Everyone wants their life to be meaningful- to think their existence matters. Another way of putting it is everyone hopes to avoid nothingness. We have likely all had a day or two where we question ourselves, wondering if what we do is meaningful. Do our lives matter? Are the things we do, day in and day out worthwhile? I sometimes wonder, if I died today, would anything I have done last? Or in other words, does my significance in this world end with my death? Maybe we don’t all think about that cognitively, but I believe we all have that question burning deep down inside of us.
Part of the problem we experience in answering the question of “does my life have significance,” (and likely part of what gives rise to the question in the first place) is that we are met with moments when the very things that we think are filling our lives with meaning are revealed as empty. I can remember things that I have greatly desired, (and not just things like cars, bikes, houses, but abilities, talents and skills,) that in the end, turned out empty and void. However, I have also discovered there are times that these same things bring about something of greater significance- something lasting and impactful. But why, what is the difference?
I have discovered that these things are empty and void if I expect meaningfulness to come as a nothing more than a result of my possessing of them. If my pursuit of meaningfulness is in having these things and the status they bring me- if my using hem is simply a display of my having them, if the things are ultimately about me, the result will be meaninglessness. Actually, it is only natural that, if the meaning of my existence is to draw attention to me, that my meaningfulness would end with my death- there is no longer a “me” to draw attention to. What we must learn is that meaningfulness is not found in the status of having of anything, but in the giving of everything- even your life! This is what Jesus is on about when he says, “For whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Mt 16:25)
Concerning abilities, gifts or talents, meaningfulness abounds only if they are about serving others in love. In the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians- “If, I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:2-3)
If our attempts to avoid nothingness are driven by the glory of “me,” the significance of my existence will be limited to my presence. But, if it is about loving others, the significance will be eternal.