Our search for meaning in this short life

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

When we were small, young, and naive, we see the world as a big space of possibilities. We can be anybody we want. We are all dreamers. We even think of life as a big adventure. And so we embarked on our life’s journey as wanderers, in pursuit of things hoping that they might satisfy us in this short life.

Let me talk about three pursuits most of us take. And by the end of this blog post, I will tell you about the only pursuit that matters. But first, here’s something to stir your mind:

Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher. “Vanity of vanities! All [that is done without God’s guidance] is vanity [futile, meaningless—a wisp of smoke, a vapor that vanishes, merely chasing the wind].”
Ecclesiastes 1:2 AMP

It’s worthy to note that everything we pursue without God’s guidance is futile and meaningless.

Our pursuit of knowledge

16 I spoke with my heart, saying, “Behold, I have acquired great [human] wisdom and experience, more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of [moral] wisdom and [scientific] knowledge.”
17 And I set my mind to know [practical] wisdom and to discern [the character of] madness and folly [in which men seem to find satisfaction]; I realized that this too is a futile grasping and chasing after the wind. 
18 For in much [human] wisdom there is much displeasure and exasperation; increasing knowledge increases sorrow.
Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 AMP

If you have set your heart to seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge, you might find yourself in sorrow. Why? Because in your mere pursuit of knowledge, after going through pain and trouble to acquire it, you will only see more of your ignorance at the end of it. And while you increase your desire for more knowledge, you will only realize that all your knowledge will fade and die with you, leaving you not better but worse.

By no means do I discourage from acquiring knowledge. I even wrote in detail about the need to gain knowledge in this blogpost. What I mean is that you must not make it the only point of your existence. Why? Even if you improve yourself in all kinds of knowledge just to call yourself the most knowledgeable person in the world, you will find no real satisfaction. The Preacher speaking in the passage above (who have been king over Israel in Jerusalem; King Solomon, known for his wisdom) already sought insight whenever he could. He even saw such pursuit futile.

If you want to prove him wrong, then go ahead. You will go so far only to go back to where you have started. So let this be a lesson to all of us. Learning alone will not save a man from his corruption. But there is a knowledge that increases our joy, and that is the knowledge of God.

Our pursuit of pleasure

You Only Live Once.

YOLO is used primarily in social media to mean that you should do things that are enjoyable or exciting, even if they are silly or slightly dangerous*. It has also become a staple of youth culture worldwide. It refers to exciting events or as an excuse for irresponsible behaviors.

If you think that to have a well-lived life is to pursue pleasure, you might be mistaken. Maybe after all the laughter from the pleasure you subjected yourself into, you still live an empty life.

You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life!
The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.
Proverbs 21:17 MSG

The pursuit of pleasure, known as hedonism, is a school of thought where pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life*. However, as it says in the passage above, the pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied. It only means that you will be always wanting but never getting. Let us go back to the Preacher and learn about his search for pleasure.

1 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure and gratification; so enjoy yourself and have a good time.” But behold, this too was vanity (futility, meaninglessness). 
2 I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” 
3 I explored with my mind how to gratify myself with wine while [at the same time] having my mind remain steady and guide me wisely; and how to take control of foolishness, until I could see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 AMP

In his experiment, he explored all the delights of sense. He brought about the conclusion that even that is a futile pursuit. Therefore, it is not really about you getting all you want to have that can bring you satisfaction. It is more about finding the good you ought to do in your lifetime.

You must take into your heart that seeking to satisfy your selfish pleasure will only make you poor. And it does not just talk about the lack of wealth or possession but rather, being poor in all aspects of life (relationships, health, spiritual, financial, to name a few).

He who loves [only selfish] pleasure will become a poor man;
He who loves and is devoted to wine and [olive] oil will not become rich.
Proverbs 21:17 AMP

Our pursuit of material possession

I want to work so hard just so I can buy things without worrying about their cost.
I want to work so hard just so I can buy all the things I want when I want them.
I want to collect all the signature (bags, shoes, clothes) just because I can.”
(Add another line here …)

Do these things ring true to you? If yes, then you are seeking to gain material possession. These are just some of the usual lines people say when they want to accumulate just that. Let us go back to the Preacher and learn his thoughts about the matter.

4 I made great works: I built houses for myself; I planted vineyards for myself;
5 I made gardens and orchards for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees;
6 I made pools of water for myself from which to water the forest and make the trees bud.
7 I bought male and female slaves and had slaves born in my house. I also possessed herds and flocks larger than any who preceded me in Jerusalem.
8 Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male singers and female singers, and the delights and pleasures of men—many concubines.
9 So I became great and excelled more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also remained with me.
10 Whatever my eyes looked at with desire I did not refuse them. I did not withhold from my heart any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor; and this was my reward for all my labor.
11 Then I considered all which my hands had done and labored to do, and behold, all was vanity and chasing after the wind and there was no profit (nothing of lasting value) under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 AMP

He found that after acquiring every possession he can have (hoping he could find ease and happiness from them), there is no satisfaction in getting them. He even found no profit and advantage just by having everything; that their value does not last.

If you think that you will find your meaning or purpose in this lifetime when you acquire so much wealth or material possession, you will only be disappointed. King Solomon (the Preacher) already found the answers for you.

If none of the mentioned pursuits can bring you meaning in this short life, what can? Or should I say, who can?

The only pursuit which truly matters

Yes, there are so many things in life that you may consider necessary. But at the end of the day, you do not find lasting joy in any of them. They are all fleeting just like we are. So no matter how hard you try to find your meaning and purpose through the pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, and material possession, you will find each of the quest futile. However, there is a pursuit that can give you lasting fulfillment in this short life, and that is when you seek the Lord.

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.
Matthew 6:33 AMP

As Pastor Sumrall always says, the only thing that lasts is what you do for the Lord.

Whoever finds his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], and whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity].
Matthew 10:39 AMP

You see, it is not about getting, but it is about giving. Fulfillment is not inward but outward. So once you start seeking the welfare of others through good works, you will finally find meaning in this short life.

I hope this helps.

You may still have lingering questions and I would like to give response to some of them.
What is the Gospel of The Kingdom?
What is the Gospel?

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