What is the Meaning of Life?
When it comes to the meaning of life, there are 3 approaches: 1) there is no meaning in life; 2) the meaning of life is what we make it out to be; 3) there is an objective meaning of life for everyone. Which one is yours?
The first approach--that there is no meaning in life--is a brutally honest one. Surprisingly, this view was entertained by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes—"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” This is shocking because King Solomon was known for his wisdom. He demonstrated his wisdom in his massive building projects, royal vineyards, administration of the government all the way down to the organization of the palace kitchen. The Queen of Sheba blessed the people of Israel for having such a wise king (1 Kings 10:8)!
As king, Solomon had the wherewithal to indulge every desire of his heart and he did. He had power and wealth—he made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Why, then, would he lament, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”? It had much to do with man’s mortality: “For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:21)! If death is the absolute end of our life, what does it matter how we live?
The second approach--that the meaning of life is what we make it out to be--revolts against such pessimism. If life were meaningless, there would be no point in anything we do or how we feel--no weeping when a tragedy hits us since sadness is just something that happens; no joy when good things happen to us since it will soon be replaced by sadness! No wonder so many who held to the first approach found life to be unbearable.
How can we deny that there is something profoundly joyful about loving someone deeply and to have that love reciprocated? Isn't there something deeply moving about a heroic sacrifice one makes for another? Life, if we care to pay attention, is full of beautiful moments! Surely, to create and maximize those inspiring moments must be what our life is all about!
The problem is that we often fail to live that way. Some don't subscribe to it at all. For whatever reason, they take pleasure in hurting others as if their mission in life is to make everyone else as miserable as they are. But what can we say to that if life’s meaning is whatever one makes it out to be? Who are we to judge them? As a society, we may deem them foolish and view them as dangerous. But can we say their approach to life is “wrong”?
How about the third approach—that there is an objective meaning of life. For that to be true, there must be a transcendent Being, who created us for a purpose. It is possible that our search for meaning is delusional—we do it because we desperately want our life to matter despite the cold, brutal reality of its meaninglessness. But it's also possible that our yearning for meaning reflects the true reality. The unique abilities we have as humans to even wonder about this issue, not to mention all the inspiring and life-affirming experiences we have, may be powerful signals pointing to an objective meaning of our life! Could it be that all this is not by accident but by design?
That was Solomon's conclusion: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them...’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). The Christian apologist R. Zacharias said, “I did not come to know the meaning of my life until I came to find the Author of my life.” Isn't this only logical? Who knows what something is for better than its maker and designer?
The Author of our life made us in His image and gave us unique abilities so we can know Him and have a meaningful relationship with Him. He revealed Himself in the Bible so we can know Him truthfully and personally. He also tells us in the Bible what His design is for us--how we ought to live, for what we should live, how we find true fulfillment in life, etc.
But what happened? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This is why the Son of God had to come--to suffer the penalty of our sin through His death on the cross so we can be restored back to God. If we acknowledge our need for this divine Remedy and surrender our life to Him, God grants us forgiveness and accepts us into fellowship with Him. Come back to the Author of your life and start discovering God’s purpose for your life so you can live your life to the fullest, now and forever more!