The book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament reads like a modern book. It is widely believed to have been written by King Solomon in his later years. It is evident as he writes that he is grappling with the meaning of life. Trying to figure out what life is all about is something many of us have encountered. Here was a monarch who was stupendously wealthy and his kingdom was extremely prosperous [2 Chronicles 1:15]. Yet he was still searching for meaning and purpose. He was living proof that fame, money, status and power does not satisfy. From his perspective, all of it was vanity [Ecclesiastes 1:2-3]. I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s words: “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”
I can relate to the dissatisfaction of pursuing the things the world has to offer. I am a goal-oriented individual. That sounds good on a CV, but one of the flaws of this personality trait is that once I achieve what I have been striving for, I am ready to move on to the next thing. I rarely enjoy my achievements. In moments of introspection, I often find myself wondering “was it worth it?” or “what’s the point of all of it?” What’s worse is that I tend to sacrifice a lot to attain these goals. I can be so focused on my objective that my relationships and even in some cases, my health takes a back seat.
I observe this ambitious trait in a lot in men. We always seem to be chasing the next job, promotion, house, car and so on. Life becomes a series of chases, with little or no fulfilment. We often compound this problem when we don’t stop to reflect on where we are heading and our priorities. So like Oliver Twist, we are endlessly wanting more without any idea of what enough looks like. This usually continues until the bottom drops out of our lives. Typically, it is those situations we cannot control which reveal the vanity of our priorities. It could be ill-health, the breakdown of a relationship or some unforeseen calamity which forces us to confront the realisation that we have wasted our lives in pursuit of perishable things. Many come to this realisation on their deathbeds and it is never pleasant to see.
Jesus once told His disciples, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life [John 14:6]. If this claim of Jesus is true (which it is), then it stands to reason that He also has the answers to the meaning of life and He ought to be the preeminent pursuit of our lives. If He is the one through whom we were created and the one who sustains life and everything else [Hebrews 1:2-3], then who better to reveal to us why we are here? In the 90s, there was a Christian children’s show called the Donut Repair club and the tagline of the show was “life without Jesus is like a donut, as there’s a hole in the middle of your heart”. This is a powerful analogy because many have felt that emptiness. Some try to numb it with acquiring more stuff or try to ignore it. But in those quiet moments, it is impossible to escape that vacuous God-shaped hole which nothing else can fill.
Without knowing why we exist, how can we correctly determine what we are meant to do with our lives? Remarkably, I have met a few people who seem to have it all but can’t seem to find their life’s purpose. I am familiar with this because, at a point in my life, I experienced a severe restlessness despite a successful career, a family and other accomplishments. I felt an emptiness than none of my achievements could quell. That aching was more pronounced when I saw people who had identified their purpose because I could see what I was missing. It is such a thing of beauty to see someone operate in their purpose through the power of the Holy Spirit. Such people display a rare and enviable contentment with life. Without exception, they are salt and light to the world around them [Matthew 5:13-16].
Interestingly, I have also noticed that people who are operating in their purpose are loving, humble, generous and gracious. They seem unperturbed as others prioritise the pursuit of money, fame and power because they always seem to have all they need, just as Jesus promised [Matthew 6:19-33]. Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment was and He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’… ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” [Matthew 22:37,39 NIV]. This is ultimately why we exist. We were not created to chase money, fame, power, status, etc. which is why those things are never enough. This commandment is also why a God-given purpose is never self-centred. On the contrary, it must include loving and serving others.
Few would disagree that it is unwise to spend our lives in the pursuit of temporary, perishable things at the expense of the imperishable inheritance God has reserved for us [1 Peter 1:4]. Yet, what do our priorities say about us? Do our priorities serve others or are they self-serving? Have we truly grasped why we are here? If you are feeling an emptiness and dissatisfaction nothing can suppress, it is a distress signal from your soul because something is missing. What are you going to do about it?