Before you say, “I don’t believe.” Chapter 8
Do you rest easy with the thought that without God life is meaningless?
Albert Einstein said, ‘The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.’ But today meaninglessness is paraded by atheists as normal and almost admirable. The theory of evolution has led many to think that we are here by chance, without cause or purpose, so that it is meaningless that we live and meaningless that we die. There will be a desire to find meaning, but without God it is impossible. Douglas Adams in his best-seller, ‘The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ came to the rather unhelpful conclusion that ‘the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything is … 42!’ To quote someone else, ‘You cannot be serious!’
For the atheist, death mocks all that we seek to achieve in life and becomes the ultimate victor over every life. When people rule out any supernatural creator behind the amazing universe, they are left with the only conclusion that life and everything has no meaning at all. That not only leads to despair, but is disastrous, for it is then that one argues, as has the American author, Brent Weeks, that ‘when we take a life, we take nothing of value.’ Try telling that to the grieving families of those lost at the Columbine massacre, or more recently in the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut.
No, everything about everything screams that there is purpose and meaning, and the alternative view is abhorrent even to some of its proponents. Some have devised the absurd cliché that ‘meaning in life is whatever you want it to be!’ In other words, life’s meaning is to make it meaningful. Stop and muse on that for a moment, and it becomes farcical. Some try to find meaning by leaving a legacy, by taking a cause and following it, by becoming powerful or successful, by serving others, or by just enjoying it. Vociferous atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote in his memoirs, ‘It could be that all existence is a pointless joke, but it is not in fact possible to live one’s everyday life as if this were so.” Absolutely right! Deep in our psyche is the knowledge of more; a sense of eternity has been put within us. There is an innate awareness of God, so that a person can only come to the conclusion that there is no God by first suppressing the inward sense of Him and His purposes
But life does matter, and who we are, as well as all that we do, is significant. Life is short – less than a blink of the eye compared with eternity, or even the history of our world. The Bible likens our life to a tale that is told, or like grass that grows but is soon cut down and withers, or a vapour which has gone with a little puff of wind. In fact, it seems from God’s word, the Bible, that we were not created to have such short lives, but sin against God has brought life-expectancy to ‘three score years and ten.’ Yet, though we live within the constraints of time, we can come to know the true and living God. In 1647, clergy from Scotland and England completed the Westminster Shorter Catechism summarising Christian beliefs. Famously, they wrote that ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.’
I have known people wracked with sickness and pain, as well as the most ordinary of people unknown and un-feted by society, who know a joy, peace and purpose in their lives that transcends their circumstances. They can live like that because they have responded to the invitation from God Himself to come to Him and find life. Jesus likened this life to a spring of water bubbling up within them. Jesus said that He had come so that people might have abundant life. With God’s eternal, supernatural life within us, the ordinary becomes special. Author Lily Bragge in her memoir. ‘My dirty, shiny life’, said that after her conversion to Christ, ‘the sky looked bluer, and the trees were greener than ever before. It was as though I had been living with muted vision, and suddenly everything had sprung into vibrant, deep versicolour.’ Christians have become children of God, part of His plan and purposes, and He gives us a mission, participating in His work.
3,000 years ago ‘the Teacher’, the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, grappled with this great question about the meaning of life. He struggled with the possibility that life was without purpose, a mystery following a cycle of meaninglessness (see Ecclesiastes 1:2 & 2:1-8). But he came to the conclusion that God was the key to the riddle (see 12:1 & 13). God invites us into His life, so that we can be part of His story and plan. He wants, as the Bible puts it, ‘to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair.’ (Isaiah 61:2 & 3).
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