How Your Life Can Have Greater Meaning
AN ANCIENT proverb says: “Do not toil to gain riches. Cease from your own understanding. Have you caused your eyes to glance at it, when it is nothing? For without fail it makes wings for itself like those of an eagle and flies away toward the heavens.” (Proverbs 23:4, 5) In other words, it is not wise to wear ourselves out trying to become rich, for wealth can fly away as on an eagle’s wings.
As the Bible shows, material wealth can disappear quickly. It may vanish overnight because of a natural disaster, an economic slump, or other unforeseen occurrences. Moreover, even those who achieve material success are often disillusioned. Consider the case of John, whose work involved entertaining politicians, sports figures, and royalty.
John states: “I gave my job everything I had. I prospered financially, stayed in luxury hotels, and sometimes I even went to work by private jet. At first I enjoyed it, but gradually I became bored. The people I catered to seemed superficial. There was no substance to my life.”
As John discovered, a life devoid of spiritual values is unsatisfying. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ showed how to experience lasting happiness. He said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:3) Clearly, then, it is wise to put spiritual matters first in life. However, other factors can also help to give life greater meaning.
Your Family and Friends Really Matter
Would you enjoy life if you had no contact with your family and had no close friends? Obviously not. Our Creator made us with a need to love and be loved. That is one reason why Jesus highlighted the importance of ‘loving our neighbor as ourselves.’ (Matthew 22:39) The family is a divine gift that provides an ideal setting for displaying unselfish love.—Ephesians 3:14, 15.
How can our family give our life greater meaning? Well, a united family might be compared to a beautiful garden that provides a refreshing refuge from the stress of everyday life. Similarly, within the family, we can find refreshing companionship and warmth that banish feelings of loneliness. Of course, a family does not automatically provide such a haven. As we strengthen family bonds, however, we grow closer to one another, and life becomes richer. For instance, the time and attention we give to showing love and respect for our marriage mate are daily investments that may ultimately yield rich dividends.—Ephesians 5:33.
If we have children, we should strive to provide the right environment in which to bring them up. Spending time with them, keeping open the lines of communication, and giving them spiritual instruction may be demanding. But such time and effort can bring us great satisfaction. Successful parents view children as a blessing, as an inheritance from God that should be well cared for.—Psalm 127:3.
Good friends also contribute to a satisfying and meaningful life. (Proverbs 27:9) We can make many friends by showing fellow feeling. (1 Peter 3:8) Genuine friends help to lift us up when we stumble. (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10) And “a true companion . . . is a brother that is born for when there is distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
How satisfying true friendship can be! A sunset is more spectacular, a meal more tasty, and music more enjoyable when shared with a friend. Of course, a close family and trustworthy friends are just two facets of a meaningful life. What other provisions has God made that can give our lives greater meaning?
Satisfying Our Spiritual Need
As noted earlier, Jesus Christ associated happiness with awareness of our spiritual need. We have been created with both a spiritual and a moral capacity. Hence, the Bible refers to “the spiritual man” and “the secret person of the heart.”—1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Peter 3:3, 4.
According to An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, the figurative heart stands for “man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements.” By way of explanation, Vine adds: “In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life.” The same work also notes that “the heart, as lying deep within, contains ‘the hidden man,’ . . . the real man.”
How can we satisfy the needs of “the spiritual man,” or “the hidden man,” that is, “the secret person of the heart”? We take an important step in doing this and satisfying our spiritual need when we acknowledge the point made by the inspired psalmist who sang: “Know that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasturage.” (Psalm 100:3) Recognition of this reasonably leads us to conclude that we are accountable to God. If we want to be included among “his people and the sheep of his pasturage,” we must act in harmony with his Word, the Bible.
Is that a bad thing? No, for awareness that our conduct matters to God adds meaning to our lives. It encourages us to be better individuals—certainly a worthwhile goal. “Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah, in whose commandments he has taken very much delight,” says Psalm 112:1. Reverential fear of God and heartfelt obedience to his commandments can give our lives greater meaning.
Why does obedience to God satisfy us? Because we have a conscience, a gift that God has bestowed on all mankind. The conscience is a moral examiner that registers approval or disapproval of what we have done or consider doing. We have all experienced the distress of a troubled conscience. (Romans 2:15) But our conscience can also reward us. When we act unselfishly toward God and fellow humans, we feel contented and satisfied. We find that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) There is an important reason for this.
Our Creator made us in such a way that the desires and needs of fellow humans affect us. Helping others produces pleasure in our own hearts. Additionally, the Bible assures us that when we give to someone in need, God considers this a favor done to him.—Proverbs 19:17.
Apart from giving inner satisfaction, can attention to our spiritual needs help us in a practical way? Well, a Middle Eastern businessman named Raymond believes that it can. “My goal, pure and simple, was to make money,” he says. “But from the time I accepted in my heart that there is a God and that the Bible expresses his wishes, I was a different man. Making a living now takes second place in my life. By trying to please God, I have been spared the destructive feeling of hatred. Though my father died during a conflict, I have no wish to take revenge on those responsible.”
As Raymond discovered, caring well for the needs of “the spiritual man” can heal deep emotional wounds. However, unless we cope with the problems that each day brings, life will not be entirely satisfying.
We Can Have “the Peace of God”
In this hectic world, few days pass by smoothly. Accidents occur, plans go wrong, and people disappoint us. These setbacks may rob us of happiness. To those serving Jehovah God, though, the Bible promises an inner contentment—“the peace of God.” How do we acquire this peace?
The apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Instead of trying to carry our problems alone, we need to pray fervently, throwing our daily burdens on God. (Psalm 55:22) Faith that he responds to such supplication through his Son, Jesus Christ, will increase as we grow spiritually and discern how God helps us.—John 14:6, 14; 2 Thessalonians 1:3.
After we have built up our confidence in Jehovah God, the “Hearer of prayer,” we are better able to cope with trials, such as prolonged sickness, old age, or bereavement. (Psalm 65:2) For a truly meaningful life, however, we must also take the future into account.
Rejoice in the Hope Ahead
The Bible promises “new heavens and a new earth,” a righteous, caring heavenly government ruling over an obedient human family. (2 Peter 3:13) In that new world promised by God, war and injustice will be replaced by peace and justice. This is not just a fleeting wish, but it is a conviction that can grow stronger every day. It is good news indeed and surely a reason for rejoicing.—Romans 12:12; Titus 1:2.
John, mentioned at the outset, now feels that his life has greater meaning. “Though I was never very religious, I always believed in God,” he says. “But I did nothing about this belief until two of Jehovah’s Witnesses called on me. I barraged them with questions, such as, ‘What are we doing here? Where are we going?’ Their satisfying Scriptural answers gave me a sense of purpose for the first time in my life. That was only the beginning. I developed a thirst for truth that led me to change my entire set of values. Even though I am no longer rich materially, I feel like a millionaire spiritually.”
Like John, perhaps you have let your spiritual capacity lie dormant for many years. By developing “a heart of wisdom,” however, you can revive it. (Psalm 90:12) With determination and effort, you can have genuine joy, peace, and hope. (Romans 15:13) Yes, and your life can have greater meaning.
[Picture on page 6]
Prayer can bring us “the peace of God”
[Pictures on page 7]
Do you know what can make family life more satisfying?