Jack Higgins is a famous spy-thriller author who has written 60 novels. His most famous work is The Eagle Has Landed, which sold over 50 million copies. After all of his success, he was asked, “What do you wish that you’d known as a boy that you know now?” Jack Higgins didn’t take long to answer. He said, “When you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”
There are similar stories for high profile people. Tennis star Boris Becker was at the very top of the tennis world—yet he was on the brink of suicide. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed…It’s the old song of movie stars and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.”
Dr Hugh Moorhead, a professor of philosophy at Northeastern Illinois University, once wrote to 250 of the best known writers, philosophers, scientists, and intellectuals in the world, asking them, What is the meaning of life? He then published their responses in a book. Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose for life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless. In fact, a number of famous intellectuals asked Professor Moorhead to write back and tell them if he discovered the purpose of life!
So what is the meaning if life? Someone said, The meaning of life is to live it. Could it be that simple? I don’t think so. It’s a huge topic.
Your life is worth more than you ever imagined! You have a very specific purpose in the universe. The problem is discovering that purpose. It goes against the social programming you and I have experienced since childhood. We have been programmed to believe that the ultimate purpose in life is the pursuit of happiness. I’m not saying that happiness is bad. We all want to be happy. Happiness is a gift from God.
Is Happiness the Only Purpose in Life?
But something happens to us when we believe that happiness is the only purpose in life. One result is that when we face job issues, health problems, conflicts in relationships, or when we watch the latest news story about terrorism, the fleeting feelings of happiness dissolve and we mentally and emotionally break down. Albert Einstein said, “A life directed chiefly towards the fulfilment of personal desires will sooner or later always lead to bitter disappointment” (Letter to T. Lee, Jan. 16, 1954).
What happens when the bubble of happiness is burst by your boyfriend dumping you? Or what happens when you lose your job? Or you find out your best friend has cancer? These kinds of difficult experiences are out of our control. The happiness bubble is broken, and what’s left is stress, grief and sadness. But living a life with your ultimate purpose in mind gives you a chance to live beyond your own limitations—to love, sacrifice and give to others. Finding a life of meaning, of purpose, is the secret to dealing with the stress and anxiety and hopelessness that can engulf our everyday lives.
The wisest man who ever lived said, “Meaningless! Everything is meaningless! Everything is completely meaningless! Nothing has any meaning.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). That was King Solomon as recorded in the Old Testament. He was a remarkable man. He had everything life had to offer. He was well educated and a very smart man. Surely he had the greatest job in the world. He was the king of a great nation with great wealth and great wisdom. People came from all over the world to meet and talk with him. His work must have given him great purpose to his life—surely.
And yet he said ‘everything has no meaning’. Why did he say that? Next to Jesus, Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, was a master of innumerable subjects, and wrote 3000 proverbs, 1005 songs, and three books of the Bible. His power was unparalleled as he reigned as king over Israel for roughly 40 years during a season of peace and prosperity, in which leaders from all over the earth visited his kingdom to inquire of him. He also oversaw the construction of God’s temple and his own palace that took 7 and 13 years respectively. His complicated family life included his 700 wives and 300 concubines—he could have literally eaten three meals a day, each with a different wife or concubine, for roughly an entire year.
As an old man, bored and burned out at the end of his life, he looked back on his remarkable life with a sense of despair. And yet he came to an astounding conclusion. He wrote, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 – ESV).
Don’t wait to get to the end of your life’s pursuit only to discover you’ve been climbing the wrong mountain! The meaning and significance we seek won’t be found at the top of personal accomplishments. To be satisfied with what we find at the top, we must follow the path God has called us to along the way. We must find his path up the hill by serving his purposes during our ascent.
Don’t make the mistake many have made. Allow God to be your purpose and love him, and he will never let you down.