December 6, 1994
The wife of a city policeman says her husband dreads going to work this time of the year. Family squabbles and suicides escalate. He finds little joy in what could be called the terrible dark side of the Christmas season.
Just as darkness seems darker after looking at a bright light, despair and hopelessness are brought into sharp relief by good will and the happy spirit of Christmas. People who feel unloved feel more rejected when they see others are enjoying love. People who find life meaningless feel even greater despair watching others who are happily filled with a sense of purpose.
Christmas does seem to encourage a loving attitude. Giving gifts and sharing hospitality give many a sense of purpose. Having a reason for living and being able to give and receive love are both very important to human happiness, not only at Christmas but for the remaining days of the year.
At a very foundational level, the purpose of life is connected to the biblical story of creation. There we find that God created male and female in His own image and pronounced this as “very good.” Because we are created by God and because He is good, human existence is also good.
However, being created in His image does not mean we are exactly like God. He is eternal, knows all, is everywhere, and is all powerful. We are limited by time, space, ignorance, physical weaknesses and death, yet our existence is not an accident of time plus chance. We are born, live and have a capacity to enjoy life because it is God’s intention. Also, He made us so we could know Him and be partners with Him in time and eternity. Because of that, we have purposeful lives.
When we were designed, God also included the ability to receive and give love, specifically to “love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.” Since love cannot be forced, loving Him is a choice. God encourages our response by His goodness. He also demonstrated the way to love when He sent Christ as a sacrifice for our sins. The love He wants us to enjoy is a selfless, two-way, unconditional, everlasting love.
It is also His intention we “love our neighbor as ourselves” and be good stewards of the rest of creation. In freely and gladly doing His will in His way, we reflect His likeness, find our true identity, enjoy a relationship of love with Him, and are filled with a true sense of purpose. This would eliminate suicides and squabbles entirely.
So why don’t people live as we were created to live? Why do we sometimes fight and hate life? Why do we sometimes feel unloved and without purpose? The Bible says it is because of sin. Sinful actions are easy to describe but a true definition of sin is difficult because sin itself is so irrational. Why would we reject the love of God?
It is difficult to objectively look at ourselves and truly know what we need to know about our sin. It clouds our logic. When asked to give reasons, we often throw our hands in the air and say, “I don’t know why I do it, I just do it.”
Sin is also a robber of love and purpose. When we fail to grab hold of the love of God, we can feel that no one loves us, not even Him. When we reject His purposes for us, no wonder we feel that life has no purpose.
Is there hope? The Bible says yes. The God-image we are supposed to reflect is found in Christ. He is not only our example but our Salvation from sin. Whoever opens their life to Him is graciously forgiven and receives new life. When filled with His Spirit, the results are love and a never-ending sense of purpose.