The Futility of Life

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 1:26-27 π Num. 23:19 π Eccl. 12:13-14 π Jn. 3:16 π Rom. 5:1 π Tit. 1:2 π Jas. 1:13 π Jas. 1:17 π 1 Jn. 4:8 π Rev. 6:12-14 π Rev. 8:7-12 π Rev. 9:4-6 π Rev. 9:18 π Rev. 14:20 π Rev. 16:2 π Rev. 16:3-4 π Rev. 16:8-10 π Rev. 16:18-20 π Rev. 20:11-21:8 π Rev. 21:8 π Rev. 22:15

Futile, futile, all is futile, said a wise king, and I echo his sentiments. The search for meaning in life is as old as man himself and is most often asked by those who are still seeking a satisfying answer. Just as you always find a lost object in the last place you look for it, so too will a man stop asking for the meaning of life when he finds out what it is.

Throughout history, but especially in our western, American culture, many seem to believe that the highest attainment of man is found in temporal, worldly success. By that I mean that a man's stature and status is measured by how successful he is in his professional and/or charitable activities. It follows, in this line of thinking, that the more successful a man is - that is, the degree to which he achieves his list of goals, the amount of money he has available to spend, the number of people who respect or follow after him - the more happy he ought to be. However, experience and human history has, or at least should have by now, taught us that this is just not so. The vast number of successful men and women who have committed suicide at the pinnacle of their temporal, worldly success is long and growing longer. Even longer is the list of those who confess to emptiness and loneliness even as they enjoy the height of success in their chosen profession. So if temporal, worldly success is not the highest, most satisfying attainment of humanity, what is?

In the pursuit of happiness, an inalienable right to the American mindset, morality is often overlooked or, perhaps more appropriately stated, is misunderstood. Everyone lives by a moral code, whether it is rigid, unbending and demanding or it is extremely flexible, self-centered and inconsistent. Morality, the ability to choose between right and wrong actions and thoughts, has suffered extreme damage from the relativistic and existential philosophy that has spread like gangrene through the world. It has progressed from "If it feels good, do it" in the 60s to "I just want to do it" in the 90s.

The pursuit of individual happiness, in whatever subjective definition of the word that person has in mind, has become the moral code of the vast majority of people in our country. The fallacy of this ought to be obvious to even the most simple of minds as young teenagers, who have just senselessly and brutally killed someone and been asked why they did it, respond only with "I wanted to." A serial killer might well use the excuse, "I am happy when I am dismembering someone," and our society may well soon consider this a valid response instead of judging him guilty of murder and worthy of death.

The pursuit of happiness, while it is a great excuse for all manners of selfish activities, falls far short of providing the ultimate satisfaction that a human requires to feel that he has found his niche in life. And morality, while it plays an important part in life and allows members of a society to successfully and beneficially interact with each other, also comes short of being the ultimate satisfaction in life. The religious person, bound to carry out his own personal list of do's and don't's, is often the most miserable of creatures. He sees God as a vengeful Deity who is ready to punish his every lapse and comes to hate the commandments - all while being afraid to disobey them! What a pressure cooker!

Or he becomes so self-righteous and self-secure because he obeys these commands more so than everyone else he knows. Why, anyone who does not obey these commandments must be some sort of lower species to be avoided, some piece of refuse to be discarded, or some less fortunate non-entity to be pitied and religiously helped. One of the most treasured commandments is, after all, to love one's neighbors and help those less fortunate. What a load of deception!

But the rich, ultimate satisfaction of finding why one is alive is not to be found in mere morality or in mere religion.

In the endeavor to dedicate one's life to the pursuit of the worthwhile in the context of our postmodern culture, many have taken up various causes to give them the sense that they are doing something useful and beneficial and that they have, therefore, found the reason for their existence. Many have undertaken to clean up the environment, re-establish the balance of the ecology, or to protect the sanctity of animal or human life. Unfortunately, all these causes will ultimately come up short as well because they ignore the source of ultimate satisfaction: God.

History is about to wind up and hit the final stretch. When that happens, the environment will be devastated ( Rev. 6:12-14 ; 16:18-20 ), the ecological systems will be destroyed as whole species and environments are destroyed ( Rev. 8:7-12 ; 16:3-4 ), and even man himself will be tormented and killed ( Rev. 9:4-6 , 18 ; 14:20 ; 16:2 , 8-10; top ) as God Himself pours out judgment after judgment upon the earth. The earth, along with its inhabitants, is cursed and any attempt to preserve it will ultimately prove futile.

This ultimate reality is by no means any reason to surrender to the destroyers of the world, the ecology, and human life, but it is the reason why one cannot devote one's life to these causes and expect to find our ultimate fulfillment in life.

Ultimate fulfillment comes only when a human being recognizes that nothing in this world can satisfy the longing within his own soul. God, the Creator, the ultimate source of all life, made man in His own image. ( Gen. 1:26-27 ) God is love. ( 1 Jn. 4:8; top ) Love is not truly love until it has an object to bestow itself upon. Though God will always love, man, created in the image of God, needs an object to selflessly pour out himself upon. That is why man seeks satisfaction and fulfillment - it is an integral part of himself to give himself away in the pursuit of some intangible something. And he has a built-in need to give his love to someone who can perfectly reciprocate his love. And the only being who is the rightful recipient who can, in receiving man's love, provide the reciprocal feedback that meets and fills all of man's needs and emptiness is God.

And if this were a perfect world, the story would end there with God and man in united bliss. But this is not a perfect world and that is exactly the problem. God is love - and He is sinless perfection incarnate. ( Jas. 1:13 , 17 ; Tit. 1:2 ; Num. 23:19; top ) No creature tainted with moral imperfection can remain in His presence. Any creature so tainted must be destroyed because it is flawed, incompatible with His nature.

This concept is so accepted in the business world by manufacturers of a product that its appropriateness is not even challenged. Car manufacturers will recall a defective model and destroy it rather than leave it to be a hazard to the owner and other drivers on the road. This is true of every business that manufactures a dangerous product: they will recall and destroy a defective product rather than face the liability for damaging or destroying someone's life or property.

However - and this is God's perspective also - mankind is not just a manufactured product. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." ( Jn. 3:16; top ) God loves the creatures called humans which He created so much so that He took on the flesh of a human and lived as we humans live. But He did more than take on the flesh and life of a human; He died the horrible death of a common criminal, taking upon Himself all the imperfections of mankind (and their penalties) and thereby paid the penalty, satisfying the verdict and judgment of a holy and righteous God against a sinful and unrighteous race of creatures. Now God, completes that action of wondrous grace by extending the offer to individuals to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.

And this is how a human can find ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction. God does not offer something that will decay or be destroyed when this earth is judged. He does not offer a list of religious duties or expectations. He does not offer a cause that we can take up. He offers Himself. He promises, first of all, that we may have peace with Him. ( Rom. 5:1; top )

Holy, righteous, just God who overlooks no evil deed offers peace if we will but put aside our rebellion, our pride, our self-sufficiency and self-centeredness and surrender to Him. Then He promises to come to us and live inside us, to take up residence, by His Holy Spirit, inside our individual souls. There He will meet with us and talk with us and cause the characteristics of our life to progressively become more like His. He will actually come to possess us as we surrender more and more of our so-called rights and even our life to His control.

And while this being possessed by the Spirit of another at first sounds scary, it is the ultimate fulfillment of all our longings and aspirations when it is the Spirit of the true and living God who is the possessing Agent. Only He can give fulfillment to those previously unmet and often unrecognized desires which have prompted many a fruitless and even self-destructive venture on our part.

But if we persist in pride, rebellion, self-sufficiency, and self-centeredness, thereby refusing to give God the title to our life, which is rightfully His anyway, then we are fit only for the sentence which is given to all defective products - destruction.

Our soul is already eternal. Where our souls spend their eternities will depend upon how we have individually responded to God's offer of peace and reconciliation through Jesus Christ while we have the opportunity in this life. If we have responded in obedience to His call, we will live in eternal oneness and fellowship with the God of love, peace, joy, truth, beauty, and holiness, along with all of His followers and all of the angels who have remained loyal to Him.

If we have responded in disobedience to His call, then we will live in eternal darkness, weeping and wailing as we keep company with such as Judas Iscariot, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, all the "cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars" ( Rev. 21:8 ), the "dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie" ( Rev. 22:15; top ), all the evil spirits and demons, and Satan, the devil, himself. One has to wonder at the gullibility of those who believe that hell could somehow be a place of wild parties and frollicking fun - their friends may be there but the good times will not.

Consider what John describes in regards to wickedness' final judgment:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them and they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." ( Rev. 20:11-21:8; top )

In the end, life, lived apart from God, is futile. It is worse than futile, it is destructive both temporally and eternally. The wise king, who also recognized the futility of life, concluded that there was only one duty of man: "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil." ( Eccl. 12:13-14; top ) May many more learn this truth before it is too late for them to do anything about it.

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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