Daily Devotionals

Does My Life Have Meaning and Purpose?

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Scripture:  “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me.” – Psalm 57:2 (NIV)


In a recent television interview concerning an upcoming movie, the star nonchalantly described the plot as a focus on the struggles of a new widower overwhelmed with grief compounded by adjustments to his advancing age. The death of his beloved wife has left him faced with living alone for the first time in his life…his adult children’s active lives are filled with their own responsibilities…and his successful career long ago ended. He finds himself grappling with the notion of his suicide. Viewers will become voyeurs to his obsession with the  question: “Since all I have and am in life that identifies me is completely vanished, does a defensible reason to “continue living” even remotely exist? Chills spread all over my body as the actor delved into areas in which his suffering takes this character. Ironically, later that day, the title of a book I had borrowed from the church library jumped out at me from my bedside table: Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body. The question of meaning and purpose in one’s life began to occupy my mind. I read. I prayed. I pondered. 


One of the first thoughts that surfaced was a warm conversation during a long car trip with my then 8-year-old nephew. In the middle of his animated monologue and with no forewarning, he blindsided me:  “Do you believe God has a purpose for everybody’s life?”   Somewhat taken aback, I resorted to the tactic adults often take by turning the table: “I believe He does. What do you believe?”  He confidently responded, “I believe God has a purpose for each person” with my continuing: “And what do you believe is His purpose for you?” Stifling his characteristic impish smile, he boldly announced:  “God’s purpose for my life is to make my Aunt Ellen laugh!”  …As you might anticipate, hearty, almost unstoppable laughter spontaneously erupted deep within me. I could make a good case to St. Peter at the Gate that David was spot on regarding at least one of his assigned purposes –the joy that young fellow’s sense of humor always brought me (and continues to do as a man in his forties) is a beautiful blessing. Yet on a deeper level, another long ago memory from a more somber experience returned to me…

As she walked into the room, she was strikingly beautiful. In her early fifties, from her chiseled facial features, one could detect remnants of the high school homecoming queen.  Complementing her physical beauty was her infectious smile and an expression of intelligence in her eyes.

Enhancing her natural beauty were the elegant designer suit, handbag, and shoes she wore distinctively.

Having vacillated between part and full time work, depending on her children’s needs, presently she was tapping her innate competence, bolstered by her earned MBA, as a high level bank executive. Her husband, likewise accomplished, was a respected attorney who served energetically as a community leader. Their home, custom-built when the children were entering private school, was located in the most prestigious area of the city. Time and place of vacations were not decided on personal finances but rather scheduling. Her adult children’s lives were mirroring their parents’ decisions.

Based on the popular standards of society, she clearly “had it all!”  The appearance contrasted blatantly with the reality, however, as she sat with her minister, tears streaming down her lovely face. In almost a wail, she admitted:  “My life has no meaning and purpose.”  These echoing words indelibly impressed upon my heart and mind, especially given the fact I admired both individuals and appreciated the reciprocal trust underlying their candid, heartfelt communication.


… “Does My Life Have Meaning and Purpose?”  It is a relatively common question from 8-years olds to 52-year olds and all who come before and after. Someone once wisely observed:  The two most important days in one’s life are the day we are born and the day we realize the purpose for which we were born.


Many of us too easily slide into a mindset of equating personal and professional trappings of success with meaning and purpose of life.  This naïve perspective can leave us disappointed, as it did the woman of my unforgettable memory. Although we may impressively attain societal measures of success (undeniably requiring enormous expense of time, energy, and money), in the end they are empty “temporary possessions”– not justifiable embodiments of meaning and purpose. After all is said and done, money is still just money… a well-appointed home is still just a temporary structure…and when we are gone from our important position/job, we are just gone.

The lesson here is simple and straightforward: human attainments acquired in our personal, civic, professional, or religious lives (regardless of the admiration and/or power ascribed them) are fleeting—inherently flawed because they are dependent on human nature. Any measure solely relying on human nature will be disappointing because we humans are flawed by nature. 


The temporal successes are certainly not “bad”—they can even be positive components of our lives. Wealth, health, status, and family can add a vital dimension of JOY to our lives and even serve/help as methods by which we accomplish our purpose in life. Yet they do not answer our deep need to know:  “This is the reason I exist.”


From the inception of the Christian faith, meaning and purpose of life have been stated to be unalterably found in one place alone—the will and ways of the Creator of the Universe—the God who loves us and works within and through our lives. In essence, we are made to love and serve GodWithin this divine love, we find the reason we exist, and within our service to God we find meaning and purpose.


Believing that what we do and say is God’s way of working through us to help build His kingdom here on earth reorients us in the principles by which we conduct our professional lives, the manner in which we treat others, the criteria by which we spend money, the standards by which we rear our children.   Therefore, no matter what we do for a livelihood…no matter the amount of our salary…no matter the number of clubs in which we are a member…the Christian perceives all to be methods and opportunities to serve God, to live a Christ-like life, to help bring the kingdom  of God to  earth. And that belief coupled with our striving to adhere to it will give our lives a radically different focus. It will instill God’s meaning and purpose into the very core of our earthly lives.


Meaning and purpose are profoundly rooted in our belief that we are God’s supreme creation. In both good and bad, we can unwaveringly believe that God owns us and loves and cares for us. In turn, at the center of our being must be our commitment to love and serve God to the best of our ability… we can  then respectfully, and gratefully, allow God to take care of the rest.


Prayer:  Father God, Who created us in your own image,  we humbly thank you for the assurance that you have numbered our days and will fulfill every purpose you have for us…culminating with the crowning gift of eternal life. Wholeheartedly willing to live for you, we pray in Christ’s name, Amen. 


Submitted by Ellen Hayden