The Meaning of Life
By Matt Barber
I suppose it’s a bit more of an anecdote than a commentary. Twenty-two years ago and it seems like last week.
Isn’t that something old foggies say?
The aftermath from the previous night’s whirlwind revelry had become all too familiar. Friends had come and friends had gone. My tiny, one bedroom apartment in Thornton, Colorado, was, once again, strewn with empty beer bottles and soggy cigarette butts that lay decomposing in makeshift ashtray tombs.
The pungent pong of stale beer and cheap tobacco turned my stomach as I, having just roused at the crack of noon and suffering the hangover of all hangovers, staggered the short distance from my lonely bedroom to my lonelier kitchenette.
My daily refrigerator inventory cataloged exactly one large Domino’s Pizza box, containing exactly one half-eaten piece of stale pepperoni, and a three-quarters-empty Coors Party Ball. The sink was full of foul-smelling dishes, and the trash can had flies.
Yes, it was pitiful.
Yes, I was pitiful.
My high school sweetheart and wife of nearly five years, you see, had kicked me out and filed for divorce a few months earlier saying that I’d never amount to anything. At the moment, her words seemed a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I was crushed.
So this was rock bottom. The day, which yet again wore into night with fast food and old Bonanza reruns, would end like all the rest. Where were my car keys? As I searched in preparation for another trip to the liquor store, I made my way to my bedroom and opened my nightstand drawer. I found there, instead, my old dusty Bible. I suppose it was “desperate times” and all that, but, for whatever reason, I picked it up, brushed it off and began to read.
I’ve experienced, in my life, a handful of what I would call miracles. While I’ve had a few supernatural experiences that, for the outsider looking in, might be thought more profound, it was on this day that I experienced the miracle most influential to the course of my life – defined it, in fact.
I had been raised in a Christian home and, as far as I knew, “accepted Christ” at a young age. Still, on this particular night as I, the consummate “prodigal son,” randomly thumbed through the Holy Scriptures and read – the words literally leapt off the page. No, literally – certain words rose just above the page. I don’t even recall what specific passages I was reading, but things I had never before seen and words I had never before understood connected with my soul. The undeniable reality of the existence of God and the deity of Christ for the first time in my life became, in an instant and with crystal clarity, known to me in a way that I could never, ever again deny.
“This is truth!” I yelled aloud. “It’s all true! It’s real!”
I wept, overwhelmed with what I can only describe as sorrowful joy.
From that point on, my life changed. It wasn’t overnight. I still had bad habits and hang ups that, in partnership with Christ, I had to shake loose. I still do. Who doesn’t?
Even so, and tracking back from right now to then, it was on that night, at that very moment, that God’s destiny for my life – a destiny He mapped out before the beginning of time – finally took root.
Christ and Christ alone can satisfy.
Seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
Some have come to call Pascal’s “infinite abyss” a “God-shaped hole.” We all have (or once had) this God-shaped hole, this void in our soul, that can be filled alone with, and satisfied by, the presence of the Holy Spirit – by Christ Jesus.
Attempts to fill this void in my own life with womanizing and hard-partying were found wanting, woefully, and the more I tried to fill it with these and other worldly items, the emptier and more restless I became. As Saint Augustine reflected, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
But I promised you the meaning of life.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).
Jesus is the life. We are all perishing in the flesh. We all die. But we can all have Life eternal. We can have eternal Life, even in this life.
It’s a hard truth, but it’s not a complicated one. Whether you’re an atheist, a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist or whether you identify by some other man-made religion or non-religion, until you fill the God-shaped hole in your soul with Christ Jesus, you will find no rest.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6).
Except through Him.
Jesus is the meaning of life.