Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Finding the meaning of your life

boaters sunset by antonious   (www.anthonyaphoto.com)

A life without a purpose is, well, pointless, and yet we give amazingly little thought to what our purpose is. If someone were to ask you, "What is the purpose of your life?" how would you answer? It's not an easy question. The harder one thinks about it, the worse it can get. You might have a desire to have a family, for example. So you have children, and they have children, and so forth and so on, and then what? If individual lives have no meaning, why would making more of them add meaning? You might see your life-purpose in terms of serving others. That sounds noble (and indeed, I think it is), but if individual lives have no meaning by themselves, then why would serving others add meaning? Where does meaning come from? We know, in our hearts, that such things as having a family or serving others are meaningful activities. We recognize this without trying, even if we can't say why. Somehow we know that loving other people is a good thing, a meaningful thing. Why? Because that's what God made us to do. Something in us knows that, even if we're not so sure about the God part. Loving people is a good thing for us to do because that's what God designed us to do. That, and to love Him too. Man's purpose - the purpose for which God made us - is to love God and love one another. That sounds good, and it is. It may also sound easy, but it isn't. There is something in us that rebels, something in us that doesn't always want to do what we know is right. Loving others means putting their needs ahead of ours. That's not easy to do: it can feel like losing rather than loving. We're afraid that we won't get our needs met. Being selfish sometimes feels like a better alternative, and sometimes we choose it. Actually, pretty often we choose it. God's purpose for man is not trivial, and we're not nearly as close to fulfilling it as we'd like to think. We all think that we're loving people, but all those people who you see being selfish . . . they think they're loving people too. It's so much easier to see someone else's selfishness than to see our own. But loving others is what we were intended for, and, consequently, it is what brings us and those around us the most joy and peace and, not surprisingly, the most meaningful lives. Loving God should be easier than loving others but we're no better at it. Loving God requires that we love the truth, and we don't always want to do that. The truth about ourselves isn't always pleasing, and we'd rather avoid it. Distorting the truth - sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - often seems like a better alternative than putting the truth above ourselves. Sometimes we want to look good more than we want to be completely truthful. We want to look good; we want to be first. Yet neither of those brings us lasting joy. We settle for the momentary puffing up of our egos, missing the meaning of our lives altogether. Living up to God's purpose for us is both desirable and impossible, unless God helps us to do it. The good news is that He will - if we're willing.

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