Finding Life’s Meaning

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Not that I read this journal, but the Winter 2003 issue of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology included a study of notable quotations from famous people around the world about the meaning of life. The study analyzed the quotes of 195 men and women who lived within the past few hundred years. Allow me to offer a summary of the major themes and some of the people representing each theme:

1. Life is primarily to be enjoyed and experienced. Enjoy the moment and the journey. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Cary Grant, and Janis Joplin (best known for her lyric: “You got to get it while you can”) endorsed this theme.

2. Life is unknowable, a mystery. Bob Dylan and Stephen Hawking endorsed this theme. Hawking wrote, “If we find an answer to that (why we and the universe exist), it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we know the mind of God.”

3. Life has no meaning. Joseph Conrad, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre, and Clarence Darrow found no meaning in life. Darrow compared life to a ship that is “tossed by every wave and by every wind; a ship headed to no port and
no harbor, with no rudder, no compass, no pilot, simply floating for a time, then lost in the waves.”

4. Life is a struggle, endorsed by Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and Jonathan Swift. Swift wrote that life is a “tragedy wherein we sit as spectators for a while and then act our part in it.”

5. We are to create our own meaning of life. Carl Sagan wrote: “We live is a vast and awesome universe in which, daily, suns are made and worlds destroyed, while humanity clings to an obscure clod of rock. The significance of our lives and our fragile realm derives from our own wisdom and courage. We are custodians of life’s meaning.”

6. Life is a joke. Charlie Chaplin described life as “a tragedy when seen in close-up but a comedy in the long shot.” The rock star Lou Reed said “Life is like Sanskrit read to a pony.”

7. We are to worship God and prepare for the afterlife, a pursuit taken by Desmond Tutu, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. Desmond Tutu said, “[We should] give God glory by reflecting his beauty and his love. That is why we are here, and that is the purpose of our lives.”

What about you? Do you subscribe to one of these or do you pursue something different?

Let me assure you that finding life’s meaning in any other than a complete surrender to the Jesus Christ really makes no sense. You cannot find life’s meaning by making it happen through pursuing pleasures or by simply hoping you stumble upon it along the way. Neither will you discover life’s purpose by declaring that there’s nothing after our time on earth, so you might as well get all the enjoyment you can now.

Therefore, I urge you to listen to the Spirit of God when He speaks to you. He works to convict you of your sin because you need a Savior. Don’t try to overcome your sin with good works; you don’t stand a chance. Jesus Christ took the penalty for sin and defeated death. Surrender to Him today.

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