In 2015, Essena O’Neill dropped out of social media. After building a popular persona on Instagram (700,000 followers) and YouTube (260,000 subscribers), she wrote: “I spent five years wishing I was this perfect person online and I spent three years every day working really hard at it.” She went on to say that at age 19 she realized her aspirations were misguided, stating, “I think the reality is quite sad.” So Essena left social media behind. One reason? She wanted to be a better role model for her 14-year-old sister who had also been trying to find meaning and identity in projecting a perfect image.
Solomon could relate to what Essena discovered—meaning found in anything other than God is a mirage. He wrote, “It is all meaningless—like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). The sage sought to find meaning in knowledge (Ecclesiastes 1:17), pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1), wine (Ecclesiastes 2:3), and creating and possessing things (Ecclesiastes 2:4-8). But nothing satisfied him; nothing brought purpose.
In the epilogue of his book, the king pointed to a higher authority as the means to true meaning in life. “Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). As we worship God in reverent fear and follow His wise instructions—made possible by His grace—real life and purpose is attained. Solomon wrote, “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
It’s inspiring to see a self-aware person like Essena O’Neill coming to grips with where meaning can’t be found. But how much more important it is to know that our loving God is observing our ways and knows the false strivings and true meaning hidden in our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10).
May we find our meaning in Him.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Luke 24:13-43
Read Matthew 6:33 and consider what Jesus said about what we should seek first in life.
Where do you typically find meaning in life? How does God alone provide true meaning and fulfillment?