Why were you born? We all hope that our lives have meaning, though most are still searching for the purpose of life. What does God intend for us?
Many of us keep ourselves so busy between work, chores and our leisure activities that there’s really little time to think deep thoughts about the meaning of life.
But occasionally, somewhere in the back of our minds, we have a nagging feeling that there must be something more. There must be a purpose for our lives—something we were meant to be or accomplish.
Thoughts like these can come to our minds at those emotionally charged transition periods of our life: when we leave home, get our first job, get married, have children, have an empty nest or retire.
Even more, questions about the purpose of life come when we lose a loved one or friend. Being reminded of our own mortality can lead us to analyze our lives and seek deeper meaning to it all.
It’s the most important philosophical question; yet at the same time, it is deeply practical. Knowing our purpose gives direction to our lives. A life full of purpose is a life of vitality, excitement and ultimately success.
So what is the purpose of life—of your life?
Seeking the meaning of life: a grand experiment
Is the purpose of life to pursue happiness—through comedy, music and other entertainment? Through mood-altering substances? Through enjoying fine food and other perks of the rich and famous?
Or what about through great building projects or other great accomplishments that will make a mark on this world and be remembered for years to come?
Many have attempted these and similar pursuits in their attempt to find true purpose in life. One wealthy man in particular experimented with all these things and more, and still came to a disconcerting conclusion:
“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).
God had given King Solomon great wealth and great wisdom. His experiments in seeking purpose in life were not half-hearted! And he did find some satisfaction in the things he tried. But he, like the rest of us in quiet moments of reflection, still wondered, Is this all there is? Are these physical and temporary things really why I was born? It is all so fleeting and temporary—like trying to catch the wind.
If all the money in the world can’t buy a meaningful life or give us its purpose, what can deprivation teach us?
The purpose of life: a view from the depths
Viktor E. Frankl experienced the depths of human misery in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Soon after the war, he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning and described the degrading and dehumanizing conditions prisoners experienced.
Even during a frozen predawn march punctuated with blows from rifle butts, his mind searched for meaning through vivid thoughts about his wife:
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment” (pp. 56–57).
What a beautiful, yet tragic, thought. Viktor Frankl’s wife died in the camps, and he never had the chance to see her again.
Love and family
Dr. Frankl and the poets were on to something. Love and family are essential elements of the true purpose of life. But there’s so much more to it than Dr. Frankl experienced in those fleeting moments of bliss. In fact, there’s much more to life’s purpose than any human being, in the very best of circumstances, has experienced yet during this short lifetime.
All of us, whether in a concentration camp, a beautiful chateau or a cancer ward, face a mortal enemy that robs us of life and purpose. That enemy is death. (Why does God allow that enemy? Why does God allow us to die? See “Why Do We Die?”)
God’s essential characteristic is love. He created us and gives us purpose in life because He loves us. And He wants us to learn the eternal joys of this complete and perfect love!
But the purpose God has for our lives goes beyond our physical bodies and our temporary lives. God offers human beings the chance to prepare now to have a purposeful, meaningful life—forever! God has put “eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He didn’t create us to burn like a candle for just a short time, but—if we will accept the incredible mission and purpose He has for us—to shine “like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3)!
God’s essential characteristic is love (1 John 4:8). He created us and gives us purpose in life because He loves us. And He wants us to learn the eternal joys of this complete and perfect love!
And as we explore the Bible, just when we think it can’t get any better, it does! Not only does God want to love us and to love us forever—He wants us to become His children! Not just servants, and not even just friends of God—but His literal children!
Children of God
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call His faithful followers “brethren,” and His plan and our purpose include helping bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10-11).
God is expanding His family, and the purpose of life is to become part of that family! He wants us to be His children and heirs forever, helping Him in His work.
Inspired by the purpose of life
Some have derided Christians for being so heavenly-minded that they were no earthly good. But true Christianity and true understanding of the purpose of life is very practical and beneficial for this life.
The Bible teaches that this life is preparation for eternity. We are to learn to treat others as we want to be treated—for eternity! We fulfill our responsibilities and grow in the godly, righteous character that will allow us to be like our Father—forever!
We are in training now for an incredible inheritance beyond our comprehension. The things we suffer now prepare us for that purpose. Tests and trials are all part of that training process to help us be ready to live and reign with Christ for a thousand years—and beyond (Revelation 20:4)!
Looking back, we will consider, as the apostle Paul said, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Explore in your own Bible this amazing purpose of your life! We hope this website will help you understand and act on the purpose God has for you.
You can learn more by reading the other articles in this section “What Is the Meaning of Life.”