I know that a woman of faith probably shouldn’t admit she thinks any book of the Bible is depressing, but there is one that I truly believe is! I realize there are some pretty troubling stories and incredibly sad scenarios written in God’s Word, but before you get all weird on me, thinking I am speaking badly about the Bible, hear me out. I find it easy to believe that God would agree the stories are both troubling and sad. Much of what is written reveals our human failure and our pursuit of selfishness and sin. These words also reveal God’s righteous intervention as He offers His mercy and grace with the goal of trying to rescue us from ourselves.
It is when I read the book of Ecclesiastes that I find myself uttering a huge sigh and often resist the urge to just pound my head against the wall. I mean, really, life is meaningless? Yes, in case you haven’t read Ecclesiastes, that’s what King Solomon shares.
This man lived the most elaborate life: possessing wealth untold, wisdom more than any other, challenges from enemies, and way too many wives. And what was the final musing of this King? That there truly is a lot of meaninglessness in this world.
I have awakened many days wondering if what I am doing has any value and whether I am accomplishing anything of purpose…so the statement does have value. But to write life off as completely meaningless, I certainly can’t believe that!
As you read further in the text and elsewhere throughout the Bible you discover an enormous amount of hope and meaning to be found in each day. The last chapter of Ecclesiastes speaks of what we are to do when we’re young: love God and follow Him so that we have no regrets when we are old. We can indeed find purpose in the meaningless of life, and loving God is our starting point.
When asked “which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus’ reply took this concept even further. “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt 22:37-38, NKJV).
Finding your ultimate purpose begins with loving God. This is not a demand, it is an invitation. But an invitation to what? To recognize our need for Him and realize the chasm that separates us from God, and to understand the sacrifice made by the same Jesus who elaborated on our loving relationships. Then, finally, to accept the love from the only one who offers it perfectly and extend ours in return.
It is a generous offer from a personal God who knows us completely. He alone knows who we are in our heart of hearts, our strengths, our weaknesses, and the talents and abilities we possess. He also knows the paths that will bring us fulfillment. He will walk with us as we discover our ability to accomplish things we never thought possible, delighting with us when we do.
The second part of Jesus’ reply was that we love our neighbors as ourselves. This one is a two-parter. We oftentimes say that we must love others, and that is true, but to do it well, we must love ourselves first. This is not a request to look in the mirror and declare out loud “you are one fine woman”, although we may need to do that especially on tough days… This is an invitation to understand we are special, unique, have a place in this world that is solely ours, and within us is all that we need to fulfill it. We have worth and are here to fulfill a purpose.
That understanding gives us the ability to look at those around us through the same lens, recognizing their worth and unique place within the family of God. When you have just a little time, read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. You will find an analogy that uses the parts of the body to speak of believers and their diversity and how they make up the body of Christ. Not only does it speak of their diversity, but of their equality of importance, their protectiveness of one another, and their acts of love toward one another. When one is hurting, all suffer with that one. When one is honored, all rejoice together.
We have worth and are here to fulfill a purpose.
As our purpose unfolds when we choose to love God, it naturally transforms into the ability to love others—which is a real display of finding our purpose. I truly love Matthew 25:34-40, which reminds us of some of the simplest ways we can care for others. A portion of which says this, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (NLT).
So, it is true that life can be meaningless, but it need not be so. There is purpose to be found in our faith—a purpose built in love. It is ours to love God and love others. Can you even imagine how this world would be transformed if we individually embraced this as our purpose? If each of us who claim this faith were to love in the manner that we are loved? If our hearts were completely given to the God we love, following His example as He walked this earth? If we fed the hungry, took in the stranger, clothed the poor, cared for the sick and visited the prisoners? If we put aside our differences and focused on what joins us together, following the real purpose in our faith—to love and love well?
Let’s share this purpose with those around us, encouraging others by our sincere actions. I am confident not only that we can, but that in many places we already are. As Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, I would write the same to you, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT).
So know this: life is not meaningless. Our faith reveals that there is great and rich meaning. One easily acted upon and recognizable by all; to love. And my friends, to do it with all our hearts.
Can you imagine how this world would be transformed if we embraced this as our purpose?
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