Life with a Satisfying Purpose
“WHAT a fool I was.” Reportedly, a former officer of the imperial Japanese Army expressed that sentiment after thirty years of hiding in a Philippine jungle. He had been ordered to stay on Lubang Island when the Japanese withdrew toward the close of World War II, and says that he thought of ‘nothing but accomplishing his duty.’ Persons who spoke with him after his return to Japan early in 1974 said he apparently felt that spending three decades in the jungle had been a waste of life.
This experience is unusual. Not so extraordinary, however, is the frustration felt by many persons because their life appears to have little or no purpose. Their struggle for survival is interspersed by only brief periods of enjoyment.
God’s Word, the Bible, takes note of this very situation, saying: “What does a man come to have for all his hard work and for the striving of his heart with which he is working hard under the sun? For all his days his occupation means pains and vexation, also during the night his heart just does not lie down. This too is mere vanity.”—Eccl. 2:22, 23.
People need to feel that they have a real purpose in life, for that results in satisfaction. Likely, the desire for a purposeful, satisfying life moves many to select careers involving service to their fellowman. Yet, even seemingly successful persons often find life unsatisfying. In fact, some apparently have viewed it as an intolerable burden. For instance, consider a very prosperous American manufacturer whose estimated philanthropies exceeded $100,000,000. Surely, one might conclude that this man would have a sense of accomplishment that would make him satisfied with life. However, he committed suicide after leaving a statement saying he was ill and tired of life. Another example is that of a British actor who died by his own hand. Why did he take his life? “Because I am bored,” he said.
What Is Missing?
If one is to have a happy life with a satisfying purpose, God cannot be left out of the picture. Humankind was created with an urge to worship God. Significantly, Ivar Lissner wrote in the book Man, God and Magic: “One can only marvel at the perseverance with which man has striven, throughout his history, to reach outside himself. His energies were never directed solely toward the necessities of life. He was forever questing, groping his way further, aspiring to the unattainable. This strange and inherent urge in the human being is his spirituality. It is constantly leading him on toward a goal which is just beyond his reach. And that goal is God.”
Originally, mankind rendered acceptable worship to Jehovah and had a close relationship with him. Through human sin, though, this status was lost. (Gen. 3:1-7; Rom. 5:12) Ever since then humans have been groping for God. Thus the Christian apostle Paul declared: “The God that made the world and all the things in it. . . made out of one man every nation of men, . . . and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of men, for them to seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24-27) Like others, those who “really find” Jehovah God by becoming his dedicated worshipers must cope with problems common to humanity. Nevertheless, they enjoy life with a satisfying purpose.
By way of illustration, consider this account from Lebanon:
“I was formerly a well-known singer and actress. I had fame and honor and wealth. But in spite of these things I was not happy. I hated the atmosphere in which I lived and many times thought of taking my own life.
“In 1969 my sister became one of Jehovah’s witnesses and hastened to tell me the good news. . . . When my sister spoke to me about the truth [of God’s Word], I was overjoyed and took it in like a hungry person who had found food.
“This annoyed my family greatly because they stood to lose much materially if I stopped singing and acting. In fact, I did soon leave my career as an actress and singer and moved from my extravagant house to a reasonable one. I got rid of my expensive, inappropriate dresses and replaced them with modest dress, and was baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah. My family tried in many ways to get me to go back to acting, but I was through with all of that. All of this caused quite a stir among my former acquaintances and there was considerable comment in movie magazines and on television, which only served for a witness.
“Today I am happily married to a man who is zealous in his love for Jehovah and serves as an overseer in the congregation of God’s people. Now my life is a happy one.”
Life’s very meaning puzzled a man in Switzerland, who states:
“Several years ago when I was especially dissatisfied with world events, I often pondered on the meaning of life. . . .
“The books on philosophy that I read left me empty, as I had to admit they were only human thinking after all. I came to the logical conclusion that there must be a God, and so one evening, in my desperation, I opened my heart in prayer to him in this sense: ‘Dear God, please lead me to the right way, to the way that leads to you. Hold my hand fast in yours and do not let me go astray.’
“This I prayed most sincerely for several evenings, and shortly thereafter it happened that an elderly married couple of Jehovah’s witnesses spoke to me in town. I had the feeling that they understood me and slowly a warm friendship developed which led to a home Bible study . . .
“Often I think of the wonderful way in which Jehovah heard my prayer and led me to him.” And now this man and his wife are using their lives to aid others to know the Creator and his loving purpose for mankind.
The Holy Scriptures assure us that to the man good before God, Jehovah gives “wisdom and knowledge and rejoicing.” (Eccl. 2:26) This has been experienced by hundreds of thousands who now worship God “with spirit and truth.” They have a satisfying purpose in life—doing the divine will and preaching the good news of God’s kingdom to their fellowman. (John 4:24; Matt. 24:14) Persons who acquire and act upon God-given wisdom and knowledge from the Scriptures do not feel that their life is being wasted. Nor do they become bored with life or tired of it. Instead, theirs is a truly happy life with a satisfying purpose.