One of the fundamental questions of life is this: Does my life have meaning?
Wrapped up in that question are others. Why am I here? Do I have a role to play? Where do I fit? Can I do something of meaning? What is my purpose?
There is a basic thirst in all humanity to find meaning in life. Everyone wants to find some meaning and value in what they do. And they look for answers in all kinds of places. Some try to fill that thirst with experiences and so they do all kinds of things hoping something will satisfy. They may choose to enhance or even remove the feeling of reality with drugs and drinking. Some chase achievements, some look to “just provide a good life for my family.” Others look to fame. Some look to “leave a legacy” so their name will remain alive long after they are gone. Everyone is searching for that satisfaction that will finally quench their thirst.
The search is on for that elixir that will truly satisfy. This search has carried people in many different directions. If you have attended college or university you will probably have come across some of the following people and their ideas.
- Albert Camus wrote in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” According to Camus, life is entirely without meaning.
- Jean-Paul Sartre argued for dealing with the meaninglessness of life by creating our own meaning. We decide, not God, or any other person, what we find meaning in.
- Augustine of Hippo and Blaise Pascal, though many years apart have both been connected to the idea of a “God-shaped hole” in mankind, or an “infinite abyss”, that Pascal wrote in Pensées, “this he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are...” Looking for something that doesn’t exist, outside of God.
Solomon, King of Israel, declared in his book, Ecclesiastes, “Everything is meaningless… completely meaningless! …I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 14).
Solomon’s journey for meaning led him to seek pleasure and wisdom and hard work, and found none of these pursuits were fulfilling. In Ecclesiastes 3: 14 he says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” There is something in the human heart that longs for more. This is reminiscent of the “God shaped hole” or “infinite abyss” that is longing to be filled, to be satisfied. This thirst that is longing to be quenched.
Solomon journeys on, looking at the injustices of life, the futility of political endeavors and chasing after and gaining wealth. He points out that everyone dies. So what is the value of the time of our existence?
In chapter 11 Solomon encourages both the old and young to treasure their days, and reminds them that God is part of the answer to our thirst for meaning. Yet he still views life as meaningless.
When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless.
Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 11: 8-9)
In the end Solomon concludes “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14.)
His final conclusion is we need to recognize that God has the final say about our meaning and value. He is the final judge. Our job is to obey him and find meaning in that obedience to God. There is no meaning in all other pursuits, except in honoring God in those pursuits.
The thirst of humanity cannot be satisfied with any other pursuit than that which brings us into a relationship with the One who made us. God created us to have a relationship with Him. Any pursuit that looks for satisfaction outside of that relationship will never satisfy. To look for contentment outside of what we were created for will only bring more dissatisfaction and frustration.
To use a drill to pound a nail or a file to chop wood is ridiculous and frustrating. We need to come to God who created us for relationship with Him, and as we honor and worship him our craving will find relief.
Your thirst can only be quenched as you drink deeply from God who created you and loves you!
Keep looking up,