The Meaning of Life
I hope you’re having a great week. I have been praying for you, that God would respond to you when you seek him and deliver you from all your fears (Psalm 34:4).
On Tuesday evening, I was on my way to Chick-fil-A with my wife and two of our kids, when I started thinking about something other than getting to our destination (which was no surprise to the rest of my family). In other words, I completely spaced out. After we pulled into a parking lot and I started to turn off the engine, my teenage daughter abruptly asked, “Dad, where are we going?” I said, “We’re going to Chick-fil-A for dinner.” To which she replied, “This looks like Kohl’s.” She was being a smart-aleck. It didn’t look like Kohl’s; it was Kohl’s. The bright lights of the K-O-H-L-S sign shone through the windshield like a gibbous moon.
There’s an old story about a Middle-eastern rabbi named, Akiva, who decides one afternoon to venture into his village to gather some food and supplies. After a long spell, as dusk sets in and he heads in the direction of his cottage, his mind starts to wander, he gets distracted, and he ends up taking the wrong path.
Suddenly, he hears a voice through the darkness, asking: “Who are you, and why are you here?”
Surprised by the interrogation, Akiva realized he had strayed from his path and gone into a Roman military post, and the voice had come from a young soldier keeping guard from a tower up above. Nevertheless, being a rabbi, as rabbis often do, Akiva answered the question with another question: “How much do they pay you to stand guard and ask that question of all who approach?” The soldier, comforted by the fact that this was not an intruder but a rabbi, answered humbly, “Four drachmas a week.” At that point, Akiva said to him, “Young man, I will double your pay if you come with me, stand in front of my house, and ask me that question each morning as I begin my day: ‘Who are you, and why are you here?’”
There is a longing in the human heart for a sense of purpose. Who are we? Why are we here? And what have we been placed here to do? Without an answer to those questions, we lose focus. We drift. And we can easily go astray.
Thankfully, the Bible actually answers that question. “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,” the Lord says, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:6-7). The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes man’s primary purpose this way: Man’s chief end is to glorify and enjoy God forever.
We exist to glorify God. The glory of God is the weight, the devastating beauty, of his manifold perfections. God’s glory is so intense that no one can look at him and live. And we can’t do anything to add to or take away from God’s glory. He’s God; God doesn’t need us to become more glorious. But we can reflect his glory. And whenever we accentuate, or point to God’s perfect attributes—his holiness, love, power, grace, knowledge, mercy, benevolence, etc.—we actually display God’s glory.
That all sounds very ethereal, so let me illustrate: When a husband loves his wife sacrificially, he mirrors, albeit imperfectly, God’s love for his people, and thereby glorifies God. When a man designs a new building with excellence and ingenuity, he displays something of the creativity of God, and glorifies his Maker. When a girl speaks up for a kid with special needs at school, she showcases the justice of her Creator, and thereby glorifies God. We could go on and on. The Scriptures tell us that we glorify God when we obey him, praise him, receive his gifts with thanksgiving, stand up for his truths, or evangelize the lost (among other things). Anything we do that makes much of God and his divine attributes glorifies him.
Likewise, we exist to enjoy God. This we do by cherishing and resting in the relationship made possible through faith in the work of his Son. As the Puritan, Thomas Watson, wrote, using words that may sound strange to us, “God is a delicious good. That which is the chief good must ravish the soul with pleasure; there must be in it rapturous delight and quintessence of joy. The love of God drops such infinite suavity into the soul as is unspeakable and full of glory.” In other words, to know God deeply and intimately, through his Son, is to enjoy him for who he is: The one who satisfies our deepest longings.
If you are in Christ, God loves you deeply and immeasurably. He will not abandon you when you are forced into the pit. He draws closer. It may not feel that way. You may not even believe it, but it is the truest truth. He will never forsake you. In fact, he rejected his own Son so that you could be fully accepted and received. He is forever good.
Again, in the words of Watson (my paraphrase): “O Christian, do you not enjoy yourself, do fears disquiet you, desires haunt you? In the day can you find no peace, in the night can you not sleep; do you find no comfort in your life? Let this revive you: God is here and he desires to commune with you. Find purpose in the pursuit of his glory. Find enjoyment in the delight of his presence.” May God enable us to do so.