You are probably familiar with Douglas Adam’s answer to the ‘meaning of life’ given in The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. However, the reason for our existence is often questioned and doesn’t have an obvious answer as this text suggests.
Why is it that we actively search for a meaning to life? Perhaps this is a silly question, but isn’t understanding this important to being able to approach life with confidence that we are heading in the right direction?
Imagine a football match (given that the World Cup 2010 has just finished) where the referee decided that he wasn’t going to count the goals scored by each team but score the game based on something else – but he would make up his mind when he felt like it. He could count the number of corners each team took, the number of passes, the number of fouls or even the number of times each team headed the ball. But without knowing this each team is unable to adapt the way they play in order to increase their chances of winning. Taking part in this game would be at first, pointless and secondly very, very frustrating. I’m sure the same emotions are felt if life is approached without purpose.
Society’s common “life goals” could be (at a guess);
- To make as much money as possible – a common indicator of success.
- To be most popular in social networks (as seen on Facebook!) and/or hold positions of power on groups/committees etc. – demonstrating popularity and influence
But are they right? Will long term satisfaction and peace be found through striving to achieve these objectives? I can’t see how we can tell when we have enough money or influence or both, hence I think the likelihood is low.
St Peter writes in his first letter that man is:
‘a people to be a personal possession to sing the praises of God, who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.’ (1 Peter 2:9)
This he references to the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 43:20-21).
In his book ‘In The Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall’ Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) writes:
‘Creation exists for the sake of worship….the universe exists for the worship and for the glorification of God.’
To put it simply, isn’t this the answer as to why we were created, or even ‘the meaning of life’? Perhaps singing praises to, worshipping or glorifying God isn’t the answer you were expecting, but throughout Holy Scripture the importance of giving God praise and giving thanks is stressed over and over, and a fruit of this is how God’s love for you will be revealed and he will care for your needs.
The second line of the Lord’s prayer (which Jesus gave us) praises God, ‘Hallowed be thy name’. Even the mass has in the Eucharistic Prayer the response ‘it is right to give him thanks and praise’ and, by the way, the word Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’.
In order to break free from prison didn’t the chains fall off Paul after he sang songs of praise.
‘And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.’ (Acts 16:25)
‘You will worship Yahweh your God, and then I shall bless your food and water, and keep you free of sickness.’ (Exodus 23:25)
Do you traverse life with moans and grumbles? Do you complain to others about the weather, the trains, the government or those pesky bankers? Isn’t this the opposite of praise and the opposite of what God created us for? Instead try telling others how much you enjoyed something, or how good someone or an experience was. Doing this, and in your prayer life giving God praise and glory (as we were created to do) will give your life focus and purpose.
Try reading Psalm 148 twice over and smile and give God thanks! I promise that this wont be one way traffic, just see how much more God will give back to you in your prayers and in your life.
‘Alleluia! Praise Yahweh from the heavens, praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all shining stars,
Praise him, highest heavens, praise him, waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of Yahweh at whose command they were made’ (Psalm 148 1-5:).