10 March 2011
Meaning(less & ful)
"The glass is half full." That's optimism. Others say, "The glass is half empty." That's pessimism. Personally, I think the most accurate statement is "The liquid is at the midpoint of the glass." That's realism.
Life is neither pain nor a rose-colored scene. Life is ... life ... with its painful, routine and rose-colored scenes. Sometimes, we ignore the negative with the optimistic approach and
give pat answers to those in pain. Other times, we focus too much on the negative and look at the pain around and near us and fall into some sort of depressive stupor. May we do neither.
Life has its negatives. After all, we live in a fallen post-Eden world. However, life also has its positives.
I tend to err towards the half-empty glass at times. In the past week, I've read a news article about a fire burning down a home and leaving one surviving child of 7 and an article about
a beloved father shot to death and disposed of in the trunk of his car. Horrific, horrible, even senseless. It makes one wonder about both the meaninglessness and meaningfulness of this life.
In my own life, I think about the loss my family has endured in the past 3 years as loved ones have died -- my
grandmother, my father, my uncle and a great uncle (the last three in the past year). I began a journey of
profound grief especially in May 2010 when I lost my beloved father, a mentor, friend, and kindred spirit. At times, I have wrestled with bigger questions. I sometimes think,
"So, we just die?" while knowing in my heart as the Spirit testifies that death is not the end of the story. Yet, losing my father did cause me to consider how meaningless this
life is. Even at the end of his life, a man who enjoyed watching the news said that it highlighted "stupid politics" and "stupid people." The things of this world are meaningless.
I have shared in another article where Paul writes in Philippians 3:4b-7:
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
I further share in that article the following:
The Greek word for "loss" in the last verse of that passage translates to rubbish or dung (skúbala - σκúβαλα), which means "refuse. Either excrement or what is thrown away from the table; leavings" (source). It reminds me of the word scum."
In the 1991 comedy L.A. Story, the protagonist Harris says the following: “Sitting there at that moment I thought of something else Shakespeare said. He said, ‘Hey... life is pretty stupid; with lots of hubbub to keep you busy, but really not amounting to much.’ Of course I'm paraphrasing: ‘Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’”
Is this all there is? Even for us as Christians, is this it? Do we just go to church and raise up nice kids in clean homes? Is this all there is? Doesn't Jesus call us to more than this? Yes, He does. And I am talking to me.
The most obvious scripture about meaninglessness is in Ecclesiastes 1 where Solomon writes, "Everything is meaningless." Regarding worldly things, indeed, everything is meaningless. One could be tempted - as I have - to leave it there, but that's not the entire picture. As a Christian, there are the meaningful aspects of life found in Jesus Christ and all that flows from Him. I find the following things meaningful in my life, things of significance and lasting impact:
Leaving a legacy
Significance (as opposed to worldly success)
Yet, the hard questions remain. Why does God allow such pain? Why so much loss? Why the meaninglessness? We ask these questions because we want peace. We want Heaven. We are designed for
relationship with Him, but we turn to our meaningless idols and miss that which is meaningful.
…But there is still the pain. There are still the headlines.
In Why Does God Allow It?, Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith writes about how he toured beautiful cathedrals in Cologne before World War II. He was amazed at their architecture and
design. After the war, he returned to Cologne where war and bombs had ravaged the cathedrals. Yet, he did not blame the architects for the destruction nor did he deny their existence or
their good design. Our fallen world is similar. We live in a broken world, but this is due to the devil, the flesh (sinful nature), and the world (system), not God. I cannot
specifically answer why various senseless things happen for each particular case, but they do. And they cause pain. Tempted to see only meaninglessness, may we realize that God is still there to walk
along side of us in our pain (and may we do likewise for others in pain). After all, God does not promise a life without pain. Psalm 23:4 says the following:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Notice that it says, "through the valley of the shadow of death" and how God is with us there.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
There is hope for a day without such loss, destruction, pain and meaninglessness. He Who did no wrong paid the painful penalty for all our wrongs and He offers a meaningful, peaceful,
joyful eternity with Him. I speak of Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? Are you trusting Him to have life? In this world of meaninglessness, we can still find meaning and take comfort that He goes to prepare a place for those in Him. And while we have breath, may we live in Him for He says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
The water in the glass is at the midpoint. There are times where it feels half empty and times where it feels half full. However, a day is coming for those in Christ: after we walk through the shadow of death this side of Heaven, we can look forward to the Heavenly table where our cup overflows.
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