Friday, February 26, 2010

What is the Meaning of my Life?---Ontological Question #2


Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God

Hebrews 12:2

The second ontological question is "What is the meaning of my life?" This question seems to give people trouble. Inadequate answers tend to be a cause of chronic apathy and boredom. Why bother to get up every day if our life has no point? All of us need to have purpose to our existence. Without direction, our life could feel insignificant.

To address this issue, each of us should consider developing a personal mission statement. This might feel like a huge undertaking, yet it is actually quite simple. We need to listen to ourselves carefully and to hear what goals and activities excite us. Do we love working with people? Does our heart break when we see mistreated animals? Do we prefer helping out behind the scenes? Are we more of a leader? Do we enjoy organizing events and activities? Do we like putting things together? By paying attention to what motivates us, we can begin to see an outline of what gives our life passion and intention. Using this information, we are able to construct our own mission statement.

I used to think that a personal mission statement should be dramatic and rock the world, like discovering cold fusion. This isn't so. Some of history's most defining moments have come from individuals focusing on one small act. I think of Mother Teresa caring for the starving in the streets of Calcutta. She didn't set out to change the world, just to help one person. Yet her dedication and focus had a powerful ripple effect. When defining our life's purpose, no mission is too insignificant. It just needs to matter personally to us.

Even a well-defined answer to this ontological question can run into difficulty. Sometimes meaningful work feels boring. There can be periods that are repetitious and take on a sense of flatness. A woman who has purposefully defined her mission as raising orphaned children can get tired of cleaning up spilt milk and changing dirty diapers. Is life's flatness due to an undefined purpose? Or do we need a vacation? It is helpful to stop and make sure that our passion is directing us. We may need to re-direct our efforts by redefining our goals. We might just need to take a much needed break. We also might want to ask God for strength to endure the hard places of our life's work.

So, have you stopped to ask yourself what gives your life meaning?

Jesus' purpose was clear. God was on a mission to save the world. He sent his son to come and pay for humanity's debt of sin. Jesus lived his life with the goal of the cross. He let nothing or no one deter him from his purpose. We, too, can live a life with such clarity and direction. It probably won't be saving the whole world, but we could be lighting the corner of our neighborhood. And when it comes down to it, those we encourage will feel as if their world has been saved. So, maybe it is the same thing.


  1. My biggest problem is that my job is just a way to care from my family. I feel real meaning in the things I do outside of my job -- e.g., raising my kids, teaching Sunday school. I feel like I spend way more time at my job than doing the things that give my life meaning.

  2. It is hard when this is upside-down. I felt this way at one point too and prayed about it. God did intervene and helped me by providing some answers. I will pray that he meets you in a similar way.