Answer: So many people have never stopped to consider these important questions. They look back years later and wonder why their relationships have fallen apart and why they feel so empty, even though they may have achieved what they set out to accomplish. A famous athlete once said, “I wish that someone would have told me that when you reach the top, there’s nothing there.” Many goals reveal their emptiness only after years have been wasted in their pursuit.
People pursue many things, thinking that in them they will find meaning. I know because I’ve been there. Some of these pursuits include business success, wealth, good relationships, sex, entertainment, and doing good deeds. People have testified that while they achieved their goals of wealth, relationships, and pleasure, there was still a deep void inside, a feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill.
King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, discovered the futility of life when it is lived only for this world: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecc. 1:2). He had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment available. And yet he summed up “life under the sun”—life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—is meaningless. Why is there such a void? Because God created us for something beyond what we can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” (Ecc. 3:11). The “here-and-now” is not all that there is.
In Genesis, we find that before mankind fell into sin and the curse of sin came upon the earth the following things were true: (1) God made man a social creature (2:18-25); (2) God gave man work (2:15); (3) God had fellowship with man (3:8); and (4) God gave man dominion over the earth (1:26). What is the significance of that? God intended for each of those to add to our fulfillment in life, but all of these (especially man’s fellowship with God) were adversely affected by man’s fall into sin and the resulting curse that came upon the earth (chapter 3). With man’s fall into sin, our fellowship with God is broken, relationships with others are strained, work seems to always be frustrating, and we struggle to maintain dominion over nature. To go through life achieving everything only to die separated from God for eternity would be worse than futile!
Fortunately, God has made a way to not only make eternal bliss possible (Lk. 23:43), but also life on earth satisfying and meaningful. How is this possible? The real meaning of life, both now and in eternity, is restored through Jesus Christ. It is found in the restoration of the relationship with God that was lost with Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. That relationship with God is only possible through Him (Acts 4:12; Jn. 1:12, 14:6). Eternal life is gained when Christ changes us, making us new creations. This happens when we repent of our sin (no longer want to continue in it) and put our trust in Jesus Christ by faith. Real meaning is found when we begin to follow Christ as His disciple, learning from Him, spending time with Him in His Word, communing with Him in prayer, and walking with Him in obedience to His commands.
If you are not a Christian (or perhaps an immature believer), you might be saying to yourself, “That does not sound very exciting or fulfilling to me!” But I can assure you from personal experience that it is absolutely fulfilling! Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” (Jn. 10:10b); “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25); “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Furthermore, the psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).
What are all these verses saying? We have a choice: we can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or we can choose to pursue God and His will for our lives with a whole heart, which will result in living life to the fullest, having the desires of our hearts met, and finding contentment and satisfaction. Our Creator loves us and desires the best for us (not necessarily the easiest life, but the most fulfilling).
In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, God reveals that He will destroy this present heaven and earth, and usher in the eternal state by creating a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, He will restore full fellowship with redeemed mankind, while the unredeemed will have been judged unworthy and cast into the lake of fire (20:11-15). The curse of sin will be done away with; there will be no more sin, sorrow, sickness, death, or pain (21:4). God will dwell with them, and they shall be His sons (21:7). Thus, we come full circle: (1) God created us to have fellowship with Him; (2) man sinned, breaking that fellowship; (3) God restores that fellowship fully in the eternal state.
Finding real meaning in life is for whole-hearted disciples of Christ who have truly stopped pursuing their own desires to pursue God’s purposes instead. They have paid the price (complete surrender to Christ and His will); they are experiencing life to its fullest; and they can face themselves, their fellow man, and their Maker with no regrets. Have you and I paid the price? If so, we will not hunger after meaning or purpose again.