What’s the point of life?
What is our purpose here on earth?
What is the reason for our existence?
These questions are pondered by every human as they come of age. Philosophers pontificate on the subject. Religious professionals offer pithy platitudes to their congregations to keep the parishioners placated and the questions quelled. Most often, the question comes at a point of desperation, when the questioner faces challenges that seem insurmountable. Sometimes the challenge is physical illness, loneliness, or the loss of a loved one. Sometimes the question is prompted by the observation of the cruelty displayed by humankind or even by the hollow feeling left after the pursuit of pleasure fails to deliver lasting fulfillment. Some cultures believe that we are destined to repeat various lifecycles on earth until we purge the bad from our lives and achieve a life of purity, allowing one to transcend the physical realm. Many Christians seem to hold the view that the challenges we face are all the product of humanity’s rebellion against God; and while we certainly make our lives harder because of our poor choices, I think that there’s more to the story.
Christians typically offer a few different reasons for our life on earth. The ones I typically hear are that we exist to glorify God, worship God, bring others to God, or strive for sanctification (a state of sinlessness). The concluding author of Ecclesiastes says that our duty is to fear God and keep His commandments. While there is some merit to that advice, it fails to adequately answer the question the author spent his life asking—what is the point of it all? The psalmist states that we were created for God’s pleasure. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that statement, but it doesn’t tell us what our purpose is, or why we must spend a lifetime trying to please God.
I may be wrong, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that God’s intent for humans in this physical universe is for them to go through a developmental period. I think His intent, even before the fall, was to put us in an environment where we could develop knowledge, skill, and especially character.
So when someone asks, “What is the point of it all?” I think that they are well on the way to answering their own question. I think that asking the question is the point. The question is the impetus for the search. The search becomes a quest for meaning. The quest drives character development—although growth usually comes at the price of many mistakes.
It seems more reasonable to me that God has placed us on earth to develop us into beings of wisdom and character than that He has created a race of sycophants for the express purpose of spending countless hours telling Him how wonderful He is. As if He has a giant ego that he needs to feed. I don’t think the Lord of the universe is that insecure.
Wondering about the point of our existence means that we are on the right track. The question is the answer, in a manner of speaking. I acknowledge that it sounds glib and probably doesn’t do much to alleviate the frustration of many seekers—especially those experiencing loss or pain or sorrow. But whatever wonderful life lies beyond this one, for now, the journey truly is more important than the destination.
This perspective makes life make so much more sense and makes life’s difficulties more bearable. Perhaps some, looking at life through this lens, would be inclined to be angry at God, as if He were the author of cruelty. That discussion is outside the scope of this article, but for now, I would offer that the initial challenge was God’s; the cruelty is ours. God has elected to sacrificially help us through the mess we’ve created, and He calls His followers to do the same. So take comfort, to the extent you are able, in the fact that God sees our struggles and is allowing us to struggle in order to grow, yet is walking with us as we struggle. And to the extent you are able, look at life’s struggles as opportunities for personal growth. Do your best to enjoy the trip and help those you encounter along the way.