Have you ever had the experience of being lost? One cold winter I was with a group of men on a hunting trip. We were staying in a cabin in the foot hills of the mountains. One afternoon I went off in my own direction and had gotten separated from the others. It turned pitch dark and I realized I was alone. Panic began to set in. I settled down so that I could think of what to do. I climbed to the top of a hill and off in the distance I saw three faint lights, but in three different directions. I needed to head for one of them to find shelter from the freezing weather; but which one? I had no sense of direction in the dark and unfamiliar territory. I tried to make a guess at which light, if any, might possibly be our cabin. I chose one of the lights and headed in that direction. Often the light disappeared because of the up and down walking. I stumbled along and at times had to wade through deep snow drifts. I finally came to a fence and followed the fence line. At last I could make out the light of a cabin. It was the right one. Great relief and peace came over me. Thank God, I was home safe.
I have met people who were feeling that way about their lives. They felt lost; struggling to get to where they wanted to go. The light they were trying to get to was the dreams they were pursuing, hoping through them to find a meaningful and satisfying life. They wanted to be somebody, to get ahead, and to have their lives count for something worthwhile. But problems kept arising and seemed to keep all of their longings from happening. They got tired of the battles and things not working out. They became discouraged. Depression set in and they felt like giving up on life and running away from it all. But where would they run? Where would they find the meaning and satisfaction they are looking for? It seems to elude them.
Other people I have met are just the opposite. They seem to have their lives all together. They have followed their dreams and are making it in life; seemingly finding enjoyment and fulfillment in what they are doing and in the material things they have gained. They have reached their light, or so they think. They have enough money, comfort, and satisfaction and their lives are seemingly problem free. But without knowing it, are they just as lost? Could it be that what they are enjoying and pursuing with their whole heart could be leading to a dead end? Many find that their pursuits, once achieved, do not give them the satisfaction and fulfillment they thought they would. It is like our felt “need” to have something, and once we get it, we find that it eventually becomes less satisfying, and we must move on to something else. But what else is it that will give us true meaning and satisfaction? It is common for people to think, “There has to be something more?” But what?
The fact that material things wear out brings up another form of feeling lost. I had an experience early on in my life, and I have had others like it; perhaps you have also. I began collecting bird nests. It was fun and brought satisfaction; and after gathering a few, the thought occurred to me, “Why am I doing this? These nests will get old and disintegrate, they won’t last.” Suddenly, all the excitement and joy went out of doing it. I felt it was futile to waste my time and effort on something that would fade and not be lasting. Later, in my adult years, I read something in the Bible that explained this feeling. I learned about all sorts of wonderful projects done by the writer of Ecclesiastes. He built houses and gardens and parks. He set his heart on various pleasures and enjoyed them all. He was rich and could indulge himself in any endeavor he chose – and he did. Was this satisfying? When he completed it all, even enjoyed doing it, he thought the same way in his heart that I did; it was all of a passing nature, and he felt empty. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)
Admittedly, there are plenty of self-help books and good turn-your-life-around programs available to benefit persons seeking a better and more satisfying life. These programs have helped adherents to gain control of their desired destinies. By following their chosen program with its promised fulfillments, many claim to have gotten their lives together, becoming successful and happy. It is true, people can seemingly achieve the best this world has to offer, but still, our world is temporary and comes to an end. (2 Peter 3:10; 1 John 2:17) Moreover, our programs can be frustrated by personal weaknesses, inability to follow through, or unfortunate circumstances. What then? Is there something else? Jesus said, “Those who try to save their own lives end up losing them.” (Luke 9:24) He also asked, “What will it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit his or her soul?” (Matthew 16:26) There is something more. As we secure a proper relationship with God, and follow His “why we are here plan”, then a satisfying, though not problem free life, will happen.
Where is true meaning and a satisfying life to be found? The writer of Ecclesiastes said something very amazing, “He has set eternity in their heart”. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) His statement about eternity in the heart is a statement saying that there is a God-placed inborn inclination causing the impression that this world’s goods and activities can never satisfy certain yearnings of the heart; true satisfaction can only be found in what is other-worldly. This eternal impulse leads us not to something corrupt and perishing and ultimately unfulfilling, but to something that lasts. Jesus said, “Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27) The answer to why we are here and to what is most satisfying lies in the realm of the eternal, and finding it begins by looking in two directions - outward to the revelation of the Divine and inward to our own unique make-up.
Where do we go for the answer to our quest? We begin by looking outward for divine revelation. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sit down with our Creator God and ask Him why we are here; what is the meaning of my life and what should I be doing? What would God say? There is good news. God has spoken. He spoke the answer through His Son who came to seek and save those who are lost. (Hebrews 1:1-2; Matthew 17:5; Luke 19:10) His answer is found in the Christ-centered gospel message of the Bible. It is the only message that frees us to become, truly “ourselves” and thus reach our maximum fulfillment as persons. (John 10:7-10) Some might say, “Oh no, not this Jesus stuff.” Many people do not like organized religions, but they do admire the person of Jesus. So why not consider what He says?
Although we would like to have the true answer to our quest, we may not get it due to unbelief. We miss the discovery of life’s purpose when we eliminate the possibility of Divine input. Wanting to achieve freedom to become themselves, some people see the gospel as a religion and a hindrance. They want to be rid of all binding traditions, authorities, religions, institutions, and truth claims because they see them as restrictions to their freedom. But on the contrary, being rid of these things will actually leave us, not free, but enslaved to a greater restriction called evil. (John 8:34-36) Unbelief results in a lack of protection from the problems of evil which are certain to arise as road blocks in our lives, and we have no promised hope to overcome these life-restricting evils. By evil, I do not mean only things that repulse us, but things we take to be good, such as being rich, and pleasures, and love of family. (1 Timothy 6:17; Matthew 10:37) These things can trap us into thinking that life is good, when in reality the hoped for end product turns out to have deceived us. The answers to personal fulfillment sought by free-thinking people of the world are what Christianity offers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, because of unbelief, many remain lost in their own limited pursuits, values, and beliefs. For them, the way to freedom is to be rid of what they believe restricts their freedom. On the other hand, because they do not limit themselves to a closed system, Bible-believing Christ-followers, if they grasp what the faith means, are able to experience the vast, endless, and unseen possibilities for a fantastic life in a diverse universe. A closed system means that this world is all there is and that there is not a supernatural world; or if there is, it is unappealing to us, or we cannot know it. This false belief is contrary to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, who demonstrated by his miracles, teachings, and bodily resurrection that He represents another kind of world into which humans can enter, a kingdom, presently in this world, but not of this world. (John 18:36-37) If such is the case, then disciples of Jesus are not limited to only what this world has to offer. They are free to experience far more self-fulfillment than anyone can imagine; both in this age, and in the age to come. (Mark 10:28-30) Christ Jesus said that only a few find His realm; that vast majorities are lost to it. (Matthew 7:13-14) His is the life that is promised by the “eternity in our hearts”.
What is life all about, why are we here, and what will satisfy my life? What life is all about may surprise you. Think for a moment what life has been all about for you. When I was growing up, my life was all about freedom to do what I wanted to do and having fun. What are other things that people make their lives to be all about? How many live as if life is all about making money so they can enjoy personal security and comfort? How many think life is all about winning – being on top – having power so that they can make life go the way they want it to go? How many live as if life is simply random and whatever happens each day is what we must deal with – there is no real plan or goal to be achieved – just live what comes your way. There are people who have a higher view of what life is about, maybe love, family and friends. These people are closer to God’s idea of life, and Jesus would commend them for not being far from God’s kingdom. (Mark 12:28-34) Here is the surprising answer to what I think life is all about, and I think the Bible supports it. Life is all about becoming what God created us to be – becoming what God created us to be in character, in potential, and in community. (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49) We will experience our greatest fulfillment and satisfaction in the process of becoming.
The way to becoming what God created us to be is the same for all; it is to be an everyday follower of Jesus. He is the way and the true light who guides us to our ultimate fulfillment. (John 1:1-9; 8:12) In John 8:31, 51 Jesus tells us that to follow Him means believing Him with the attitude and commitment to strive to learn from Him, staying in His word so that His truth can make us free, and keeping His word, which, among other things, means to do what He says. He doesn’t lead us into sameness, like cookies all pressed into the same mold. No! Since God is a God of infinite diversity, no two people are completely alike. God did not intend to make any of us the same. We are all intended by God to have our own idiosyncrasies and personalities and unique qualities and ways of living out our purpose. He leads us to the discovery of who we are and empowers us to become the one-of-a-kind being that we would expect in a diverse world such as ours. One day two blind men approached Jesus and He asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” They told Him that they wanted their eyes to be opened. Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they gained their sight and followed Him. (Matthew 20:29-34) Jesus is ready to open the eyes of all of us who want to see what life is about. He has the answers; we need to provide the committed faith.
When we follow Him by trusting Him and by practicing His teachings, we discover more about who we are, and we are on the way to becoming our true and unique selves. Two of His teachings especially form the core of why we are here and what will most satisfy us: (1) to love God with our whole being, (2) to love others as ourselves. (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:36-40) The practice of these will add immeasurable and immense meaning to our lives. And if we wish to know the definition of such love and how to do it, the Bible gives all the description and know-how we need. Loving God, others, and ourselves is the ultimate product of being created in His image. God is love and He made us for love. (1 John 4:7-11) The proper balance and practice of love for God, ourselves, and others, will take us in a multitude of adventurous, satisfying, and differing directions. Loving God and living what God has spoken to us in His word will provide the answer to why we are here and is what will satisfy us. What is meant by “living what God has spoken to us in His word”? Here are examples of things God’s word instructs us to live out: giving to the poor (Proverbs 22:9); love and respect being lived out between husband and wife (Ephesians 4:33); doing good to the people around us (Galatians 6:10); and meeting faithfully with other believers and encouraging each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). After trying out many fabulous lifestyles, this was the conclusion of the writer of Ecclesiastes who was plagued with the problem of what really matters in life; it is to reverence God and follow what He says. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Experiencing and doing the content of Divine revelation will lead us to a meaningful and a satisfied life.
The second part of our answer to a satisfying life has to do with looking within ourselves. One of the most frequently asked questions among believers in God is “What is God’s will for my life”? We want to have answers to questions like who to marry, what occupation should I pursue, and are my daily life choices what He wants me to be doing? My understanding is that If becoming what God created us to be, if love for God and others is our sincere and foundational aim and practice, then we are free to choose all else, without fear of missing what we might refer to as “our destiny”, or “God’s will”. (1 Corinthians 10:23) Christ gives us freedom to make choices. God expects us to use our God-given resources to help us make wise choices that will complete who we are and lead to a satisfying life. Those resources that help us choose our path include following Jesus’ revealed will, our reasoning ability, our experiences, our family training, our schooling, wise counsel from others, God’s wisdom, our inner drives and talents, and life’s circumstances. Amazingly, life’s circumstances often serve as Divine providential confirmations that help us know God is with us. But what if I make a mistake? Mistakes become learning experiences. God is more concerned about our character development than He is about what job we have or who we marry. In fact, even if we have bad experiences from failures or poor choices, God would see our character development as more valuable than having life go smoothly at every juncture along our journey. Although many things in life are good, and making wise decisions are important, becoming the person God has created us to be is basically what life is all about. I think the fact that God places supreme importance on the kind of person we are becoming is plainly seen in His word given to Peter in 2 Peter 1:1-11.
Looking within ourselves is like having an inner compass that points to what we were born to be and do. If God has uniquely designed us to each have our own giftedness, special personalities, and abilities (1 Peter 4:10; Romans 12:6; Genesis 4:20-22), would it not be reasonable to look inside of ourselves to see what it is that we really like doing, or what we really want to become, and then make choices and take the steps in that direction? God expects us to step out and risk choosing the path we feel we need to take to be in line with who we are. At the same time, a word of caution; we must heed the counsel of a divinely inspired wise man who said, “There is a way which seems right to a person, but the end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Sometimes, what seems the right way for us can actually lead to being lost. Does this mean we can make wrong decisions? Yes; because we are self-centered and not God-centered, but we can look at miscues as a part of self discovery. (Proverbs 16:9) In my life I have found that God is guiding me, even through my wrong judgments. He simply wants me to re-examine, ask His guidance, and if need be, choose another course. We keep walking by faith and love. As we keep trusting in God, and living the way we know God wants us to live, God will lead us to our life occupations. God’s guidance can occur in ways we would least expect. A fulfilling life for the Christian believer works itself out in the mysterious mix of continued personal decisions and divine providential happenings.
In this world we shall always deal with imperfections, disappointments, sorrows, and roadblocks to the satisfying life. One traditional teaching about Satan is that he caused his own downfall by wanting to be God. Thus, he became his own god. I fear that the human race has followed the same path. (Ezekiel 28:2) We all want to be God, at least, our own god. We somehow believe that if we can control our own life and destiny that we will find fulfillment and happiness. Unfortunately, evil is ever present to halt our plans and hopes. It is true what Jesus said, “Satan is a liar and a murderer.” To fall into His path is the way of deception and dead end. Lost! But that is where eternity becomes so vitally necessary. Life does not end and we have a future hope of freedom from evil and certainty of the continued development of our unique selves. Everything awaits freedom from corruption which is promised to come. What a glorious future we have. (Romans 8:18-21; Ephesians 2:4-7)
Remember, following Jesus is the way to knowing why we are here, and to what will give us ultimate satisfaction. Receive what you need from Him to keep going (Matthew 11:28-30), trust Him, and continue the journey – sometimes choosing another direction – but keep making your decisions with a heart that sincerely wants what honors and pleases our Heavenly Father the most. Know that what He wants for you is love, fulfillment, and joy as a uniquely and purposefully designed creation of His. (Romans 8:28-32)
Sometimes, God calls us to set aside our plans and pursuit of happiness to serve some special purpose of His. This will mean that personal God-given desires may be put on hold; but not to worry, we will experience fulfillment in the joy of serving God and there is promised reward to those who do. (Hebrews 10:36; Mark 10:28-30) Plus, we have eternity to reach the point of true self-discovery, to become our unique selves, and to enjoy complete satisfaction. Though our journeys will differ, the path to why we are here and to personal satisfaction is still the same for all of us – the path of faith in God and following His Son. As with my hunting experience, there is more than one light to follow, but only one leads us safely home. Jesus really is the guiding light to the discovery and satisfying fulfillment of our lives. There is no other. (John 8:12; 14:6, Acts 4:12) Follow Him. (Luke 9:35) Trust Him. (Proverbs 3:5-6)