fill this hunger fail miserably.

People are like a hummingbird feeding at a feeder that is filled with artificial sweetener. They think they will get nutrients. But as they gorge themselves on emptiness, they starve themselves to death. That’s exactly what is happening to human beings, spiritually and emotionally speaking. We fill ourselves with spiritual substitutes and then we wonder why our souls cry out.

Psychologist Philip Cushman writes:

…the empty life is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists….

[The emptyself] experiences a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning… a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.

No wonder we cry out for meaning.

This podcast helps you to discover real meaning and to live life on purpose.

42 and the Meaning of Life…

There are certain things in this world that God has for you to do; and you’re just the right person to do them.

For years, I said those words to my children every night as I tucked them into bed.

There are certain things in this world that God has for you to do; and you’re just the right person to do them.

I still remind them of this from time to time.

Recently one of those children of mine introduced me to a quote from George Bernard Shaw that carries the same kind of thought, but expresses it with much greater eloquence:

This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

As much as I love that Scotsman, Douglas Adams, I must say that 42 is not the meaning of life. This Irishman, Shaw, got it right. Whatever flaws he may have had, he expresses great truth here when he tells us that laying aside petty grievances and pouring our lives out for a cause that has meaning beyond our years is reason for living.

Of course, that cause must be worthwhile. Jesus said his cause was the redemption of humankind. I have come to seek and to save that which was lost. Nice. That cause beats the tar out of any other I can imagine.

Now — more than ever — we need to resist the pull toward self-centered living and live for a meaningful purpose: the purpose of pouring out our lives for the sake of the gospel.