What is life? What is it’s purpose–why do we even exist? On the surface, examining this may seem as esoteric as the equally abstract, “What is truth?” Yet it is critical that each of us wrestle with and determine the answer to this essential question for ourselves–before we find that our life, too, has passed away like a mist.
“…what are human beings that You [God] should notice them, mere mortals that You should think about them? For they are like a breath of air; their days are like a passing shadow.” (Psalms 144:3-4 NLT)
We visited my ninety-three-year-old aunt yesterday. She’s actually my uncle’s widow, but as the last of the older generation on my mother’s side of the family, so many of my childhood memories are linked to her. I was happy our son was able to come with and take pictures–memories, for a time in the not-too-distant future, when she will probably no longer be with us.
Yet I am struck by the how brief and genuinely tenuous human life really is. Granted, to most of us ninety-three years does not sound brief; it sounds like a long, full life–almost a century! But when you’re the one experiencing those years–whether ninety-three, fifty-seven, or even twenty-seven–they do not seem long!
Of course, childhood seems interminable–each day like the next, either preparing for or merely looking toward the future, a seemingly endless supply of life and potential wrapped up in the ubiquitous “when I grow up.”
Yet once we hit the busier years; once we’re in high school or college–and certainly in the non-stop world of adult work–the years tend to fast-forward quickly. We’re perhaps twenty-two when we graduate, then twenty-five, then almost thirty before we even realize it. Add the typical milestones of life like marriage and children, and the financial concerns and obligations that come with them, and we find ourselves in our forties or even fifties before the kids are out of the home and we catch our breath and realize we’re a lot older now.
Of course, by that time our parents may begin to fail, and we can find ourselves part of the sandwich generation–trying to finish up raising our children while also needing to care for aging parents. Then, once that portion of our lives ends, there may be a new generation–grandchildren!–to capture our love and energies.
Life does not seem to end–there is always a new phase to claim our attention and energy; to occupy and preoccupy us with. Yet end it will. In our sixties, seventies, and certainly in our eighties, our bodies typically become more frail. Illness may attack; our minds may become more feeble, to the point that forming coherent phrases becomes an effort. And if we are not careful; if we do not consciously carve out a time and a space now, while we are still capable of considering the vital issues of life–the things that are truly important, as opposed to the ones that may be urgent, but carry no genuine significance–we may find that we have failed to tackle the most important issue of our relationship with our Creator, Savior and Sustainer God, and our duty and obligation to Him.
Jesus said, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.” (John 9:4 NLT) God has prepared for each and every one of us individually that which He wants us to accomplish during our time here in these bodies and this life. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
Our life is not our own–regardless of how it may seem, of what we may think, we are not free to spend our lives as we want. “You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves, because you were bought by God for a price. So honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NCV)
Jesus Christ bought us back to Himself from the emptiness and alienation from God our sins mired us in, with a price–and that price was His own life:
“[We]…were rescued from the useless way of life [we]…learned from [our]…ancestors. But [we]…know [we]…were not rescued by such things as silver or gold that don’t last forever. [We]…were rescued by the precious blood of Christ, that spotless and innocent lamb. Christ was chosen even before the world was created, but because of [us]…He did not come until these last days. And when He did come, it was to lead [us]…to have faith in God, who raised Him from death and honored Him in a glorious way. This is why [we]…have put [our]…faith and hope in God. [We]…obeyed the truth, and [our]…souls were made pure. Now [we]…sincerely love each other. But [we]…must keep on loving with all [our]…heart. [We] do this because God has given [us]…new birth by His message that lives on forever.” (1 Peter 1:18-23 CEV)
That’s the significance of Good Friday; that’s what we remember today. But much more importantly, it’s the reason why we exist, the purpose of our life! Knowing that we are not a random, insignificant, meaningless speck in the cosmos, but rather, precious; “…chosen of God, holy and beloved…” (Colossians 3:12 NASB)–someone Jesus cared enough to be born and live as a human being, and die for–is what causes all of the senselessness and emptiness to fall away, what gives purpose to my life.
So that now, I think about Him; I think about Jesus and how He wants me to respond in each situation, every time I am confronted with a decision. I think about responding in love and kindness; I think about doing good to others because He has done good to me; I forgive because He forgave me. I do the things–the good works–He sets before me to do. Ultimately, I look forward to being carried away by Him to His glory and presence when He says I have completed everything He wanted me to accomplish in this life. That is what life is–its purpose; why we exist!
Thank You that You rescued me from an empty futile life–from the hopelessness I was mired in–by Your death on the cross. Lead me to faith in You; help me put my faith and hope in You, and obey…help me sincerely love, because You have given me a new birth by this message that lives on forever! Amen.