|Finding Purpose in a Depressing World|
We all deep-down have questions about life such as:
Different people seek to answer those questions in different ways.
God has answers to each of those questions for us, but the problem is that so many people out there (including many spiritual leaders) have misrepresented God to such a degree that it makes people untrusting of God and the Bible.
There is a God. He loves you. He is NOT mad at you. And He wants you to live a full and abundant life doing things that He has planned for you to do, and for you to be with Him forever. This is the message of the Bible, but that message has gotten perverted by many (including some pastors and churches) to instead make God all about a list of rules, and that if you step outside of His rules, He will pour out His wrath on you. Even if you think you've heard some of what the Bible has to say before, would you give me a few minutes to address this?
In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), we discover that there is a God and that He created the world. The first line is "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1). This first sentence alone forces people to make a choice; it divides all of humanity into 2 camps: those who are willing to believe that there is a Being greater than them that created this world and those that are not.
People that believe what the Bible says, believe that there is a loving God that made this Universe with perfect design and order. They look at the world with all of its intricacies and detail and order and realize that a being greater than them MUST have been involved. They realize that all of creation, even their own bodies - down to the lines on their hands - testify of a being greater than them. They realize that all of the animals doing what they do, the plants doing what they do - all of creation - screams out "There is a God!" They look at the order and design of things (just think of a spider's web for instance!) and realize something had to order all of that.
People that do not believe what the Bible says are forced to explain things outside of God and try to come up with their own "theories" on how an ordered Universe could come out of nothingness or disorder. Even though everything in our world showcases things going from order -> disorder (a result of sin which we'll get to in a moment), they are forced to explain that instead disorder -> order. Thus they come up with thoughts such as a "big bang" where out of nothing something appeared after millions and millions of years and then over more millions grew and "evolved" and developed legs and over more millions of years, eyes, and so forth - eventually evolving to the point of "man".
Honestly it takes MUCH more faith in my opinion to believe that everything came from nothing with no God behind it, then to believe in simplicity the Bible's first verse (Genesis 1:1) that there is a Being greater than me that made everything with purpose and design. And, actually, in a sense the Bible does support a notion of a "big bang" - that God SPOKE, and then BANG - It Was! But that's different from the theories floating around out there that completely leave God out of the picture. Either there's a God and He was involved in creation, or not. We all have to choose. If the Bible really is truth and is a book from God to humanity and we're willing to believe what it says in its first sentence, then we need to take the rest of it just as seriously.
Continuing on in the Biblical account, we discover that originally the earth was created and humans were made to live in perfect fellowship with God. We discover that everything God created was declared to be "very good", including those first two humans. But God gave those two humans "choice" so they could choose to love and obey God or not. Had God not done this, we would be nothing more than mindless robots - but God wanted us to freely choose Him and want Him. God put the humans over all the creation and allowed them to freely eat of anything, except 1 tree that He told them they would die from if they ate of it (Genesis 2:16-17). That tree had to be there for there to truly be a "choice". The choice was even more real because the devil (an evil fallen angel) was allowed to tempt them. Those first humans chose to disobey God and instead listen to the lies of the devil, who convinced Eve (the first woman) that God had lied to them and was withholding good from them.
In doing this, they basically chose to disobey God and reject Him. This was sin and their disobedience brought sin into this world. The previously unbroken fellowship between God and mankind changed. A gap now existed between a holy, righteous God and sinful humans who rejected God and His ways. The result of that was that death entered the world. Shortly thereafter we read of the first recorded death where one of Adam & Eve's (the first 2 humans) sons kills their other son (Genesis 4:8). The horribleness of death and of pain became realized in a very tangible way.
There was originally no sickness or death or pain. Adam & Eve lived in perfect fellowship and communion with God - they had fullness of life - abundance of life. But, when they disobeyed God and sin was introduced, this whole world - including all subsequent humans - have been under a horrific curse, which can still be seen all around us today. Death, hurt, pain, disease, sickness - all a result of sin. It was never God's plan for us.
We've all felt and seen the effects of it. If you've watched a loved one die as their body wastes away (I have), suffered or know someone who has suffered childhood abuse (I have), or witnessed or experienced any of the other myriad horrible things that exist in this world (I have), then you've seen the effects of sin in the most brutal, ugliest way.
We try to hide it, put on a “happy face” and pretend all is well, but the reality is that it is HORRIBLE. Death is HORRIBLE! Cancer is HORRIBLE! Sicknesses and diseases of all sorts are HORRIBLE! Starvation, loneliness, lies, hatred, fear, torture, murder, terrorism, pain that cuts so deep - it's all HORRIBLE!
It's so BAD that most people spend much of their lives trying to live in pretend worlds where they can escape the reality of life, even if for just a little while. Because if we are really honest with ourselves we have to conclude that this world is really depressing!
All of us from the moment we are born are moving towards physical death. Whether we like it or not, death is physically at work in our bodies. Sickness and disease are merely the natural byproduct of this death process. In other words, sickness and disease are the natural byproduct of Adam & Eve's disobedience. God never intended us to be sick and He never intended for us to die. He never intended for people to kill or hurt other people. Yet, here we are today, and we can look around now and see lots of people sick and dying and in pain. Who's to blame? Did God cause all this sickness and death and hurt that we see? Or did us humans cause it after listening to the devil? (Hint: this last one is the answer). It can all ultimately get traced back to Adam & Eve choosing to listen to the devil over God back in the Garden of Eden. God made this world perfectly, but we humans mucked it up by choosing to sin against God. He gave us choice to choose to love and obey Him or to disobey Him (sin) and we chose the sin. And sin has been in the world ever since. If we're honest, each of us knows that since we were born, we've sinned more times than we can count.
We all can ultimately trace our heritage back to Adam & Eve. They as the first two humans set the course for the rest of us and we all have their seed in us. Their sin not only opened the door to sickness and death to occur to us down the road, but it introduced those concepts into our very being - into the DNA of our being and our world, creating mutations. This is why some babies are born with diseases. The thought of an “innocent” baby being born with a disease causes many to question the goodness of God, and I get that. However, it was not God that caused it, but humanity. I'm not saying that is a particularly satisfying answer for our emotions, but it is the truth. That fact also causes people to question why what Adam & Eve did should even be affecting us at all - because after all, we are so sure we wouldn't have disobeyed like they did!
Adam & Eve's spirit connection with God is what kept them in a state of perfect Life and health because those things spring from God. When they disobeyed and they lost that, the natural result of that showed forth in their bodies, which then naturally affected their offspring since their offspring was a product of biological processes in their bodies. In order to keep their offspring (and eventually you and I many generations later) free from these newly introduced effects, God would have had to nullify the results of their choice. God takes the whole choice thing that He gave humanity so seriously that He wouldn't do that. We can gripe about it all we want, but like it or not, Adam & Eve are humanity's parents and they did make a choice that has affected all of us. The good news is that though it can seem like a raw deal that through their sin we all are affected, God also has provided an answer to our major predicament, and in similar fashion His answer came to us through One, but is available for all.
God could have just ignored Adam & Eve's sin or just started over, but then our choices would be of no importance and thus we could not have any choice in whether we loved God and wanted to be with Him. God could also have just punished us forever with no hope. And yet, God's heart was to restore the broken fellowship. He wanted us to be with him forever.
Because God who is holy and pure also is a just and fair God, there had to be an act to satisfy God's justice. And yet, we could not satisfy it. God spent a long time from the time of those first humans until the time of Jesus, showing us that we as humans would never be good enough and could never do enough to cover our sins. We couldn't even keep 10 simple commandments from Him! Much of the Old Testament of the Bible showcases this very clearly and shows us our inability to save ourselves and proves to us that we NEED a Savior.
God loves each person on this planet. So, in His love, He Himself satisfied His justice by sacrificing Himself on our behalf. Jesus, who is referred to as "God's son", but is also one of the 3 parts that makes up who God is (yes, there is a mystery in this), caused Himself to enter our world to fulfill His divinely orchestrated plan to save us.
Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life on this earth, was put to death by sinful humans on a cross. He then rose from the dead. Jesus Himself, speaking of His life, said "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." (John 10:18). Jesus proved He was God by rising from the dead, because only the One who made the universe and had total authority over life and death itself could do it! He showed Himself to many after He was raised and history records that many of those people eventually ended up being put to death themselves for their faith and unwavering assertion of what had transpired.
It could not have been us dying on the cross because even if my death could satisfy God's justice, at best it could only satisfy His justice in regards to me because as a sinful human, I certainly could not atone for everyone else's sin. Only God Himself, perfect in every way, could atone for all mankind. Jesus, God's Son, came and paid the penalty for not just our own personal sins here and now, but for the sins of humanity - going back to that first sin in the Garden. In other words, Jesus paid for all sin, for all time.
Now just because Jesus did this, it doesn't mean that every person accepts this gift and makes it applicable to them. We may not have had a say as to whether we were born into this sinful world, but we do still get to make a choice. God never took back the gift of choice He gave humanity. Just as Adam & Eve had a choice to look to God and believe Him or not, we still get to make that same choice. We still get to choose whether we will look to God and believe Him or not. Jesus' sacrifice for humanity was a global human act and yet, it is very personal in application. If we do not WANT Jesus to pay for our sin, God will not force it.
This whole choice thing is actually the reason why our earth even still exists right now in a sinful state. Had God removed our choice, then when Jesus paid for sin, it would have applied for all irrespective of what they wanted and all would be “saved” and God could just usher in a new earth unaffected by sin right now (as will happen later per Revelation 21:1). The whole reason why our earth is actually still as it is right now and we all are still here in it is precisely BECAUSE we have choice. In 2 Peter 3, Peter addresses this and explains what the “holdup” is - we are told that God is patient (longsuffering) toward us and that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9b KJV). The fact that we are even still here right now living in this sinful earth is the greatest proof against the false doctrine of universalism (which says that our choice for Jesus really doesn't enter into the equation). It all comes back to choice. God wants as many with Him for all eternity as possible. If He stepped in and just righted everything now, then with it goes the hope of any additional men and women being saved.
Jesus alone is the bridge that closes the gap between sinful man in rebellion to God and a holy, just, righteous God who loves everyone and wants ALL to come to full repentance. Jesus Himself stated, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6b). The choice to believe that, or not believe that, is ours.
The reality is that God loves you and me deeply. When you read through the Bible, you don't get a picture of a harsh, angry God that's just out to "get us" or "hurt us". No, you see a God that created us and loves us and is for us. What you do read though time after time is that people (starting with Adam & Eve) continually rejected God and His love for them. You see a picture of a brokenhearted Father that is grieved over what has happened to His kids. The whole Bible records story after story of people disobeying God and doing terrible wrong. Sometimes because of this disobedience, God just plain had enough and there would be punishment, usually after we see Him being extremely patient for a very long time - extending mercy and grace time after time after time. But the picture is never portrayed of a God that isn't love or good or want what's best for us. The picture that's portrayed is that people started running from God in the Garden of Eden and they've been running from Him ever since.
The Bible tells us that the devil is a liar (Jn 8:44), deceiver (Rev. 20:10), murderer (Jn 8:44), oppressor (Acts 10:38), destroyer (Jn 10:10), thief (Lk 8:12), devourer (1 Peter 5:8), and sinner (1 John 3:8).
God on the other hand is portrayed from start to finish in the Bible as the one that created us and loves us and is for us. We are told that God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6b KJV). We are told in 1 John 4:16 that God not only loves us, but that “God is love.” If you remember from your math schooling, “is” equates to “equals.” In other words, the mathematical equation is God = Love. Have you ever paused to really think of the ramifications of that? That means that the very essence of God is love. That also means that the definition of love is God. We think we know what love is based on human love that we see, but actually our human love is but a reflection of God's love - and often a very poor reflection at that. Even though many don't realize it, because God is love, any genuine love that we may experience in some way can be traced back to God. If we could really grasp this 'love' component of God's very nature, we might finally dispense with this notion of a distant God that is always angry or out to get us. Our God is love. And love is for us, not against us.
Many people get God and the devil mixed up. God is good. The devil is bad. Do not confuse the two.
Just as the devil did with Adam & Eve, he still whispers his lies today and tries to tell us that God isn't good or is holding out on us or can't be trusted or doesn't really care about us or any number of other things.
Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.“ (John 10:10).
Jesus also told us: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil." (John 3:16-19).
God sent Jesus to bring us life and restore us to fellowship with Himself. God, in His love for us, provided an answer for the terrible predicament that we see when we look around at ourselves and our world that's full of such darkness. And yet, Jesus Himself declared that some people won't come to Him and want Him to be their Savior because they actually love the darkness rather than the light. The truth is that there are a lot of people in our world that are in this boat - they prefer the darkness. Notice that Jesus says about them that they are "condemned already". God has never sent a single person to hell. He didn't even intend for hell to be for people (the Bible tells us it was created for the devil). However, to use an analogy: If a person already has a disease and yet refuses the remedy that's offered to them, who's fault is it if they die? Certainly not the one that extended the remedy. In like manner, we all are already born into a diseased state of sin and darkness. We are ALL infected. And we all need the remedy that's offered to us. But if a person refuses to take it and ends up in hell, there's only one person to be blamed and that's the person themselves, not God. There is not one person who will ever be in hell that God has not deeply loved and wanted with Him. But people have choice and some have chosen (and do choose) to reject Him. And it breaks God's heart.
But for those that will come to Jesus, the One who loves them deeply, and receive the gift He has provided for them, they can be restored to right fellowship with God and live an abundant life here (while still recognizing that we still dwell in a sinful and dark world that can affect us) and ultimately will have fullness of life with God forever. They will find the true meaning to their lives that they've been searching for.
We all, deep-down, want to genuinely feel loved and wanted. We want to feel that we truly belong, that we are safe and secure, and that all is right. This deep inner need goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, most people attempt to meet that need outside of the ONLY One that can truly fulfill that need. Most people don't find their identity in God, but in all sorts of other things. Men and women to this day run to all sorts of things to try to satiate their soul's cry for fulfillment - a cry that ultimately was started back when Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and fellowship with God was broken by their sin.
Most of the problems that we get ourselves into are a direct result of trying to find this core-level fulfillment in everything but the one thing where it is found. We try to find it in relationships with other people, and then when they let us down (as they must, for they are every bit as broken as we are), things go downhill fast. We try to find it in fame and success, only to discover - perhaps years later - that this never satisfied our soul's deep-down cry. How many stories of famous and wealthy people that are revered to the world, yet are clearly lonely and unfulfilled (which sometimes manifests in very public “train wrecks”) do we need to see?
We try to find it in just “living it up” (which is really “living it down”). There's the whole party lifestyle of drinking and drugs. It's pretty much expected in our culture that people get drunk on a regular basis (i.e. Friday night). And for those that aren't getting drunk on alcohol, we've got a great alternative - you can escape reality through mind-altering drugs. While it used to be relegated to a specific segment of society, it has become increasingly “cool” for the masses to use drugs such as marijuana - and even in some circles, “harder” drugs such as crack cocaine.
We try to find it in pleasure and sexual activity. Sexual behavior itself is often what people are looking to and attaching their identity to in order to try to find fulfilmment and dull the deep-down gnawing they sense within.
We try to find it in our jobs or sports or social media or video games or technology.
The list of things we will run to in order to try to feel fulfilled and find meaning and peace is endless really. Oh some of those things can offer a temporary distraction from the inner-gnawing of something being wrong, but they can't actually fix the problem. There's only one place that need is really met and that is in Jesus. When we deal with the root problem of our lack of peace with God due to sin, we will find everything else falling into place. Life does not really "work" until we deal with this root issue.
Many try to deal with our problem by turning to various religions. Even though Jesus stated that He was the ONLY way (John 14:6), there are lots of religions in the world that men have come up with to try to come to God "another way". They can't all be right. People love to believe that all religions lead to being right with God - "you believe what you want to believe, I'll believe what I want to believe, and all is fine." Strictly speaking from just a logic perspective here: All religions can be wrong, but they can't all be right. Because most CLAIM to be the right and only way. When Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6b), He either was telling the truth or He wasn't. Using purely logic: All religions could be wrong, but they can't all be right. Somebody is right and the rest are wrong.
All man-made religions in one way or another are based in what you can DO to get right with God. If you do enough works, if you do enough good, if you do this and do that, then God HAS to accept you. They appeal to us in our pride because we like the idea that WE can make it to heaven ourselves without any help or as some religions teach that we can become our own god. This is in stark contrast to Christianity which is not about what we can do, but about what God has DONE for us. Christians don't do good because we're trying to get to heaven - we do good out of our gratitude towards God because of what He's already done for us. Christianity is really all about having a personal, close relationship with the God that made us and loves us. It's all about relationship, not about trying to appease an angry God. Jesus has ALREADY appeased God. And if we simply choose to believe in Jesus and receive the gift He's provided for us, God sees us as being in Jesus and actually sees us as righteous! The Bible tells us in 2 Cointhians that "For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV, bracketed text added for clarity). This is the real good news of the Bible!
We must make a conscious choice to believe in Jesus and find our rightstanding with God through Jesus rather than banking on our own righteousness and arrogantly approaching God in our pride thinking that He has to accept us. In ourselves, we have sinned and broken God's standards, and there is not a single person that can stand before God on their own merits. This is why we all need Jesus. Neither your sin or your "relative goodness" as compared to other people is the deciding factor. You might be better or worse than some other human beings in regards to the things you've done, but compared to God we ALL fall short and we ALL need Jesus.
Friend, God does love you very much. God is FOR you, not against you. He wants a relationship with you and He has provided the way for that. If you want to finally stop running here and there and everywhere, and if you want real peace in your life, and if you want to really know your purpose in life and to fulfill all that you are here to fulfill, it starts with turning to Jesus.
The starting point is as simple as praying a prayer like this one, in faith. It isn't about the prayer but about the faith in your heart.
"Lord Jesus, I admit and confess that I am a sinner. I have done bad things and have hurt myself and others. I have been living for wrong reasons and bought the lie that I would be happy if I only had enough of what the world has to offer. I now realize that the world cannot satisfy me because it can't address my deep spiritual need of having peace with God. I repent and turn from my sin, and I believe Jesus that You came into this world and lived a perfect life to die for me and pay the penalty for my sin. I thank you for that and I receive your free gift of righteousness and eternal life. Please forgive me of my sin and come into my life today. Fill me with your peace and joy and love and help me to live rightly. Give me vision for my future and what You would have me do. Amen."
If you've prayed this prayer sincerely from a heart of faith, the Bible says that you are now "born again" - meaning that you have passed from death to life. We're all born physically but are dead in our spirit. To be "born again" means that you literally become a new creation where your spirit becomes alive and fellowship with God is restored. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a says "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself..."
God Himself actually comes to reside in you by His Spirit as a part of that fellowship restoration. He will help you to live an abundant life where you can obey God and live rightly and live a life where sin does not dominate you. It can be a process in working those things out (after all, we've all had lots of practice living wrongly) but He will work with you.
The Bible also tells you "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10). Through your faith in Jesus - God's gracious gift to you - you have been saved, and God has "good works" planned out special for you - plans and purposes for your life that He wants you to fulfill.
The next step is to seek out a local Christian church in your area that teaches the Bible and believes that all of it is the true Word of God. Tell them that you have just given your heart and life to Jesus and you would like their help to go forward. They will be glad to assist you. Also, I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me and let me know of your decision as well so that I might pray for you! You can contact me here: http://www.laughandlift.com/contact.html
With love to you in Christ Jesus,
This is version 1.2 of this document (May 13, 2017).
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