Can anyone discover the meaning in life?
by Kevin Probst
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There is a character in Greek mythology named Sisyphus, was the legendary founder and first king of Corinth. He was a reputed master of deceit who successfully tricked Th'natos, the demon of death, into imprisonment in the underworld. Thus, mortals were no longer susceptible to death. Ares, the god of war was especially troubled that men could no longer die. Sisyphus was called before Zeus to answer for his antics. He was found guilty of interfering with the work of the gods. Th'natos was released and Sisyphus was sentenced to an eternal life of drudgery, that of rolling a huge boulder up a hill and watching it roll down again and then repeating the process ad infinitum.
Very few humans can escape the drudgery of every day life. We are often fatigued by our daily grind. Sometimes we crave for spontaneity to break up the monotonous routine. We can become exasperated with feelings of futility. What is the purpose of it all? What have I really accomplished? Is this really all there is to life? What is the true meaning of life? Why am I here? What is the end of it all?
Philosophers down through the ages have tried to answer these questions. French philosopher, Albert Camus, believed that humans spend their lives trying to convince themselves that their existence is not absurd.
William Shakespeare divided human life into seven different stages.
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts "
Every life begins in infancy and then advances through the following stages: school boy, lover, soldier, middle age, decline and old age. Shakespeare seems despondent in his observation. We come full circle. We start out as children and we end as a child. The eyes weaken, the ears no longer hear, the taste buds malfunction and we become oblivious to the world until we just fade away.
The great 20th century novelist, Thomas Wolfe, wrote in his essay, God's Lonely Man, "The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence." He observed the "huge unhappiness of the human soul." What is the reason behind this epidemic of human unhappiness? When the true meaning of life remains undiscovered, it leads to feelings of futility and frustration.
How would the common, secular American citizen answer the question, "What is the meaning of life?" The meaning of life is:
"To love one another."
"To live peaceably with others."
"To be creative and contribute to the good of society."
"To have a family and a home."
"To accumulate the most toys."
Who could disagree with these idealistic ramblings? These may indeed be the effects of a meaningful life but what is the cause of true meaning in life? What is the source of love? What is the source of peace and goodness?
Those who call themselves Christ-followers have a Christian worldview that places God at the center of all meaning in life. He is the source of all happiness and fulfillment in life. A life that is not God-centered has no meaning. Jesus summed it up by saying, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me." (John 4:34) He was saying that the entirety of his human life revolved around the will of the transcendent God.
One African ruler traveled over 1,000 miles to observe first hand the wisdom of the legendary Solomon. No man on earth was wiser than he. He posed this question and wrote a book attempting to answer it: "How can anyone discover the meaning of life?" (Ecclesiastes 7:24) Solomon, like many after him, observed that life could become tiresome, unfulfilling and insignificant. He, too, felt the frustration of feeling his life spin out of control. He concluded that one could never discover meaning in life apart from God for he is the one who has placed "eternity in the hearts of men." (Ecc. 3:11)
Haven't we all felt the darkness of despair then feel relief when despair takes wings to fly away. Unfortunately, some people live wretched lives in which an emptiness has rooted in their souls and it never leaves. For a few, the anguish they feel drives them over the edge. Most people die naturally but some cannot take it anymore and they end their own lives.
The enemy would like us to believe there is no meaning in life. This suggestion becomes absurd when we consider that each one has been created in the very image of the Source of all meaning. Darkness envelops the soul when we believe ourselves to be meaning-making machines. When we replace God with humanity, when we substitute reality with our own illusion, when we assign importance to material substance rather than spiritual truth we lose all meaning in life.
God is never the source of despair or discouragement or despondency. Rather, he is the author of hope and promise. True meaning in life is found in Christ Jesus. He offered hope to the desperate when he died on the cross. He conquered death to provide meaning in our lives. Those who believe in the living Christ and dedicate themselves to his purpose are ultimately and entirely satisfied. His purpose is that we might spend eternity basking in the glory of his presence.
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