When life has meaning

We live in a society where life is reduced to biology, yet it cannot give us answers to the meaning and purpose for our lives. Famous atheist, Nietzsche, understood that when we give up on the idea of God, we risk sinking into nihilism. He tried to mitigate this by encouraging us to be our best selves. That’s all well and good, but it still doesn’t answer why we should even care.

If biology is all there is, no legacy is going to matter to us because we won’t exist. Besides, the world pretty much swallows up whatever space we filled in this life and just goes on without us.

Logically, if this life is all there is, then the happiest person alive is the wealthiest sociopath. They could do whatever they wanted and not care the least about anyone or anything else. Why should they? And if getting away with crimes, no matter how heinous, furthers their happy end, then all the better. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

I don’t think this adequately answers the big question, do you? Seems like a pathetically hopeless prospect to me.

As I said in my post: “Peter Hitchens on Justice and God,” if there’s no afterlife, no God, then there can be no ultimate justice.  We simply muddle through this life and then we’re just dead. And it sucks to be you if you’re the weak, downtrodden, marginalized, mistreated, and abused. This life has utterly failed you.

On the other hand, if we have hope in God, we’ve entered into something much bigger than ourselves. Our life, no matter our circumstances, has purpose—both in this life and beyond it. Here’s what Paul told the Romans…

18 I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us19 The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God’s glorious sons and daughters! 20 For against its will the universe itself has had to endure the empty futility resulting from the consequences of human sin. But now, with eager expectation, 21 all creation longs for freedom from its slavery to decay and to experience with us the wonderful freedom coming to God’s children. 22 To this day we are aware of the universal agony and groaning of creation, as if it were in the contractions of labor for childbirth. 23 And it’s not just creation. We who have already experienced the firstfruits of the Spirit also inwardly groan as we passionately long to experience our full status as God’s sons and daughters—including our physical bodies being transformed. 24 For this is the hope of our salvation. (Rom.8:13-24 TPT*)

This “groaning” of creation pretty much describes the broken but beautiful and wondrous world we live in now. But brokenness and suffering are not the end of the story—both for creation and for us! We can know this because God has given us this hope living in us. And we want to make this world a better place precisely for this reason.

For those of us who believe, we’ve been given a life now that’s over-the-top good and full of joy because His joy lives in us, and because we’ve experienced infinite Love we want to share love. We have newness of life where everything—good, bad, or ugly—works together for our good because we love God and He’s at work in us.

28 So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose. 29 For he knew all about us before we were born and he destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son. This means the Son is the oldest among a vast family of brothers and sisters who will become just like him. (Rom.8:28-29 TPT*)

As Gandalf reassured Frodo in the Mines of Moriah when his hope seemed lost, “There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”

Now, none of this may matter to you when you’re 20, or 30, or even 40, and things are going well for you living in the free world. Good for you. But there will come a time in your life when your family and friends will begin to disappear from you. Believe me, you’ll hear about or attend more funerals than you ever wanted. What are we to make of that if this life is all there is? That’s it?

I could give you a resounding, “No!” But believing that is up to you.

You and I don’t have to live like those with no hope. No matter what happens in this life, even with our death, or the death of those we love, it’s not the end of the story for those who believe. We will see one another again, and we’ll be together forever (1 Thess.4:13-17).

One last thing. It takes just as much faith to believe that this life is all there is as it does to believe there’s more…so hope up! Regardless of how your life is going right now, you have a never-ending future that’s infinitely brighter than you can possibly imagine.

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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2 Responses to When life has meaning

  1. Very cool, Mel! People like Jordan Peterson where trying to address a crisis of meaning in our culture. Sadly, so are others with much less integrity, like cultians, gangs, and white supremacists. My point being we really do have a major crisis of meaning going in our culture at large right now, and trouble finding our identity. That’s an opportunity, a call for the church! We are the specialists in purpose, meaning, and identity.

    I like how you said, “Logically, if this life is all there is, then the happiest person alive is the wealthiest sociopath. They could do whatever they wanted and not care the least about anyone or anything else.” Right? The problem being we just aren’t logical creatures. The wealthiest sociopath is often to be found horribly depressed, addicted to pills and plastic surgery, and sleeping in an oxygen tank. I’ve lost track of all the people who had it all, wealth, fame, good looks, and they basically just self destructed. Purpose and meaning cannot be found in the material or the physical.

    I really enjoy Ecclesiastes. It’s not the nihilism at all, it’s the rhythms, the seasons, the reminder that there is something much greater than us going on. Most of our mountains are just tiny mole hills of vanity. The sun always rises in the morning. It’s a bit like sitting in God’s rocking chair and just letting Him hold you. He is more real than the turbulence we think we are experiencing.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, IB. Yes, it’s interesting that when our culture doesn’t provide meaning and a greater purpose then the cults and gangs and radical groups step in and fill the void with their poisonous alternative. Regardless of how we try to snuff God out, we are meaning-seeking creatures and God is the only who has the key to what we’re looking for.

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