Thursday, 11 September 2014

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Reflection: What is the Meaning of Life?

 

What is the meaning of life?

Why are we here? What are we here for? What is life all about? What is the purpose of existence?What is the reason to live? What are we living for? Why did God make us?

This is the simplest and yet the most profound question that have baffled man from ancient time to present time, and I am glad that I am not alone. But without answering this question, how can I lead a full life?

In the words of Viktor E. Frankl (1959): “There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even in the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, p.126) who quoted the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” 

I remember when I was a young girl, wondering what the meaning of life is, I asked my mother, but she could not give me a satisfactory answer. She is a simple and contented person, who goes about her normal life doing housework and cooking to provide us with a loving home. She does not ponder over such matters. Nevertheless, her simplicity and contentment in life has taught me to be positive with life, even when we can’t explain the reason why we are here. But I want to have an answer, a satisfactory answer.

Sooner or later, J would be asking me this question. I want to have an opinion on it. I want to be able to answer him with clear passion and conviction what the meaning and purpose of life is. I do not want to have any lingering existential despair. This is the reason I returned once again to my search at a matured age of xx (which I will not disclose :-)).

This is a heavy topic. Many through the ages have written on this subject. My aim is not to add to it, but to clarify my own thoughts of how I have come to a satisfactory answer and conclusion to this question of my life, so that I will not forget it. And if my mind gets cloudy and confused over time, I will be able to come back to read my own journal and the answer that I have found.

The meaning of life is in life itself

Some people advise that the question itself evaporates when one is fully engaged in life.

Viktor E. Frankl (1959) gave the answer that we are asked by life what our meaning is: “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.” (Man’s Search for Meaning)

However, this does not give me a satisfactory answer. It is a fallacy as one cannot fully engage in life without knowing the meaning of life. This answer doesn’t not satisfy me, as it seems to only evade the question by asking another question. It is going in a circle, bringing me back to the same spot, for to fully engage in life, we need to know the meaning and purpose of life. The Bible addresses this answer in John 10:10.

The meaning of life is in human relations

Some people explain that human beings are social animals and thus find meaning in personal relations. This too does not provide me with a satisfactory answer, because our loved ones will almost without fail disappoint us in one way or another, at one time or another, as we all are imperfect creatures. If our meaning of life hangs on human relations, we will return empty in the end. Thus, without God, we will not find true meaning in human relations.

The meaning of life is simply to enjoy a good life

This may provide a satisfactory answer to some people, but not to me, as no matter how good life is, it is not lasting. Such enjoyment will come to an end. Thus, in the end, it is meaningless.

The meaning of life is in attaining goals, achievements or doing good

Some people find meaning in pursuing business success, wealth, sports, pleasure, entertainment, charity, etc. However, many have experienced that although they achieved their goals, "there was still a deep void inside, a feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill." How does one explain the emptiness that is still there? To relieve the feeling of emptiness, many try to find another goal or frontier to work towards. But where does it end? In the end, it is like “chasing an illusive dream that shines so fair, but when found, isn’t there” (Lyrics of The Illusive Dream*)

I personally experienced that emptiness too. Often after I have achieved something major, I felt a momentary wonderful feeling of completion and accomplishment, and then followed by a feeling of sadness that it is over and gone. The present is quickly transported into the past and forgotten – been there, done that, now what? It may not be repeated, but it is achieved. Or it may be repeated, and the whole cycle of achieving begins again until it is achieved and then immediately transported into the past and joins the ranks of the soon forgotten.

Furthermore, these achievements are made meaningless for the void of continuity that comes when life ends. Though no guarantee, others can continue the good work, but we can't ultimately. Ecclesiastes 2:18-21 summed it up perfectly, “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.” I think our great founding father of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, is in this predicament right now. Although his son is doing a fantastic job now, what will follow in the generations to come is no guarantee. I could not find a satisfactory answer here too.

What then really matters?

The meaning of life can only be found in God

I think that the words of C. JoyBell C. paraphrased explained it well:

“I have learned that you can go anywhere you want to go, do anything you want to do, buy all the things you want to buy, meet all the people you want to meet, learn all the things you desire to learn, conquer all mountains you desire to climb, run all the triathlon you desire to run, do all the good you want to do and if you do all these things, but does not have God and love, you have still not begun to live.”

I have come to agree with this statement: “To go through life achieving everything only to die separated from God for eternity would be worse than futile.”

This is because:

• God is our Creator (Psalm 139:13, Psalm 100:3, Revelation 4:11).

• God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26).

• God created us for a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11).

• Since we are created in God’s image, our purpose in life is to mirror God (1 Peter 1:16).

• God set in our heart a need for eternity and to find meaning of life (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Matthew 5:3) and He wants to satisfy that need (Psalm 145:16).

• We fill this need by building a personal relationship with God made possible by accepting His love through His Son, Jesus Christ, who offers us eternal life beyond this world. This unconditioncal love gives life a whole new meaning and makes our lives full (Acts 4:12; John 1:12; 10:10, 14:6, James 4:8, 2:23).

• The purpose of life is to fear (revere and respect) God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

• His commandments are to love God, love others (Mark 12:30-31) and have a ministry (Matthew 28:19).

• We love God by learning from Jesus, spending time with Him in His Word and prayer, walking with Him and glorifying Him in all that we do (Matthew 11:28-30).

• In God, He enables us in this life to have gladness of heart to enjoy our lives eating, drinking and find satisfaction in our work, being contented with what we are given. That is a gift from God (Psalm 37:4).

• When we get to heaven, we will experience in full God’s original purpose for us when he eliminates suffering and grants everlasting life to us (Psalm 37:10, 11).

• Thus, in short our purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (Westminster shorter catechism).

We can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or we can choose to seek God and live according to His will, which will result in living life to the full, having the desires of our hearts met and finding contentment and satisfaction. This is so because our Creator loves us and desires the best for us (not necessarily the easiest life, but the most fulfilling).

Conclusion:

Life is utterly devoid of meaning apart from God. Life with God is brimming over with meaning.2

The true meaning of life is thus found in knowing God and having a personal relationship with God. The purpose of life is to fear God and keep His commandments: to love God, love others and make disciples of all nations. When we do this, we will no longer feel empty, but lead a full and meaningful life and we also receive the gifts of life – love, joy, peace and eternal life. With God, He enables us in this life to have gladness of heart to enjoy our lives eating, drinking and find satisfaction in our work, being contented with what we are given.

God created man to know Him, love Him, walk with Him, serve and glorify Him and to be happy with Him forever. The purpose of life is to love and be loved. This sums up the whole purpose of life here on earth and eternity.

If J was to ask me this question one day, this post will be my conclusion. He will have to search for an answer on his own, but at least, I am able to contribute my opinion, after doing the search in my own life. I am at peace, and I am thankful to God for finding my answer to the meaning of life.

Have you found an answer to yours?

What does the meaning of life have to do with motherhood?

As moms, we all want our children to lead a full life. Thus, as a mom, knowing the meaning and purpose in life is crucial as it can serve as an inspiration to our children. We owe it to our children to inspire them to have a sense of worthwhile purpose in their lives. If we do not know what the meaning of life, how can we expect our children to lead a meaningful full life? As a believer of God, this is even more vital, because we desire our children to receive eternal life.

Bible Verses:

(Ecclesiastes 12:13, Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, 5: 19-20, 11:8, John 14:6, John 10:10, Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30-31, Matthew 28:18-20, Proverbs 11:30)

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. – Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, 5: 19-20, 11:8

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. – Deuteronomy 6:5

“’And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of this age. – Matthew 28:18-20

* I have been reminded of the wisdom of this song “The Illusive Dream” that I learned from my secondary school days:

The Illusive Dream (Words and Music by Jimmy Owens)

Where might you be going this fine day, my friend?
Off a long and aimless road that soon must end,
Chasing an illusive dream that shines so fair,
But when found, isn't there. 
I can understand your weary sigh, my friend;
There, but for the grace of God go I, my friend.
Come and let Him lead you to your jouney's end,
Oh, come along and walk with Him. 
If without the grace of God your life should end
And before the face of God you'd stand, my friend.
What would your illusive dream avail you then,
So, come along and walk with Him.

Melody: http://youtu.be/30-B2DaJH9Q

References:

Footnote 1 and 2
http://www.usefulbible.com/ecclesiastes/
http://www.exploregod.com/what-is-the-meaning-of-life-article
http://www.exploregod.com/does-life-have-a-purpose
http://www.exploregod.com/what-is-my-purpose
http://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/meaning-of-life/
http://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-of-life.html
http://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-of-life.html#ixzz3CrDyUx4e
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning/

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