One thing each and every one of us have is life, and no matter how gruesome the experience or how exalted and glorified some moments are, we none the less from time to time are bound to question if life, as we know it, is really worth living.
This is neither an academic question nor a philosophical exercise, even much less a polemic for exercising the mind but a compelling question arising from hard, realistic, every-day living where none is exempted from the atrocious vagaries of living and everyone subject to its arbitrary termination.
The plain truth is that few enjoy a happy, enjoyable, fulfilled life to such an extent that were they capable of returning to this earth after death would wish to do exactly the same thing all over again. On the contrary many are glad when they come to the end of their life and can't wait to rid themselves of it; alas some even end their life prematurely by their own hands.
The young and the thoughtless waste little time in pondering this question; whereas everyone else does, to some extent, and the musings and conclusions are very telling. Here are some quotations from some eminent persons over the centuries.
"Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise." - George Orwell (1903-50)
"As our life is very short, so it is very miserable, and therefore it is well that it is short." - Jeremy Taylor (1613-67)
"Life is just one damned thing after another." - Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)
"Life is rather like a tin of sardines - we're all of us looking for the key." - Alan Bennett (1934- )
"Life is an incurable disease." - Abraham Cowley (1618-67)
"Life is one long process of getting tired." Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
"There are only three events in a man's life; birth, life, and death; he is not conscious of being born, he dies in pain, and he forgets to live." Jean de La Bruyère (1645-96)
"Our ingress into the world was naked and bare; Our progress through the world is trouble and care." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82)
"Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy when seen in long-shot." Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope. O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good." The Bible (Job 7:6-7)
The perceptive reader will note that without exception, all the quotations, including the Godly Job's, perceives life in the negative, as something troubling and pestiferous rather than something blemish-free and positive. Of course I could have searched, and undoubtedly would have found, some quotations glorifying life and the joys of living, but I could not in a timely manner and so did not.
Is life so bad and living so treacherous that the consensus of world-wide opinion would accord with the sentiments of the French writer who said, "What a fine comedy this world would be if one did not play a part in it." Denis Diderot (1713-84)
All perceptions of life and mundane living tend to mostly concur with the foregoing because they see man as an entity fighting a losing battle against the vagaries of life. Even Job thought so for he famously said, " Neither is there any daysman [referee] betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both." (Job 9:33)
All this was understandable and garnished some sympathy until the advent of Jesus Christ.
Here is how Jesus responded to this enormous fight of man against the vagaries of time and tide.
"... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)
Jesus came to interact with human life, to give it a quality to elevate it above the humdrum and tedious, to enhance it to a state of joy with regularity and to implant his peace in the inner man.
This is the abundant living that Christ brings to every redeemed soul. It does not prohibit or annihilate the vagaries of living but it transcends it and empowers believers not only to survive but to thrive in adversity. It is precisely because of this that the Apostle Paul could say, with calm assurance, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
This abundant living is made possible because with the reception of Jesus Christ comes a full measure of divine grace; enabling grace, sanctifying grace, preserving grace and all leading to a blessed life in Jesus.
It is because you are blessed that the lack of material things do not tear you apart or the possession of them make you arrogant, loathsome or hard-hearted.
It is because you are blessed that life's unpleasantness, tragedies and miserable ironies do not throw you off-balanced and foment in your soul the desire to rail against Almighty God.
It is because you are blessed that you can meet every day with a smile, every misadventure with hope and every setback with the assurance that everything is going to be all right.
Remember that when you are in Christ you are blessed and the venerable Apostle Paul puts it like this, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)
You are blessed when you are battling bitter opposition and strive because Jesus Christ is alongside you and he will always see you through, and no weapon formed against you shall prosper.
You are blessed when you are struggling to pay the bills and make ends meet for Jesus tells you that your bread and water is sure and you can completely trust him.
You are blessed when you are in the midst of catastrophe and devastation and remain admirably calm because God is with you, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." (Psalm 46:1-2)
So is life really worth living?
In Christ, yes absolutely.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
(Because He Lives : Bill Gaither)
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Hi Dr Ward,
I read your article with interest. I was a little taken aback with all of the negativity which you quoted through other men. Even though I am Christian, I know there are many folk who do not believe inJesus as the Saviour, who live very happy and fulfilled lives. Suicidal thoughts would be as alien to them as they are to me.
For instance, my father was very sick with cancer. He endured it for over 2 years. Just prior to his death, he wanted news of his grandchild's birth, by my sister who lived overseas- He CLUNG ON TO LIFE until he knew she was born and within hours, he died. Yes, he believed in Jesus, but I am sure there are many non Christians who may have the same story to tell.
I love life and I love my family. That's all there is to it.