Is there an answer to the question of the meaning of life?
I believe there is.
Actually, the Bible tells us there are two answers. And in this post and the next, I am going to tell you both.
The first answer describes the meaning of life in terms of its end (or goal or purpose).
The second answer describes the meaning of life in terms of its means or the way we achieve this end.
So, the meaning of life can be answered in terms of its “end” and its “means.” Or, in terms of its “what” and “how.” Or, “purpose” and “path,” if you prefer.
Before jump into these two answers, let me clarify up front that I am sure the answers I am about to give you could be further nuanced, and I am sure that the specific meaning of your life will vary from person to person and be too beautifully intricate and challengingly mystifying to be completely described in these short summary answers.
I know many of us are currently walking through trials, and I don’t want to give the impression that what I am about to say will answer your every question, struggle, or doubt. Instead, we will be talking broadly about the meaning of life.
But make no mistake; the meaning of life is not shrouded in darkness. It is not a complete mystery. God, in his mercy, has told us plainly about the meaning of life. So let’s take a look.
What is the meaning of life? Answer one: To glorify God and enjoy him forever.
This answer is a great summary of the Bible’s teaching on the meaning of life in terms of its end or purpose. This is the endgame. This wording comes from the first question and answer of Westminster Catechism, which reads like this: “Q. What is the chief end of man? A…To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The summary wording comes from the catechism, but the truth itself comes from the Bible.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 11, Paul is talking about the divine purposes and mysteries of God in salvation, and as he thinks through it all, he comes to a moment of humble praise where he declares this:
 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”  “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
So Paul asks who can question God’s ways and who can suggest God owes them anything. Why? Because this whole story, the story of creation and the universe and your life, is first about Him. He is the beginning of the story and the end. That is what Paul says in verse 36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” “All things” includes you and your story. Your story should be through him and to him and for him that he might receive glory forever and ever amen. This is what it means to glorify God.
Later on, in another letter, in his letter to the church in Corinth, after discussing a controversy about eating food that had been sacrificed to idols, Paul will say, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is the end to which you work. This is the purpose of your life. To glorify God. We are to honor him and dedicate to him all we think, say, and do.
And this purpose, in case you were wondering, is so good. The catechism is quick to clarify the purpose of life with the statement “and enjoy Him forever.” Again, this is not just what the catechism says but what the Bible teaches everywhere. To follow God, to seek his glory, to live for his glory in everything, simultaneously comes with joy and is meant for that joy. David writes in Psalm 16 verse 11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). So, if the end or purpose of your life is to glorify God, what do you find as you get closer to this goal? Well, you look and see that at his right hand is joy and at his left hand are pleasures forevermore. As it turns out, His glory and your good are not at odds. This is why it is not self-seeking for him to seek and receive all glory.
So, just let that soak in for a minute…
What is the meaning of life? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.
That means if you have set anything else as the ultimate end in your life, you will find in the end a sense of meaninglessness. If you say your number one thing is winning the approval of others and you are going to glorify that, you will find your life hollow and fragile. If you say your number one thing is food, money, sex, power, marriage, titles, or fame…anything besides God himself and you glorify that, you lift that up as supreme, you honor that above all else, you will feel empty. You will feel diminished. Why? Because you are moving away from meaning, not towards it.
That means you will find the greatest meaning in serving God, no matter the cost. I have been on numerous mission trips to impoverished nations, and I have seen students gift up a week of their summer, give away their money, give every drop of energy they have, give up their creature comforts, give away the clothes they brought, end the week completely exhausted and leave with hearts filled to overflowing, filled with joy, thinking already of when they might return again. Why? Because they were living for the glory of God, and in that they were moving towards meaning.
This is why you can glut yourself on food and rest and television and feel so empty. Have you ever had this experience? You’ve been in a busy season. You have been pouring yourself out. You long for things to slow down. When you finally get that slow down, it feels good… but only for a little while. Then you start to get restless. Then you start to get grumpy. Then you start to feel a little lost, a little aimless, a little depressed even. Why? Because you weren’t meant to live for yourself. All the vacations and trips in the world won’t give you meaning if they are done exclusively in your service. But all that you do to God and for God, for his glory, will bring you meaning and life because that’s what life’s all about; that’s what you were created to do.
So, what is the meaning of life? The meaning of life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That’s the first answer.
What is the second answer? More on that next…
Leave a Reply