Our Greatest Search – Meaning
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
– Psalm 90:1-2
While living in Butuan City in Mindanao, I used to take the overnight boat to Cebu City. I love travelling, but I’m not particularly thrilled with passenger boats. I remember feeling apprehensive and a little jittery, dreading the thought of sleeping overnight in the middle of the ocean not knowing what would happen. Arriving at port the next day I’d feel tired and stressed, but also very much relieved that we were finally there!
British author and apologist, C.S. Lewis used the illustration of a ship in describing our life’s journey. He likened it to that of a captain going out to sea asking three very important questions. The first is, “How do I keep my ship from sinking?” In life this is called individual or personal ethics. One must ask how he can keep his life ‘afloat’ so to say and not self-destruct. The second question is, “How do I keep my ship from hitting other ships?” This has to do with relational or social ethics. A person and community must learn how it is to get along with each other, which is essential for social harmony and human flourishing. But the third and most important question the captain must ask is, “Why is my ship out at sea in the first place?” In life this has to do with essential or foundational ethics. If we don’t know where we are going, when and where we’re arriving at, all our efforts are meaningless and useless. One will get tired and weary of weathering the storms that come if he doesn’t even know why he’s out there in the first place! No wonder in life, often so many people are tempted to ‘abandon ship’.
Without a purpose life is meaningless. Why bother existing if you’re not living for something beyond yourself? Jazz-age cartoonist Ralph Barton who at the end found life utterly senseless, left the following suicide note: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, and from house to house, visited countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up 24 hours of the day.” The famed atheist Bertrand Russell wrote, “Unless you assume a god, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”
What does it mean to really live? How do we attain fullness of life? In Mark chapter 12, Jesus was asked by the religious leaders of his day how to really to live for God. What must one do to make his life meaningful? By asking Jesus the most important commandment, they were essentially asking him life’s ultimate purpose. Jesus answered by saying, “The most important one is… 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Our true fulfillment is found when we become all that we were made to be, maximizing our potential in body, soul, and spirit, motivated by our love for God. Whatever our calling in life may be, this must be at the very core of who we are and what we’re all about. This devotion is expressed practically through our service toward our fellowmen using our God given gifts, with the ultimate goal of drawing them to the saving knowledge of Jesus.
This is undeniably the chief end of life and the highest aspiration of the human spirit. As one author says, “When we fully grasp what it means to bear God’s image, we are at once struck with the grandeur of our possibilities and the tragedy of our unrealized potential. To be fully human is to fully reflect God’s creative, spiritual, intelligent, communicative, relational, moral and purposeful capacities, and to do so holistically and synergistically. Furthermore, though all humans possess these godlike capacities, each of us has the potential to express them distinctively, because God’s image has been imprinted uniquely on each of us. In God’s infinite creativity there are no duplicates; you are the only you there has ever been or ever will be.” – Dick Staub, ‘About You: Fully Human, Fully Alive’ Could it be that the reason our life is devoid of purpose and meaning is because we’ve lost sight of Jesus? He is the One who set us on this journey in the ‘sea of life’. He is our sustainer, protector, guide, and true Captain of our soul.
But most of all, He is our ultimate destination, the One to whom our spirits will finally return, our Eternal Father, who is ever waiting for us to come home.
“If there is no God, then nothing really matters. If there is a God, nothing else matters.” – Marty Clapp, Renewed Thoughts
Chosen As Mine by Hillsong