Self Realization IV: Purpose and Meaning
Humanity has been searching for purpose and meaning at least since recorded history, and likely before. This is no less true today than it was for those living in centuries past. Unfortunately, culture has moved so far away from the principles of spiritual life that few are finding fulfillment in the many things we use to replace those principles. In 2016, statistics show that 45,000 Americans aged 10 and older died by suicide.
Ann Schuchat, MD, CDC Deputy Director, said, "Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans- and it's a tragedy for families and communities across the country."1 We can also point to the rising tide of opioid abuse sweeping the nation as an indicator that something is very wrong in our culture. People are desperately looking for meaning and purpose, and increasingly realizing that they cannot find it in the materialism of Western culture. Money, fame, career- none of these is providing a foundation, a sense of meaning and purpose. And that is no surprise, as we are created to seek the eternal, not the temporal. Sacred Scripture tells us:
"Whoever loves money, never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless." - Ecclesiastes 5:10
The desire for wealth seems to overwhelm many, and so they invest in the stock market, in things like Bit Coin and Gold. They work endless hours trying to keep up with the Joneses, as it were, or surpass them if at all possible. And yet money and fame bring no meaning or fulfillment. The fairly recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain is instructive of the ultimate emptiness of fame and fortune. Seemingly, Bourdain had it all- money, fame, a successful career, a beautiful girlfriend- and yet he took his own life in a moment of what could only have been utter despair. If only someone could have shared the Gospel with him, maybe- just maybe- this could have been averted. As it is, he had not found his true purpose in life, and many more are in the same situation.
Indeed, Sacred Scripture rings true:
"For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."- 1 Timothy 6:10
This mistaken attachment or search for meaning in materialism has certainly been the cause of much grief.
We all experience that constant inner yearning for an elusive something, that no matter how much money we make, no matter how famous we are, no matter how wonderful our career, just never seems to be satisfied. This is because we are created to be eternal beings, and as such we can never be satisfied with temporal things. The eternal soul is only satisfied with the eternal. The ultimate Source of purpose and meaning can only be found in the same Source that created us and fashioned us with the intention of eternity.
"For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him." - Colossians 1:10
Purpose and meaning can only be found in God, not in the fleeting things of this world.
"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."- Proverbs 19:21
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28
"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
Our purpose and meaning will be realized when we surrender to God in loving devotion, and serve His Kingdom by doing the things He prepared in advance for us to do; things that will bring us joy, fulfillment and peace.