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A Meaningful Life

Well Dilbert isn’t the only person having trouble finding a meaningful life.

Meaning, purpose, fulfillment, achievement— from comics to movies to books to sermons our society seems to be filled with both bemoaning our lack of meaning and varied attempts at discovering or creating it.

But, it seems that in both the media and real life, meaning never lives up to its name.  Dilbert finds his xbox to be broken, Homer Simpson finds no beer in the fridge, one more celebrity ends up in divorce, one more scandal destroys the life of the famous (or not so famous), one more job falls through, one more teen runs away from home, one more promotion or house or vacation or publishing contract or marriage or ministry or conference or whatever else we had been secretly hoping to give us meaning turns up short.

With so many different approaches to a meaningful life turning to ashes before our eyes, have we ever considered that the reason every answer seems wrong is that we aren’t asking the right question?

No matter what you turn to for an answer to meaning in life, if your goal is meaning in your life then it has to do with you: either something you are doing or something that is being done for you.

We are asking “What is the chief end of man?” and answering it “To find meaning & purpose & fulfillment for me.” and if we are Christians we tack on “that is, by using Godly things like ministry and worship and books and conferences to find meaning and purpose and fulfillment for me.”

Wrong.  The chief end of man is the glory of God.  If we consume ourselves with the glory of God, then along the way we find that “personal meaning” and “a life of purpose” don’t even seem to be important anymore, just God, just His glory, just His kingdom, not as a means to our agenda or fulfillment, but His.


Devoted to God

One of my favorite early Dilbert panels shows some space aliens coming down to Dogbert saying that they want to share their advanced technology to rid the Earth of disease and bring peace to the world.  Dogbert’s reply is “What’s in it for me?”—which prompts the aliens to get back into their spaceship and take off.  Dogbert then muses, “I’ll always wonder if I could have handled that better.”

“What’s in it for me?” is the core question in every human heart.  The whole structure of our soul is built on our total devotion to our own self interest, ever since the Fall.  That is the core question that Adam and Eve asked themselves when they first disobeyed God, and their children have asked it every day since.  Whether it is what food we eat, or how we treat someone else, or our goals or aspirations, our natural devotion is irrevocably “what’s in it for me?”

The problem is, humans weren’t designed to live this way—with our programming fixated on the self.  As Douglas Wilson once said in a post, with every step we take focused on “what’s in it for me”, we become more hollow, empty, and wretched.

What’s the alternative?  It is what we were originally designed for, to be devoted to the glory of God.  Our souls were originially designed to continually focus on “What’s in it for God?”  Devotion to God was meant to guide our every thought, our every word, our every deed.  Through having a life solely and purely focused on God we were meant to live in freedom and love and joy and peace and fulfillment.

Only through Christ, only through the new birth, do we gain a new nature that can shift our paradigm from self to God.  This paradigm shift is one part of being in “the kingdom of God”.  If you are in a kingdom, if you a subject of the king, your life is consummed with whatever the king’s business is, whatever will benefit and glorify the king, and your joy rests in being a good and faithful servant.  When we enter the Kingdom of God through regeneration, then we gain a new heart that is inclined to God, that lives and works and dreams unto God.  Living in this new state of “God-devotion” vs. “self-devotion” frees us from so much that brings confusion and pain into our lives and allows us to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.

If we have a new heart, we don’t have to be slaves to self-devotion anymore.  We can choose to live from our new heart, to live joyous lives of devotion to our God.