The Meaning of Life

What is the point of it ALL? Why all of this? Why am I here? For countless ages men have sought a satisfying answer to these questions and have failed to find one. A great many poets and philosophers have come to the overwhelming conclusion that there is no point to life at all. And let’s face it: this is not at all satisfying. Deep down inside there must be something in them which hopes this conclusion is wrong. And thankfully, it is. The basic reason for this depressing and tragic conclusion can be traced to their base assumption. Most start out their “quest for truth” by assuming there is no God. Bertrand Russell (a popular philosopher in the early-mid 20’th century) said, “… I still think man is cosmically unimportant, and that a being, if there were one, who could view the universe impartially, without the bias of here and now, would hardly mention man, except perhaps in a footnote near the end of the volume …” (The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, Volume 10). The “revelation” then of life being meaningless is therefore not surprising. Quite simply, if there were no Creator of this universe and mankind then there could not possibly be a purpose for it or the life of any man.

Also, in the scientific community there are a great many almost frantic to prove the poets and philosophers correct. In their “quest for truth” they make the same base presumption: that there is no God. They then proclaim their results in light of this, making conclusions which naturally agree with their original presumption. They start off believing there is no God and come up with things like evolution founded on that belief. Then some try to use the “discoveries” of evolution to “prove” there is no God. Real science just doesn’t work that way.

Sadly, the high suicide statistics shouldn’t come as a surprise in our day of “enlightenment.” If life has no meaning, suicide becomes a reasonable option. Why endure hardship, suffering, and grief when inevitably, you cease to be? But, is it true? Does the presumption make sense? Some scientists (like the now popular Richard Dawkins) seem almost frantic in their pursuit to “prove” there is no God and mankind is a product of “the primordial ooze.” And Christians are often equally frantic to prove that God does exist and mankind is a conscious act of creation by Him.

The one question that is sometimes missed by Christians though is, Why? It’s good to point out the consistency in nature, and the laws of thermodynamics and entropy, and to discuss the dinosaurs and what happened to them in Noah’s flood. It’s even good to point out the astronomical improbability of evolution, and the archaeological evidence to support the dramatic stories of the Old Testament. But still, what’s the point of it all? Winning an argument (or at best, not losing one) on these issues accomplishes nothing in satisfying the deepest question of mankind: Why? Scientists and poets give their answer. They say there is no point at all. “Now the answer … is plain,” says another philosopher from last century, W. Somerset Maugham, in his autobiography,The Summing Up, “… there is no reason for life and life has no meaning.” Christians can give their answer, too: an answer based on something far more reliable than a man’s ability (or inability) to extrapolate reason from his surroundings and experience.

If mankind was created by an intelligent Creator, the Creator must have had an intelligent purpose for creating. This purpose, if we could know it would then be, simply put, “the meaning of life.”

Purpose Revealed in the Creation Story:
The meaning of life can, in fact, be found in the creation story of the Bible – exactly where you would expect to find it! God first created the universe and the first man, Adam. But, notice that God did not create man and woman at the same time. This is important. In fact, after creating Adam, God makes a very interesting statement. He says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet [suitable companion] for him” (Gen 2:18).

But, God does not create the woman immediately after making this statement. He first does something strange and seemingly unrelated: He presents the animals to Adam and Adam names the animals. Only after this does God make the woman. So, why the delay? Why didn’t God simply create both man and woman at the same time? The reason for this delay is revealed in the text. God was doing something far more important than to simply give Adam a “helper” and seeing to it that we would all know what to call all the animals. He was, in fact, revealing the very purpose for our existence.

“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.’

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:18-24).

Notice how the end of verse 20 reads, “But for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him.” This reveals God’s purpose in presenting Adam with the animals to name. It was so God could demonstrate that the animals were inherently different from Adam, and were therefore not suitable to be his companion.

Imagine. All the universe and Adam have just been created. Everything is completely new and Adam has no experiential knowledge of anything. As with a child, we can have no expectations from Adam as far as what is normal or sensible to him. Nothing yet is. God then views the scene and states that it is not good that Adam should be alone. But before the woman is created He brings the animals to Adam.

It’s not hard for me to imagine God reaching into the water and pulling out some small swimming creature and handing it to Adam. Perhaps Adam looked into its lidless eyes and said, “It shall be called fish.” Then maybe Adam looked at the fish expecting some intelligent response. Will the fish be a suitable companion for him? At this point in human history, the answer wasn’t obvious – at least not to Adam. Adam had never seen a woman. There was no such thing. He just knew that God didn’t want him to be alone. Certainly Adam would not be long holding the fish before he knew a fish could never be his companion. Very simply, fish was not like man.

Then in my overactive imagination I see God bringing an ostrich to Adam, and then a cow, and a lion, a bear, a chimpanzee, all the way up to the “highest form of life” below the man – maybe even one of those cro-magnon (which I believe were animals if they were anything at all). With each animal I see the evaluation Adam had to make became just a little bit more difficult. With each presentation, I hear him asking himself, “can this be the companion God has in mind for me?”  The ostrich doesn’t live in the water like the fish. It breaths air like Adam and lives in the same basic environment. It even walks on two legs like Adam – but clearly, it isn’t like him and it wouldn’t take him long to figure it out. He would name it and God would move on to the next animal.

With each animal there are some characteristics that are like the man’s but never quite enough. Scientists assert that the cro-magnon walked nearly erect. They say it looked a lot like man. They say it made sounds like man. Maybe it even spoke. Who knows? Maybe it liked to eat what man does. Maybe it slept in the same places man did. But, alas, (if it ever existed), even it fell short. It was simply not like the man.

In the end, “for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him.” The chasm of difference between the animal and the man was just too wide to cross. There could never be a close, intimate relationship between the man and an animal with mutually full and satisfying love (1 Cor 2:11). What then was God’s solution?

It was not good that the man should be alone, but there was nothing in the creation suitable to be his companion. The solution: God made a woman.

Woman was not made from the earth the way Adam was. She was made from the very flesh out of the side of the man himself. Right off the bat, there was something very different and special about her. Now God at last joyfully made one last presentation to Adam. What a sight it must have been for Adam to finally see one like himself. This was no fish; this was no chimpanzee; and this was no cro-magnon. This was another human being just like he was. This human spoke like he did, walked like he did, laughed like he did, felt like he did, enjoyed what he did, and thought in the same manner he did. She was unique and unlike any animal. And he was drawn to her in a special way. She was a human being just like Adam and he names her saying, “she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.”

Adam now fully understood the criteria for one to be a suitable companion: “an help meet.” “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). The man was no longer alone.

The Eternal Purpose:
So then, what does all this have to do with the “meaning of life?” The answer is, everything. It reveals why God created man and therefore the point for the existence of every person to ever draw a breath.

There really is a point to man’s existence; there is a reason for it all! “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:26-27). You see, God, in the manner of His creation illustrated the situation with which He, Himself, was faced.

It was not good that man should be alone. But, before mankind was created, it would appear that it was not good that God should be alone. He too desired a special companion: a counterpart with whom He could enjoy – dare I say – friendship and love.

For the man, a fish or a chimpanzee could never be a suitable companion. Man’s companion had to come from man. She had to be like him – not just look like him. So too with God. The universe had been created with the earth and the stars and God specifically named them all (Gen 1:5; 1:8; 1:10; Psalm 147:4). Could a planet ever be a companion to God? What a ridiculous thought that is! Reminds me of my imaginings of Adam holding a fish. What about “all principalities and powers in heavenly places” which God had created (Eph. 3:10) – the angels, in other words. Couldn’t an angel be God’s companion? Apparently not – just like a chimp could never be a companion to Adam (and I mean no disrespect to the angels). Not even the “anointed cherub,” the most beautiful of all the angels, was suitable to be God’s companion (Ezek 28:14). The chasm of difference between God and even the greatest angel was just too great to cross. There was no “help meet” found for God.

Just as God solved the man’s problem by creating a woman out of man, so also He solved His own “problem.” He created a companion like Himself for Himself: mankind. “And God said, ‘let us make man in our image, after our likeness:..'” (Gen 1:26). This creation was no star or planet and it was no cherub or angel. This was a being created in the image and likeness of God. From this it is evident that man then exists for God. God created man to be His “help meet” – His companion. And man was created suitably to fulfill that role.

What a beautiful scene it must have been as God “walked” with man in the garden, each enjoying the fellowship of the other (see Gen 3:8).

The Purpose Interrupted:
Indeed, when man rejected the Creator in the garden through his blatant disobedience, he rejected the very purpose of his existence. He hid in the trees and denied God His companionship. By this act, he abandoned all meaning in his life. And still today, man in his continued rejection of his Creator stands without purpose. (See Genesis 3).

Shakespeare’s Macbeth begins to make sense when he says, “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Macbeth Act V, Scene V). When one assumes there is no intelligence behind this universe and our existence, then how can there be a purpose? And without purpose there can ultimately be no significance to anything – no meaning of life at all.

But mercifully, this is not so. And despite man’s continued rejection and abandonment of God, God has not abandoned man. In fact, it is man that has remained the focus of God throughout human history! The Old Testament Scriptures are filled with illustration after illustration of how God would in the fullness of time righteously solve His “problem.” And what was that “problem”?  It was, how can God get this companion back?  And most importantly, how could He do it with us wanting to come back?  Sure, God could force the issue and just put something in our minds to make us love and follow Him but then He’d have a bunch of automotons following behind, loving every last thing about Him because they had to.  What pleasure could there be for God in that?  No. God would have a willing companion or none at all.

Religious philosophy is often quick to conclude that “God, being a God of love, would never allow an individual to go to hell.” But really, if in fact He is a God of love, how could He ever force someone to have affection for Himself? It’s because of His love that He doesn’t force an individual into a relationship. Very simply put, hell is the absence of God. It’s a place where He isn’t. It’s the only place a person who wants nothing to do with his Creator can be where his Creator isn’t there. (Read Luke 16:18 and following for some insight). [Note. This doesn’t mean God isn’t aware of what happens in hell as revealed in Luke 16:18. And the poetry of Psalm 139, which expresses the surety of God’s presence in the believer’s life, doesn’t at all contradict this idea.]

Individuals on this earth enjoy the blessings of God every moment of every day, whether they desire His companionship or not. “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat 5:45). This will not be the case for those individuals in hell. Torment indeed! Everlasting separation from the God they rejected – and all His blessings!

In this respect God is like a man trying to win the affections of a lady. If such a man genuinely loves the woman, he will do everything within his power to convince that woman that he is worthy of her love. If in the end he fails his goal, the man will not force the issue. And it is, in fact, his love for the woman that will prevent him from pursuing her after he has been rejected. Likewise, God seeks to win the affections of man, not force a relationship like a deranged stalker would. If, in the case of some individual, He fails to win that heart, then graciously, with the honor of a gentleman (I mean this reverently), He will withdraw. It is the individual who has rejected God’s love, not God who has cast off the individual.

Another common error in religions is that they teach men they are sinners who need to prove themselves worthy of God’s love through works and charity and prayer and a ton of other things. Religion indirectly teaches men that God is like a fickle schoolgirl who likes you one minute and hates you the next. One day you have His favor because you did something good and the next day you don’t because you did something wrong.

Religion drives men to attempt to win the heart of God, when in reality, it is God who is seeking to win the heart of man. Man already has the heart of God!

The Eternal Purpose in Christ (Eph. 3:11):
How is it then that God wins hearts? Very much the same way a man wins the heart of a woman: he demonstrates his love for her. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16); “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8); “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph 5:25); “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10); etc.

God demonstrated His love to man by sending His dear Son to die in man’s place: to be separated from God instead of man; to be made sin for man. It is the truth of this fact that wins hearts to God. Religion certainly understands the problem of man’s sin: how it causes a separation between God and man. Religion, however, rejects the solution for that problem which is a complete and eternal forgiveness of sins and a restored relationship with God through simple faith (trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

After Adam’s transgression, man was no longer a suitable companion. Man was no longer “an help meet” to God because he rejected God. God was again alone. But, in that great expression of God’s love for man, the Lord Jesus took our sin upon Him, becoming sin (2 Cor 5:21). While hanging upon the cross, He died in man’s place. He suffered the separation from God deserved by all (Mat 27:46). And in that “deep sleep” of death (remember Adam?) “one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). It is upon this fact, that He shed His own blood, that the hearts of men are won: He died for me. God paid the entire price we owe to Him for our sin with the sacrifice of His son. If that doesn’t win a man’s heart to the Savior, nothing will. We deserve hell – a complete seperation from God and all His blessings – and Christ endured for us what we could never endure ourselves. What more can He do to convince you that He’s interested in you and not what you have or what you can give Him? in 2 Corinthians 12:14, the apostle expresses this thought nicely when he says, “…I seek not yours, but you…”

The Lord Jesus had his side opened and the “help meet” was created: a bride fully cleansed having His very life in her. You see, He didn’t stay dead. He endured what we never could and rose from the grave having defeated our enemy: sin and death (1 Cor 15:55-57). And He puts His own life into us that we too may live forever with Him, never to be separated again (1 John 5:11, Gal 2:20). Now there is once again a suitable companion for God: one like Him; one being conformed to His image (Rom 8:29); one who now chooses to love the Creator, because the Creator has proven that He is worthy to be loved. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1John. 4:19).

The “scientific” conclusion is wrong. The poet and philosopher’s conclusions are wrong because their presumption is wrong. There is a God, and there is a purpose – a very real meaning of life. God created man for Himself, to be His own companion.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; … For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:25, 30-32).

Now consider the great significance and meaning of your life. If you’ll have Him, it is nothing short of eternal, intimate companionship with the Almighty God of creation in and through the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is coming a day called “the marriage of the Lamb” when all those who have accepted His gift of love and loved Him in return will finally be joined to Him forever. May we now love and serve Him for He is worthy of so much more than we will ever understand or could imagine.

-J. Wilbur

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One thought on “The Meaning of Life

  1. I wrote “The Meaning of Life” originally as one of the “Feed My Sheep” pamphlets for Randy Amos. I remember having to cut so much away to make it fit in the format of the pamphlet. How I used to complain to Randy that there just wasn’t enough space in the pamphlets. I was never entirely happy with this article and feel good that I’ve been able to redo it here without the space restrictions. Of course, that means its longer and maybe fewer will want to read all the way through it. Oh well. -Joe Wilbur

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