Finding Meaning In Life, Nowhere or Everywhere?

The week just past has been an interesting one for me. I met many new people, reconnected with old friends, held the first copies of my new book, had the usual work ups and downs, and had some nice family times too. Through it all I’ve been wondering about the meaning of everything. Why is this happening? Why now? Where’s it all going? What does it mean?

I’m not always so focused on meaning, but I started my week reading this depressing article – “I Nearly Died. So What?” – in Sunday morning’s New York Times (online). The author describes how caring for her mother during her mother’s terminal illness, and then coming close to death herself during an acute illness, changed nothing about her. In fact, she seems proud of that. Now, four years later, she is still “not a better person” but the “same person” for the experience, and believes that there is simply no meaning to be found in such events. Arguing that there is no significance to life crises or suffering, she believes that we try to “make sense” out of them “for the sake of soothing our own nerves.”

Feeling sad for the author, I went on to read the comments – expecting many people to object to her argument for meaninglessness, and perhaps, to have a kind word of hope for her. Instead there was mostly agreement with her view and praise for her willingness to advance it in the newspaper. Reading the many similar, but shorter, stories of individuals proud to find no meaning in life’s biggest events made me sadder still. Then I went off to church, pondering why some get it and some don’t.

Early Monday morning I had the opposite experience, coming across this happy piece – Sudden Brush with Mortality Shows Why Life Is Sweet – in my local paper. The author, Darryl E. Owens, a regular columnist, developed chest pain from a life-threatening blockage in his cardiac arteries. A cardiac cath, a stent, and a short hospital stay later; he is a better man – more appreciative and more focused on the things that matter. His advice, “Love God, love your family, and love your neighbors, and you’re headed down the right path.” You got that right Darryl.

God provides the meaning in life, and not just for the big events. Too often it takes a crisis or other major problem for us to remember what’s meaningful and to find significance in our lives. But God is Lord of the small as well as the big. Not a sparrow falls without his consent. Everything is under his control, and we know that he is at work in all things for the good of those who love him. That’s what I was thinking this week as a result of this advance reading.

With that perspective, how could it not be an interesting week? A lot happened. What does it all mean? I’m not too sure but I can’t wait to find out, because I know that the author of all meaning will make it good.

I’m going to try to hang on to this perspective that everything matters, that the small events contain meaning as well as the large. I want to keep a sense of wonder about how God is working in my life and the lives of others through the seemingly insignificant events of the day. I want to live like everything is meaningful. Because it is.

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 NIV


  1. Dexter Simanton says:

    Solomon writes that after his extensive searching he found that everything under the sun is meaningless. I agree with you Peter that meaning is found in our God who thankfully, isn’t confined to existence “under the sun.”