When I was a teen, I watched my parents go through a predictable routine. Get up, go to work, come home, eat, watch TV, go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. Only punctuated by rare vacations or trips to visit relatives. It felt so pointless. I wanted my life to mean something.
We tend to derive meaning from our accomplishments and/or our relationships. While those fulfill a practical sense of self-worth, they are fleeting. My fulfillment becomes its own circular purpose.
Like Solomon discovered in Ecclesiastes, all is vanity. They don’t give us a real purpose and fulfillment. I’d spent my life moving toward a goal that I felt was important, but when I arrived, it didn’t quell the feeling of “there’s got to be more” ringing in my heart.
This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc 12:13 ASV)
Honestly, I never liked that answer. Maybe because it sounded so “works based.” Maybe because it felt like he said, “After all my seeking, this is what’s left. I can’t come up with anything better.”
I didn’t realize then how accurate Solomon’s words were.
For the Christian, however, he did highlight the source of what would ultimately give life meaning: God. For me it boiled down to one seemingly unanswerable question:
God, why did you create me and this world?
Why was it unanswerable? Because by definition God has no need of anything. He is complete within Himself. What possible motivation could God have to create the universe and mankind if He didn’t in some form or fashion need us? If there is no need within God to create us, then there is no purpose to our existence.
The question of why God created us felt as unanswerable as “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?”
For example, some would suggest God created us so He could be loved. That assumes He has a need to be loved. That He’s lonely. It assumes that the shared love of the Trinity isn’t enough for Him.
Another popular answer is we were created to glorify Him. We see this when someone says their purpose in writing Christian fiction is to glorify God. There again this would imply that God created us because He needs to have someone singing His praises.
Am I saying that loving God and giving Him glory are pointless? No. Yet, if He has no real need, then there can be no real purpose to my life. All is vanity. Obeying God is still vanity if there is no point to it.
On a whim recently, I did an internet search for “Why did God create man?” I didn’t expect much. I figured I’d get the above answers, which the first two links did give me. Or I’d get the answer “42”. But then I stumbled across an article that turned on a light.
In the great love chapter, the Apostle Paul says that true love “does not seek its own.” This means that love is not selfish or self-centered. God did not keep His life and love to Himself, but He shared it. He breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul. God created humanity because “He is love,” not for what humanity could do for Him.
I know nothing about the organization who wrote that article. They could be flaming heretics for all I know. But on this point, they helped me connect the dots.
God, being perfect love, wanted to share that love because He is not selfish. He didn’t need to create us to be fulfilled or complete within Himself. However, because He is perfect love, He desired to share that love.
Meaning for my life is gained by participating in His love.
That is why the greatest commandment is to love God with all our being. For that and the second related to it sum up the whole point of the Law. Then we’re back to Solomon’s conclusion. Our meaning and purpose is to obey God.
As Jesus pointed out, if we love Him, we’ll obey Him. If we obey Him, it shows that we love Him. (John 14:15; 15:10) Solomon’s point is that we find meaning in loving God by obeying Him.
We don’t do the commandments to save ourselves, but to participate in and share His love.
That is what we are created to do. That is why I write fiction and non-fiction. Sure, it should glorify God. But that isn’t the foundational reason I write it. Or read it. Or have children. Or—fill in the blank. I do it all to share in His love.
I have something great to be thankful for this coming Thursday: for God so loved us that He gave us life, then when we threw it away, He gave of His life to give it to us again through Christ.
What truths have you discovered about meaning in your life?