September 15, 1992
The question comes to me at the oddest moments. Sometimes I am in the grocery store with my cart nearly full. Other times I am at a wedding, or in a classroom. Sometimes I hear it when my husband and I are planning a trip or playing golf. The question has frightened me, even left me baffled, but most of the time it makes me stop and consider the answer, even adjust my life if it seems necessary. The question? — Why am I here?
Apparently people in the middle of life are not the only ones who hear the question. Younger people wonder why they exist. Many of them consider only a few options, such as an “eat, drink and be merry” philosophy. Or they defer the question — they are only young once — and try to forget it. Others look for answers through achievements in political or social endeavors and try to become the best in their field or make a name for themselves so they somehow leave a mark on humanity. Yet still the question haunts them.
And it haunts me too, not that I am without an answer nor do I doubt my answer is the best option. For me though, it seems that the question serves more than one purpose. It first challenged me to find meaning for life, now it prods me to base life on what I have discovered.
Becoming convinced of God’s purpose for my life has not been painless or quick. Like Solomon explains in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, it is only after trying almost everything else that I am now convinced that all human answers to this question are dismal at best. Should I live for pleasure, money, popularity, awards, my work or human recognition, I would find none of these settling down in the heart for very long — they are not the best answers.
Of course such aspirations are not without value and I would be lying if I said it does not feel good to have fun, make money, gain friends or reach the top of list now and then. It is just that my life, focused on those things, leaves me feeling empty and the question remains without an answer.
Purpose for living is expressed several ways in the Bible. Solomon gives one: “The conclusion of the whole matter is to fear God and keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man.” In this case, fear does not mean terror but reverence for God. Because of that awe, we ought to obey Him. Micah explains life’s purpose this way: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” The satisfaction everyone wants from life cannot be found apart doing what God requires. According to Micah, honorable living accompanied by a benevolent attitude towards others and an honest recognition of our position before God is beneficial to us.
Some seem to think if we do what God wants we will not be happy, but God is not against us being happy. In fact, I am convinced that He is not against us being wealthy or popular or successful either. The Psalmist even prays, “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire and fulfil all your purpose” (20:4). Because we tend to put our human wants first, before pleasing God, we miss the fullness of what He wants for us.
Don’t misunderstand; I do not subscribe to a “God wants you rich” theology. God wants us to experience His riches and if worldly wealth will stand in the way of that, He does us a favor if He makes money hard to come by or dissatisfying when we do have it. As our Maker, He knows our true purpose and what will make us truly happy — both are found in Him and in doing what He created us to do.
So now the question serves as a reminder to ask myself often if I still fear God and still obey Him — because that is the reason why I am here.