A lot of people wonder about the meaning of life. They speak of it as if it’s elusive; beyond our grasp. The Scriptures (which I think are true and helpful and useful) tell us the meaning of life in Ecclesiastes 12:13. Check it out:
“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.”
Still, that’s a little hard to flesh out, right? Even for the most devoted believer, questions persist:
- What does it mean, practically, to “fear God”
- How do you keep the commandments?
- Aside from the commandments, how do we perceive (and live out) our specific calling?
So even with some pretty clear instruction, the practical discovery and execution of a meaningful life is about as hard to grasp as that wind Solomon talks about in the rest of Ecclesiastes.
There is one approach, though, that I’ve found helpful.
Instead of worrying about the meaning of life, I try to live a meaningful life. Instead of trying to comprehend deep philosophical pondering, I try to focus on doing the most important things I can at each moment. Sometimes it’s preaching a sermon. Sometimes it’s playing checkers with my kids. Sometimes it’s taking my wife on a date. Sometimes it’s vegging on the couch watching basketball. Sometimes it’s doing something really challenging and uncomfortable.
The thing about knowing the meaning of life is that you can’t ever know that you know it. The thing about living meaningfully is that you can be sure that you’re doing something important, one thing at a time.
It is said that when the word “priority” was introduced into the English language it had no plural form. Only in a turbo-charged, task-driven, to-do-list checkin’ society like our own would we dare speak of priorities. The whole idea behind priority is that it is the one thing that we need to be doing at the moment. It’s the most important thing.
When you are trying to discover the meaning of life, it’s easy to get frustrated by the search. When you simply make an effort to live a meaningful life, you can rest in the knowledge that the task at hand is the most crucial thing you can be doing at that moment.
Will we always get to do that One Thing? Probably not. As I remind my kids often (and I’m quoting the movie Gladiator here): “Sometimes I get to do what I want to. The rest of the time I do what I have to.” There’s grunt work to be done at times for all of us.
But the rest of the time let’s stop worrying about fully realizing the meaning of life and try instead to live a meaningful life.
What are you doing that is important? What can you stop doing to allow you to do the most meaningful stuff? What would a day lived one meaningful thing at a time look like for you?