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3 Things To Do When Life Feels Meaningless

Written by Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

I felt like I was on top of the world. It was, after all, any young man’s dream come true. I was in my mid-20s with a high paying job, good career prospects, and all the comforts and luxuries that life could offer. What more could anyone wish for?

However, something deep inside me felt amiss. There was a growing dissatisfaction in my heart. It all boiled down to one pertinent question: What is it that would truly make my life meaningful?

I couldn’t answer that question straight up. As a believer who grew up grounded in biblical principles, I had been taught that I needed to please God with my life. So, in spite of all the temporary highs that life brought my way, the thought that came to my mind instinctively was whether I was doing what God wanted me to do.

One part of me persisted in that thought. Another part of me justified my actions—after all, I was successful in life and had achieved so much so quickly. Surely, God would not be against that? What’s more, I was also active in church and missions, and gave generously to Christian work, so that should keep God happy, shouldn’t it?

I had defined success the way I understood it and the way the world applauded it. However, I never paused to consider how God looked at success. My seemingly full and abundant life was empty and meaningless when seen from God’s perspective.

I began to realize that I had never sought the reason for true meaning and significance in my life. Rather, I set my mind on and pursued those things that would never satisfy. As a result, I had become a purposeless, directionless individual just cruising along life, not knowing what I was doing or where I was going.

That relentless still small voice of God became a persistent prompting in my mind, and there was nothing I could do to distract myself from it. I continued to be restless until I came to a point of confession and answered that question truthfully.

The truth was that I was busy building my own kingdom with my own goals, plans, and thoughts—and neglecting God’s Kingdom. Little did I know that these vain pursuits in life would never give me meaning, significance, and purpose in life.

When we give undue importance to secondary aspects of life, such as career, money, comforts, relationships, fame, etc., we end up dethroning God and placing ourselves and other things on the throne of our life. We buy into a lie that says that our ultimate purpose in life is to pursue the things of this world.

The Bible, however, tells us that our true purpose is to seek God and His Kingdom first, and all other things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). Seeking after God and His glory is what will truly give life meaning and significance. We need to come to the realization that we don’t exist for ourselves. Rather, we exist to bring God glory, and when we do that in all we say and do, we become truly fulfilled.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes had a similar sentiment thousands of years ago. He had also untiringly explored the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, pleasure and satisfaction, toil and self-indulgence. He tried to find meaning and significance in his work, his pursuits, his goals and desires. However, he came to the stark realization that all these were vain pursuits, a mere chasing after the wind. There was nothing under the Sun by which man would be able to find true meaning and significance.

But he didn’t leave it there. Rather, he punctuated the book with precious nuggets of wisdom. There are three keys lessons that we can learn from the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, which help us live a life of meaning, significance and purpose. It is the kind of a life which would put a smile on God’s face when lived out authentically.

 

Fear God Alone

In Proverbs 9:10, we are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Those who practice the “fear of the Lord” will have good understanding, but the one who despises it remains a fool. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes picks up the same idea. He says that the fear of God comes by recognizing God’s authority and presence over our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God is not appeased by our gifts or sacrifices. Rather, He is pleased when we are attentive and obedient to His Word (Ecclesiastes 5:1b). He urges us not to set our eyes on our own dreams and words, but to fear God because those who do so will flourish in life (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

How have I practiced the fear of God in my life? By recognizing who He truly is. Regular reading of the Bible helps me understand who God is, what He has done for me, and what He continues to do in and through me. God’s divine attributes—such as His immanence, holiness, sovereignty and mercy—remind me that although I am unworthy, He continues to be gracious. A fitting response to the Living God is that of reverent fear. And I choose to do that not out of compulsion, rather out of love.

 

Remember God Alone

The Teacher urges us to focus our mind and heart on remembering God, especially from our youth and before the dark seasons of life come our way (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2). Remembering God and doing so from a young age will set us on the right trajectory for the rest of our lives. When we remember His love, care, and grace, we come to a true realization of who we truly are and our complete dependence on Him. We understand that life is a precious gift of God, and not something we have achieved ourselves. This in turn fills our hearts with humility and gratitude. Remembering God always fills us with great joy, which can never be obtained from wealth, possessions or power (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20).

Remembering that I am God’s child, and that He knew my unformed substance and chose me before the foundations of the earth were laid (Psalm 139:13-17, Ephesians 1:4), humbles me to surrender my will to Him and be grateful for His saving grace. This realization moves my entire being to worship my Heavenly Father. I no longer am concerned about gaining people’s approval or drawing my identity from the world, but I choose to remember God’s goodness in my life and worship Him without any pretense.

 

Pursue God Alone

Rather than chasing the vain pursuits of life, we will find true meaning and significance in the relentless pursuit of God. The pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, wealth and happiness, purpose and meaning can be seen from the right perspective when we set our hearts on pursuing God (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10). All these things under the Sun, if brought under the Son, will bring purpose and significance to life. Our faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ and His completed work on the Cross, transforms our otherwise mundane and meaningless lives to be deeply satisfying and full of purpose. The free gift of salvation reminds us that we don’t need to strive for it through our works, but can rely on His Finished Work. We can rest in the fact that it is in Him and what He has done for us that we find our true identity as God’s children—forgiven, redeemed, reconciled and set free.

On a practical level, each time I make a decision—regarding my lifestyle, investments, relationships, or anything else—I evaluate whether this choice would align me with God’s purposes for my life. Only if I feel that this would help me further God’s Kingdom and become a better follower of Christ, then I would embrace it wholeheartedly. God has become my sole focus and priority, and all other things in my life are consciously allowed in only if they deepen and strengthen that relationship I have with Him.

 

Applying these principles in my life has turned it around. I learned that success is not in what I achieve for myself, but in how I grow closer to God in my walk of faith. True meaning and significance in life is not found in the pursuit of things or accumulation of stuff, but in understanding who God is and who I am in relation to Him. This revolutionized my thinking altogether. I was no longer chasing vain dreams, but chasing after God. My greatest satisfaction was found in seeking after God, knowing Him intimately, and pursuing Him passionately. When I turned over my life to Him, began to seek His face and walk in His ways, life became worth living. Life had an ultimate purpose, and there was joy in loving and serving God.

By being obedient to God’s voice and surrendering myself to His will, I am now truly on top of the world. God’s plans and purposes have come to fruition in my life, and I realize now that there is no greater calling than loving Him, serving Him and making Him known to others.

It’s so easy to believe a lie of the devil and finish life having achieved nothing. But if we fear God, remember and pursue Him, life can be full of joy and significance. It is through the intentional pursuit of God that one could unearth the real meaning and purpose of life.

What To Do When the Bible Is Confusing

Written By Carol Lerh, Singapore

When we ask questions about the Bible, we often learn more about God through those questions. But what do you do when you have a question, and the more you read about it, the less it makes sense?

For example, I was reading through all four Gospels when I came across Matthew 11:29, where Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” But in Mark 11, I found Jesus cursing fig trees for not bearing fruit and flipping tables in the temple. How do I reconcile these actions with His gentleness and humility?

As my doubts began to turn my confusion into disbelief, I wanted to stop reading the Bible. Even though it seems easier to do so whenever doubt arises, here are five things that have helped me deal with my confusion: 

 

1. Don’t stop reading the Bible or going to church

I’ve seen friends leave the church, and consequently leave Christianity altogether when they have unanswered questions. I remember reflecting on those same questions and being very certain that the Bible has all the answers to them. So even though my faith was shaken, I decided that I was going to stay in church, read the Bible, and question other Christians and Bible experts until I figure out for myself who God is.

It is easy to doubt that the Bible is trustworthy when you have questions about what’s written in it. But the Bible claims to be the Word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21). It claims to be entirely true (Psalm 119). And it claims to be sufficient for us (2 Timothy 3:15-17). These claims are either blasphemous or true. It can’t be both. If you believe in the God of the Bible, you must believe that the Bible is the Word of God.

Though the Bible was written by different authors in different parts of the ancient world over different time periods, they all talk about the same God and the same gospel. It is an incredibly cohesive work. Historians also agree about the existence of Jesus and His crucifixion. To me, that’s enough evidence of the reliability of the Bible.

Giving up on the Bible and the church, and looking for the truth about God in other places is a mistake. Since the rest of the world has rejected God, why would they tell you the truth about God?

 

2. Pray for understanding

James 1:5 says that if anyone lacks wisdom, they can ask God. Before He died, Jesus promised that He will send us the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and remind His people of everything He taught (John 14:26). We have that Holy Spirit as our Counselor today, so let the Spirit lead. Pray and ask for wisdom, understanding, and an open heart to receive the truth.

Maybe you doubt that God will give you a definite answer. I did. I asked God to explain why it’s okay for Him to overturn tables and curse fig trees but then we have to love our enemies and not repay evil with evil. But God didn’t explain Himself to me. Instead, I was reminded of God’s reply to Job, when Job questioned God about his suffering: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” (Job 38:4).

I told God it didn’t make sense.

As my questions multiplied, I began wondering why I should believe in a God who never did any of the miraculous things He did in the Bible for me. An encouraging word from someone who loves me, is that all He can do in reality?

But after praying, God showed me how He was working in this world and in my life. My mother met the same person twice on her way to the restroom after Sunday Service, and that person became my therapist. My best friend started telling me about the revelations she received from God and what God has been doing in her life. So even though I didn’t feel Him; He was working all around me. And now, looking back, I can see His footprints through my difficulties and stubbornness.

God will help you to make sense of your questions. Keep going to Him, knock on the door relentlessly, and don’t give up seeking Him with all your heart. If you wait patiently, you will see the bigger picture.

 

3. Go back to the basics

When you are faced with a confusing question, you need to have a firm foundation to stand on. What is the rock you are standing on? What do you know for sure? List the things you are certain about or that you should be certain about. Here is my list:

  • God created the world and everything was perfect. (Genesis 1)
  • Man disobeyed God and sin came into the world. (Genesis 3)
  • God came to earth as the man, Jesus, to die for our sins. (Matthew 1-2; Luke 2)
  • He died and resurrected three days later, defeating sin and death. (see any of the gospels)
  • Those who believe in him will be forgiven of their sins and have eternal life. (Matthew 26:28; John 3:16)
  • God wants us to live a holy and God-honoring life (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  • He gives the Holy Spirit to believers to help them live that life. (John 14:16-18)

These statements might not be directly related to what you are confused about, but what begins in curiosity can quickly lead to doubting everything you thought you believed in. In these cases, I found that I need to go back to the foundation of my faith and check that it is still stable. I read about Jesus’ birth, His death and resurrection.

Knowing the essentials of your faith will help you discern truth from interpretation and opinion. This is helpful as you search for answers.

 

4. Talk to a mature Christian you trust

The Bible is the most-read book in the world, so your doubts and questions are probably not new. People who have found answers to their questions would be able to share with you what they have discovered. But it is important to look for a Christian you trust—someone you aren’t afraid to approach, and someone who knows the Bible well.

For me, that person is my father. Once, I read in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 that God will judge all who inflict suffering. The question that came to my mind when I read this was: what if these people are also suffering themselves and didn’t mean to inflict suffering? I brought my question to my father, and we talked about God’s judgment and His mercy. He reminded me of 1 John 1:9, which says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. That helped me make sense of the passage.

 

5. Use Internet sources wisely

If you don’t have a trustworthy Christian to turn to, you can search for answers through other reliable sources that are grounded in Scripture. My father’s answers don’t always clarify my doubts, so I use some of these resources as well.

The guideline to finding a reliable resource is to see whether the resource contradicts the basics discussed above. If it does, then it’s not reliable. If it doesn’t, then check how much Biblical content they have, and how much cross-referencing they use. For instance, if they talk about judgment in the Old Testament without making references to verses in the New Testament, then it’s probably not that reliable.

I use Constable’s Notes on Lumina at Bible.org to understand Bible passages that are confusing, as well as GotQuestions.org, which has answers to almost every question we can possibly ask about God and the Bible. I realized early on that reading blogs and opinion pieces written by random people make me even more confused, especially when they contradict what my father told me or what I find in my Study Bible. So I recommend sticking to trusted avenues with concrete statements of faith, like Desiring God or Our Daily Bread Ministries.

 

I did find an answer to my question after much prayer, reading and thinking. Jesus is God, and therefore He has an authority that we do not have. There are things that He can do that we have no right to do. After all, I did not help Him create the world, who am I to curse a fig tree when I’m also one of His creations?

I have come to the realization that there will be mysteries that we will forever be unable to comprehend, or know only partially; for we are like blind men touching different parts of an elephant. Some questions I simply have to put on a list of things to ask God when I get to heaven.

If you have any questions about God or the Bible, I’d like to encourage you to bring your doubts to God and pray about the answers you find. Don’t use your doubts as an excuse to stop reading the Bible. Read smaller chunks and give yourself more time to meditate, or use a commentary to guide you, but make sure you keep seeking Him. As long as we remain connected to God, He will work in our lives (John 15:5) and prove Himself to be true.

Seeking Heavenly Things

Title: Seeking Heavenly Things
Materials: Digital hand-drawn lettering
Artwork by: Beth Rufener (@creatifolio)
Description: Those who are redeemed by Jesus Christ are called to seek heavenly things, to make things that are good, pure, lovely, and virtuous our daily portion—just like a hearty, nourishing meal. Seeking and longing after heavenly things will never fail to bless us and fill our souls with contentment. When have we ever regretted helping someone in need, sharing our faith, worshipping with other believers, praising God, or using our talents to give glory to the Lord? Just as a healthy meal gives nourishment to our bodies, a daily portion of these heavenly things will nourish and satisfy our souls.

 

Hungering After Righteousness

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6 KJV)

 

Seek Things Above

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1 KJV)

 

The Lord is my Portion

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lamentations 3:24 KJV)

A Quick Summary Of James 3:17-4:12

This week, we are reminded to pursue God and not the world. How do you intend to carry out these actions in your life?

(Once again, do note that no devotions will be sent over the weekend.)