My daughter recently posted on our family website a photo of our niece celebrating while holding a beautiful fresh rose, tall and slim, just like her. I looked at the photo for a long time then wrote under it: “Two vines.” I pondered some more then wrote, “One of these vines knows why it is here on Earth, but I wonder if the other one knows.” And I prayed, “Lord, open her eyes to see and understand this.”
The undeniable proof that human life was created for a purpose lies in the fact that when a man loses what he feels is the purpose of his life, he loses his desire to live. In the condensed account of creation, as we find it in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, each expression “Let there be” is accompanied by the expression “(in order) to”, bringing to the centre of attention the destination, the goal—that is, the purpose. Existing and having a purpose are the two sides of the same coin.
The Creator cannot judge man for any “empty word,” as the Bible warns in Matthew 36:12, if He Himself created man without any real purpose. The truth is that everything that came out of God’s hand was deemed to be “very good,” and nothing was deemed to be bad. Human life is not only no exception, but, on the contrary, it is a prime example in this direction.
A tragic tandem
Generations before us have left traces of their great achievements on the pages of history, but they have also left traces of their great sufferings. Our generation is no exception. It leaves on Earth the mark of amazing technological and scientific achievements and, at the same time, probably surprisingly, the mark of its amazing suffering, its fall into a huge lack of meaning. This tragic tandem—achievements and sufferings—manifests its presence with obvious clarity today: despite huge progress in terms of the comforts of life, humanity is facing an unprecedented wave of suicides, the disintegration of the family and the moral values that define the being that we call human. There are ever more addictions, because of boredom and isolation, which degenerate into constant spikes of depression. Increased living standards, improved social conditions, the victory of science in all fields, though they have aroused in us high expectations, they have proved to be useless in the struggle against the lack of meaning. “Anxiety weighs down the heart” (Proverbs 12:25).
We are forced by evidence to confirm the words of Jesus that gaining the whole world cannot prevent the loss of the soul. In other words, from a biblical perspective, the loss of the meaning of life cannot be compensated even the whole world is gained. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)
The thought of eternity
We are much more than matter. Scripture states that the human is “a living soul” created by Theos (God). The proof of our Theo-genesis is present in every single thought and consists of what Solomon calls “the thought of eternity”: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That is why the dissatisfaction of the soul cannot be solved with surrogates, with any kind of people or possessions, or social or emotional values. The human soul never finds peace and purpose when its anchor is caught by what is perishable.
“My refuge” (Psalm 62:7)
On the other hand, it is an axiom that man “… lies down wealthy, but will do so no more; when he opens his eyes, all is gone” (Job 27:19). So many times, what seemed important at one point turns out to have a completely different value in a different context. We live in permanent uncertainty related to the perception of values. That is why the only one who can say, “I am” is God. Either positively or negatively, we cannot say, “I am,” but only “I become.” Also, we cannot say “we have”, nor can we say “how much” and “what” we have. The only thing we can say right now is there are things that we go through in our lives. Humans are, therefore, continually in search of that Place after which their souls long. David called this place “shelter,” “rock,” “fortress.”
People are looking for a panacea for their clusters of problems, for their everyday anxiety. But, just as any problem with a product must be reported to the manufacturer for repair, every human problem, of any nature and of any size, is inextricably linked to the Great Creator. “Apart from Me you can do nothing,” says Jesus (John 15:5). It is not difficult to recognize and demonstrate that, without the spiritual, transcendent dimension, the human soul is “deserted and empty” and that any attempt to put something of another nature in its place fails. The idea that a low standard of living is the cause of human dissatisfaction has been completely shattered by the fact that the materially-advanced world is far more degraded in soul matters than the world of the “disadvantaged.” Understanding and accepting the truth about human nature is an urgent need in the process of deciphering its specific problems. In fact, without the truth about human nature, we will never know the truth about its problems and we will not be able to find the true solutions to them.
The purpose that changes our lives
We are generally prepared to face life no matter what course it takes. Our permanent need is not necessarily to know what is happening, but why it is all happening. Our power to endure, to suffer, to do things that are unimaginable even to ourselves appears when the thing we are called to do “makes sense.” If we are given a “this is why” we become able to bear almost anything.
The tension between what and why has always been man’s turmoil. For some, in this turmoil the much desired answer arises at some point, for others the abyss of misunderstanding deepens unbearably. Fortunately, we know what this division produces. We cannot have a clear definition of our destination if we have a false definition of our origin. In this respect, man is confronted with two options: either he believes that he is a product of chance—which for many means a life of meaningless chance—or he believes that he is the product of an intention, and then he acquires what he lacks: the meaning of life.
In 2 Corinthians 3 we find these two classes of people, who coexist and who both try to understand Scripture. Some succeed, others fail. Moses (as key representative of the Old Testament) is depicted in this passage as wearing a veil over his face (during his descent from Mount Sinai), a symbol of what is obscured, enveloped. In 2 Corinthians 3:14-16, there is an element that differentiates those for whom the Old Testament remains “covered” from those for whom this Scripture is “revealed”: today, when reading the Old Testament, “the same veil remains”, but “the veil is taken away in Christ.” Yes, Christ is the element that differentiates between those for whom the veil remains and those who see with the “the veil taken away”.
Seeing life as coming from nowhere and going nowhere takes you nowhere. To view life as coming from God’s intention, flowing under this intention and heading towards the destination of the original intention, forms the only environment in which the idea of purpose or meaning of life grows. There is, therefore, only one Cause which makes “the light shine in the darkness” and which fills the heart of the seeker with joy: “Whenever a man returns to the Lord, he is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16). We have here not only the revelation of the great Cause, but also the possibility of a change of perspective in life. The Bible calls it the “return to the Lord.”
So, in terms of its origin, life is either the product of chance or the product of intention. This is where the human choice diverges. Our subjectivism is an aggravating circumstance, because there is more autobiography in our philosophy and theology than we are willing to admit. The equation is simple: To look at your existence as the product of chance naturally leads to living a “random” life, on a random planet, in a random universe, which ultimately ends in an implosion. Thus there is no area of life left unmarked by the idea of chance, and the natural consequence of such a conception is the suicidal depression in which our world “liberated” from God’s rule is increasingly immersed.
The opposite of this is what we call “purpose” which is based on God’s purpose in creation: “The Lord works out everything to its proper end” (Proverbs 16:4). Debates about the random appearance of life versus an intelligent design occupy a wider place in the public space today precisely because it has been shown that they do not remain mere philosophical positions, but decisively affect people’s lives and lead them in completely opposite directions. “By their fruit you will recognize them,” Jesus said: on the one hand, depression, meaninglessness and despair, nihilism; on the other hand, the enthusiasm, joy and conviction that the meaning of life gives in the light of God’s intention.
The power of meaning
The divine meaning attributed to our life elevates us above circumstances and gives life a completely surprising meaning. During his visit to Southern Methodist University, in a conversation with Dr. John Walvoord, Victor Frankl, the well-known Viennese psychologist and concentration camp survivor, stated a definition of life of rare beauty and richness: “The reason why so many people are unhappy and resort to all sorts of means to cope with life’s challenges is that they fail to understand what the idea of existence means and what it entails. Until we recognize that life is not something that has been given to us for fun, but rather is a goal that has been entrusted to us to achieve, until we recognize this we will never find meaning in our lives and therefore we will never be truly happy.”
With this understanding in mind, life’s concerns and choices take on a completely new dimension and value. Thus education, ownership and skills cease to be objectives, destinations or goals in themselves. They become means subordinate to the purpose attributed to life through creation, and thus life acquires meaning. In this case, we no longer produce for the sake of production, but produce in the light of the purpose of life, in the service of good, beauty and truth. The benefit of this way of living is no longer material but consists in the satisfaction that the fulfilment of the purpose of life on earth gives, its culmination being found in the words of Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant!…Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).
The divergence is obvious. When God says, “Choose!” we are dealing with more than just an instruction. This word is primarily about responsibility. “Choose” is the term that explains Jesus’ tears mixed with the pain expressed in the words, “…how often I have longed…and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34).
The symphony of creation
In this huge symphony of creation, we have been given a unique and important role and purpose. The greatness of the purpose of our life is related to the One who attached this purpose to our life, to the nature and proportions of each person’s contribution. We are called into existence by God Himself to reflect “His image.” No work and no purpose on earth is small or negligible. Never, in all eternity, has there been and will there ever be another being just like you. You are unique, just as God is unique, because the unique God creates unique things. There are no two identical snowflakes in nature, nor two identical leaves or two identical blades of grass. Everything is unique on the palette with which God paints life. Never, from eternity to eternity, has anyone ever been born to understand God as you do. God Himself does not have, has not had, and will never have in His life someone like you. This “image of God” in you cannot be imitated or duplicated. Your life is of incredible significance due to its origin and uniqueness.
God does not consider anything inferior or less important since He makes everything “very good” and absolutely unique in space and time. It must be the same in our lives. This day has never been before and will never repeat itself in our lives. It is unique and so important. That is why we are told to do everything for the Lord! That is why “everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36)—for every thought, deed, motive, intention, purpose. Nothing and no one should be looked at superficially. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
This is what Jesus called “abundant life.” It is a life for which there is no term of comparison. The beginning of this kind of life is precisely related to the belief that God has a plan for our lives, that we are neither products nor producers of chance. This is what we are called to affirm first and foremost. Without faith in God’s plan for our lives, our lives and our faith are of questionable quality. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Reward in this context means nothing other than the natural consequence of the response we give to God’s plan for us. Sometimes there is a long distance between discovering God’s plan and fulfilling it. But no matter how long it takes for me and you to fulfil the divine plan, its fulfilment is certain: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The unfolding of God’s plan for our lives begins long before we know or understand, even long before we exist. Only when it is fulfilled do we begin to understand that everything that has happened has a purpose within God’s great plan.
The power of faith
The faith to which God calls us is not absurd. True faith, saving faith, is supported by the strongest of proofs—by God Himself, because when we choose to trust His plan with our lives we do not actually believe in a scenario, but in God. He is the reason, the object and the engine of our faith. This is the first and greatest step on the path of faith, a step without which there is, in fact, no other step to take. Then, and only then, the meaning of life that humanity longs for is born. In God we live with purpose and we die with purpose and we finally find the much-dreamed-of happiness.
The path God calls us to take to fulfil His plan for our lives may seem to come from nowhere and lead nowhere, but our reason for listening to God is not the logic of the argument, but the very Being of God. He Himself is the argument and the proof. We do not believe in something, but in Someone. Peter cast the net on the right side of the boat, at noon, not because it was logical or appropriate, but “at Your word.” Jacob returned at the risk of death to his brother Esau not because Esau had agreed to be reasonable and fair, but because “You, Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your land …!’” God—He is the ultimate argument.
When we look at our walk with God on earth from the other side, that very path that seemed to come from nowhere and go nowhere will be found to be in beautiful harmony with God’s ways and our pleasure in following them, a harmony of the unseen, the incomprehensible and sometimes the unwanted course of life, one that is greeted with a faith without a shadow of a doubt. Abraham did not hope because the facts encouraged him to hope, but “he hoped against all hope.”
“There are only two ways to live your life,” said Albert Einstein. “One is to live as if nothing were a miracle. The other is to live as if everything were a miracle.”
God’s plan for you does not necessarily translate into famously resounding things, but into conquering your soul and planting in it that “steadfast trust” in God, a trust that sees God’s footsteps in all things. Is your life a mixture of good and bad? No problem. For those who love God, “all things”—good and bad—are committed by Him to work together for those who are called according to His plan; that is, for those who have believed in His plan for their lives. For them, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). All things are subordinate to His high foreknowledge and all things occur at the intersection of God’s plan for your life and your love for God. When they intersect, then—and only then—will all things work for the supreme good: “Christ in you”, the image of God in man!
This is the experience that Jesus had at the age of 12 in the temple. He saw His own life in the sacrifice of the Lamb. Unlike Nietzsche, who stared the abyss in the eye and the abyss stared back at him, Jesus looked God in the eye and God looked at Him… Jesus nodded, bowing his head humbly. It was natural for Mary to ask herself: How can this be? It was natural for Jesus not to ask. To both Mary’s question and Jesus’ question, the Father’s answer was the same: the Holy Spirit. To Mary He says, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35); to the silence of Jesus, the Word said: ”who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” (Hebrews 9:14). The Holy Spirit is the One who will work toward the fulfilment of all that is written about you in the “scroll of the Book,” in the chapter, “The Purpose of Life.”
The Light that Jesus received in the temple, at the age of 12, by revelation, met the Light that came from His heart and there, at the confluence of the Light with the Light, Jesus said, “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). This is the first page of the book of our life and walk with God. Here lies the key to God’s intention with us, as it is expressed in the meaning of our lives. Having understood these things, we can only say: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).