“The meaning of your life is the meaning you give it,” writes philosopher A. C. Grayling in his book Thinking of Answers. He suggests trying to create meaning in our lives through the pursuit of relationships and goals, by developing our talents and interests, and through our hopes and desires. Grayling concludes that life itself is meaningless and the only meaning we can find is the meaning we make.
Surprisingly, Grayling’s words seem to echo some found in the Bible. The writer of Ecclesiastes, a philosopher himself (Ecclesiastes 1:13, 12:9-11), surveyed life intently: nature (Ecclesiastes 1:5-7); the cycles of history (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 5:8-9, 6:7); life’s injustices and its riches (Ecclesiastes 8:14) and concluded: “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Solomon then tried out Grayling’s answer to finding meaning. He sought it in sex, through wives and concubines (Ecclesiastes 2:8, 9:9); he pursued it through work (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6, 17-23); he tried pleasure, indulging every desire of his eye (Ecclesiastes 2:1,10); he tried materialism (Ecclesiastes 2:7-9) and philosophy (Ecclesiastes 2:12-16). And his answer to them all? They were also meaningless. Not one of them was immune from death, disaster, or injustice (Ecclesiastes 5:13-17). Solomon, it turns out, was more pessimistic than today’s nihilist philosophers!
Rays of light break in throughout his musings. We can find some fulfillment when God is part of our eating, drinking, and working— ”For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24,25). Life will feel meaningless sometimes, he counsels, but remember your Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Instead of exhausting ourselves by trying to figure life out, we should “fear God and obey His commands” (Ecclesiastes 12:12-14).
Life has many pleasures and sorrows, but its meaning always is found in Him.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Genesis 19:15-29
The Teacher didn’t know about the hope of resurrection. Read Romans 8:11,18-25 and consider his sadness in light of these verses.
How much do you seek life’s meaning through impermanent things? How have you been doing things “with” Him and “for” Him?