Category: The Meaning of Life


I just had an uncanny experience, relating to a book my son sent me. A few days ago I wrote down a little revelation I had: something of an epiphany…

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I recalled a book ( a very good book) written by Robert McGee, called “Search for Significance”. McGee’s thesis was that we all crave significance and search for it in different ways-money, power, sex, promotion, popularity, etc. We need, he said, to rather find our significance in Jesus Christ and his total acceptance of us. I agree with that.
However, my little revelation took McGee’s argument in a slightly different direction. I summarized my epiphany thus:
“It’s not significance I’m looking for, it’s LIFE. I want LIFE, vibrancy, exuberance, excitement. Perhaps people searching for significance are really seeking life”.
Daily I see many people with stern faces, living in small worlds, and seemingly having no hope in their lives. I’m sure you see them too.
The uncanny experience came this evening while reading a book called “Psycho Cybernetics”, by Maxwell Maltz. His following statement confirmed, as though sent from above, my own observation:
“Today, I am more convinced than ever that what each of us really wants, deep down, is more LIFE. Happiness, success, peace of mind, or whatever your own conception of supreme good may be, is experienced in its essence as-more life”. 
I don’t think it’s wrong to seek a meaningful, significant life in human, physical terms, so long as we have things in the right perspective, with God on top and our desires below. But I cannot fail to share the following, a quote from Jesus Christ. The words of Jesus refer not merely to excitement and such things as we can brighten up our daily mortal existence with: these things are temporary and limited. Instead he referred to the ultimate meaning and expression of life, which is Jesus Christ in us:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10 KJV).
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God doesn’t see things our way, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In fact, it seems sometimes to us that God has a huge, mean, dark side to his nature…

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Yet we read in the Book of books, the Bible, that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. So how do we reconcile the hard realities of life with what we read?

What we’ve discussed in this little series can be boiled down to the fact that God-and reality-is something other than what we are and what we expect him or even want him to be. God is in no way controllable, tamable, measurable or understandable.

We cannot get a grip on God. And if you think about it, that’s how a God should be. Why should we expect the creator of the universe to be understood or controlled by limited, finite, mortal man? Since this is the case, how do we deal with a God who is apparently unapproachable, who has standards far above what we are able to live out, and who transcends all of time and space? There’s only one answer: God has to provide the way himself, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

God is infinite and perfectly holy, and yet perfectly merciful. The perfect God didn’t create the world and mankind in order to provide himself people to pick on. In fact, when he created the world in its original perfect condition along with mankind, as only a perfect God can do, we’re told that:

“…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 2:31).

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What could a perfect God do when his created beings began to be imperfect and to rebel against him and to betray each other? He didn’t want to wipe out his own creation, so he provided for himself ways of  reaching out to weak, fallible mankind, and forgiving that imperfection and rebellion. Such provision is seen repeatedly throughout the Bible in many characters.

An early and clear example found in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses was chosen by God to deliver his people from slavery. But it wasn’t just physical deliverance from Egypt that God had in mind for Moses, it was deliverance for the people from his own perfect standards and from his wrath against those who would break them. God’s desire and in fact his natural, perfect compulsion was to punish and destroy those who were rebellious. But there were times when Moses stepped in:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you

But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people…?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people… And the Lord relented from the disaster… (Exodus 32:9-14).

God provided Moses to protect the Israelites from himself.

Many examples of people who stood between God’s wrath and man can be found in the Bible, but the greatest, and the most important one, is Jesus Christ. The gospel, or the “good news” about Jesus Christ is that he, being the only son of God, was sent by the Father to pay the price of our sin, rebellion and imperfection, which is God’s wrath:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all…(Isaiah 53:4-6).

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Remember the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he knew what was about to happen to him but surrendered to the will of the Father:

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless , not as I will, but as you will… (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath in our place when he was crucified and left to die. This was the Father’s, and the Son’s, ultimate expression of love and mercy to his creation:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him…he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins… (1 John 4:9-10).

Jesus Christ is our answer to God’s perfection and justice. Our escape from what we may perceive as “the dark side” of God is his own son Jesus Christ. But we have to accept that way of escape. There is no escape from the perfection of God without Jesus Christ:

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (John 5:23);

Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die… (John 11: 26).

 

 

 

 

What do you do when you’re down and troubled? Do you cuddle the dog? Do you put the TV on? Do you pop a pill or light a joint?

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We’ve probably all had someone tell us when we’re down that there are people worse off than us. That’s supposed to cheer us up. But as a 20th century British comedian, Peter Cook, observed, that just makes us feel bad about the other people as well.

One thing that’s helped me in recent times of feeling down is facing up to the fact that I’m feeling down. And with it I’ve also found comfort in the fact, after all, that others are suffering. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing to suffer, and I’m not saying that we should wallow in our trouble, or that we should not cuddle the dog or do something to “shake out of it”. But there’s a very real sense in which knowing that humanity is born into trouble and suffering, and that just being alive exposes us all to the consequences of being in a fallen world of nature and people…is half of the cure. It’s normal. It’s not an aberration to be down and troubled: it’s natural. It’s part of who we are. It’s life. It’s reality. It’s what humans do.

The other half of the cure (the subject of the third part of my “dark side” series, still to come) is stated clearly in this New Testament quote from Jesus Christ:

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NIV).

By facing up to the reality of our human plight, we can also find the answer to it, in Jesus Christ.

We suffer as does all life on earth. Neo-Darwinists put this down to evolution, and if that’s true then suffering, trouble and problems are natural and normal and we have nothing to complain about-we can just attempt to minimize them.

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Under evolution the strong and the beautiful should survive and procreate and the rest of us should bow out. However, if there’s a person we call God who created us, he either allows suffering, or he is unable to stop it, or he causes at least some of it himself…or there’s another explanation we don’t consider.

If we just ignore God by saying that he’s unknowable, as many people do, we will never come to an understanding of suffering. In complete contrast, the God of the Bible claims to have inspired a Book explaining much of what we suffer and why: you can take it or leave it. From my experience the Bible is trustworthy and stands up to reason and testing. More than that, if God is God, we are not. He is far above us in intellect, power and standards. We can’t ignore God indefinitely. We can’t go off and form our own universe: we’re totally at his mercy, and so we need to somehow understand our plight and come to terms with it.

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Does God have a dark side? Does the Creator who made this beautiful, amazing world, along with our incredible bodies, brains and minds, hate his creation and wish us all harm? I’m here to argue that the opposite is true.

Biblically speaking, the events and conditions which may appear to us to be the result of a pernicious, unreliable, inattentive and unpredictable God can be for the most part explained. Unfortunately most of us fail to look, or fail to accept what our God has told us. Consequently we have, for example, some people-Christians-believing that everything that goes wrong in life is the action of the devil who has free reign, while God goes around attempting to fix things, but only for those who can work up enough faith. This is wrong and un-Biblical.

Our creator has standards which we as humans have consistently broken from the very start. If we were perfect, there would be no problems whatsoever. So what can we do? Its impossible to be perfect, and those who think they are are just fooling themselves. It’s important here to consider that God gave man free will. This explains the choice of whether or not to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. God gave us the dignity of making our own choices, and he wanted us to love him by choice, rather than by creating a world of robots which are programmed to act a certain way.

You may ask, as we all do from time to time, why God doesn’t at least step in and patch up the problems. I think that sometimes he does, and that’s where prayer comes in. However, God has apparently decided to let nature-which he created after all-to run its course. The ultimate cure to suffering; the resolution; the fix, will come, but it’s still future.  Many of my brothers and sisters in the faith will complain to me that Jesus has already implemented the fix. With respect, look around you, look at the news, look in the hospitals.

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Here then is a partial list of the Bible’s explanations for suffering and trouble in the world.

  • The CURSE.  A perfect God would not allow imperfect man to live life his own way in disobedience. The choices and actions of man have brought a curse on a world which was once perfect. The curse affects our bodies, our minds, and all of nature. Nature is running down. It’s the reason we get sick and die, because God will not allow rebellious mankind to steal his world and live forever in it. Try to imagine some of the worst characters you’ve heard of living forever.
  • GOD’S JUDGMENT. God is patient with us, but eventually sends judgment and trouble upon a rebellious nation, city or individual.
  • TESTING. We’re all tested throughout life to assess and reveal the condition of our hearts.
  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR ACTIONS. We hurt others and they hurt us. Admit it-we’ve all done it, and we all know people who have hurt us. The prisons are full of the evidence of this (as is Washington!).
  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING GOD. By consistently rejecting him and his pattern for a happy healthy life, we’re not always protected by his providence or mercy. This applies to nations, cities and individuals. By going our own way persistently, we’re inviting trouble. It’s like driving a Ferrari over ploughed fields and rocks-eventually something is going to go wrong.
  • SATAN, a created angel, and the spirit beings who have sided with him are against us because they hate God and his creation.
  • DISCIPLINE. God disciplines those he loves in order to make us more like Him.
  • HUMBLING. Sometimes only suffering breaks our pride.
  • A WAKE UP CALL. Sometimes only suffering gets our attention. Our cleansing and refinement is more important than our comfort and ease.
  • MURPHY’S LAW/ Sod’s Law/ Fate/ Determinism/ Bad luck. (See my post on Murphy’s Law).

Here I’ve explained some of the reasons why we suffer and why God allows it, but I haven’t yet discussed the antidote. That will come next time. Thanks for reading.

All ye who are weak and squeamish… all ye who are already teetering on the edge of that great chasm of despair…all ye who cannot bear to see truth in all its gory frightening detail…be warned! Herein lies your very own darkest nightmare! Enter ye not without strength, fortitude and courage…!

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Greetings, fellow travelers in time and space! I established in my last post the sense that even if God doesn’t have a “dark side” to his nature, it certainly seems like he has. Just look at the trouble and suffering we see all around us. Look at all the wars and commotion in the Bible. And why, in Heaven’s name, does God admit in Scripture to even causing some of the suffering directly? It’s enough to provide an excuse for millions to ignore God or pretend God doesn’t exist, and for many more to turn away from the faith or be weakened. Surely an all-powerful, all-loving God would stop us from suffering, wouldn’t he?

This human tendency to blame God for everything which isn’t according to our own plans and schemes is starkly conveyed in the Bible book of Job. For those who don’t know, Job was a good man, and also very prosperous. Satan accused God of spoiling Job. Surely if Job’s life was tougher, he reasoned, Job would turn against God. Job, claimed Satan, was “only in it for the money”. God then allowed Satan to give Job a very bad time in many tangible ways. Job seemed to be totally unaware of Satan’s involvement in his afflictions and even of Satan’s existence. He put the blame for his dire circumstances squarely on God, and felt like God had turned on him and viciously attacked him without a good reason.

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Here I must declare that I’m not one of those who thinks that anytime something goes wrong it’s the devil causing the problem. Neither does the devil make us do wrong. There are many reasons why we suffer: I’ve written about some of them in my series “Why Do We Suffer”, and I’m convinced that most of our problems are not direct attacks from the truly “dark side” of the spirit world.

What I’ve never personally heard in any preaching or teaching on the story of Job is this question, or any answer to it: Why did God draw Satan’s attention to Job in the first place? Couldn’t God have just kept Satan’s attention away from Job? Or then, once Satan’s sick and dastardly ire was aroused, couldn’t God have just told Satan exactly where he could go, i.e. the Lake of Fire? But instead, God called Satan’s attention to Job-virtually inviting him to pick on the poor guy, and then gave Satan the go-ahead to seriously afflict Job and his entire family, to see what Job’s reaction would be.

I hate to say this, but we could probably spot many similar situations in the Bible. And such questions apply to our own lives and times, don’t they? They’re the same questions, essentially, as I outlined in the first paragraph.

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But this is dark stuff indeed! This is where many or most Christian ministers fear to tread, as do most believers. This, dear reader, is one of those matters we all refuse to even consider for a moment, because it’s just too horrible. It’s like Luke having to face Darth Vader while being trained by Yoda, or Rey having to face the truth about her parents and herself while being trained by Luke. Yes, we’re back to the Star Wars analogy!

How can we even imagine that a God who we are told is both “Love” and “Light” would allow or even encourage the most evil creature in the universe to put any of us to the test! It seems almost like we as humans are the subject of some enormous game, or in a freak show, or that we’re entertainment for our cosmic spiritual masters!

Ah, but before you believers give up on me and dismiss me as a snake in the grass, and accuse me of pouring discouragement upon you, I will here clearly state that I’m certain that “God is Love” and that “God is Light”. There is an ultimate resolution-an ultimate and entirely good “balance” to all things. Here we are considering the great paradox-the problem and the question all humans at one time or another wrestle with: God loves his world and his creation, yet also allows the dark side of our existence to take its course.

There is a way through (but not around) the dark side of our universe, and there will be a time when Light and light alone will prevail. There is an answer to our problems, and no, God is not both light and darkness. However, I’m sorry to say that the resolution will not be discussed today! Come back for part three!

 

 

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