It has been said always by wise people that one of the most distinctly human characteristics is the struggle for a sense of significance and purpose in life. In my experience, the underlying conflicts that bring people into my office because I am a priest, or more so than to some other counselors, are centered in these existential questions: “Why am I here?” “What do I want from life?” “What gives my life purpose?”
The problem with so many of us is that we have sought directions, answers, values, and beliefs from people we think are most important in our world (Babalawos turned pastors, Dibias, fortune tellers, talk-show hosts, etc.), and they almost always give us their own answers in their own limited views. They give answers that fail us when we most need them. Many of us are constantly carried away by the currents around us. We refuse and avoid searching within and finding our own answers to the conflicts in our own lives. We leave solutions to our inner conflicts for others to give us the answers, and, consequently, we become what they expect us to be. We live our life rooted in other people’s expectations and values, which makes us automatically strangers to ourselves. We are constantly at war with who we are. We are shocked at what we have become or are becoming, and we are mad at the whole world for who we are. Does the world owe us answers to our problems?
I encounter people daily who seem to think that the world they live in is becoming meaningless. They wonder whether it is worth it to continue struggling or even living. I know many of us are very conscious that we always are faced with the prospect of our own mortality, especially as we grow older; we are tempted to ask, “Is there any point to what I do now, since I will eventually die? Will what I do be remembered or forgotten when I am gone? Given the fact of mortality, why should I busy myself with anything?” Many have given up on their Families, their children, and even their friends. A man in one of my retreats captured precisely the idea of personal significance when he said, “I feel like another page in a book that has been turned quickly, and nobody bothered to read the page.”
Viktor Frankl, in his book, said such a feeling of meaninglessness is the “major existential neurosis of modern life.” Is there any wonder we have prevalence of suicide and mental breakdowns all across the nation? People give up because their source of meaning is shallow and stinky.
When your source of meaning is shallow and stinky, at times you may feel trapped by the emptiness of the life you are living and want to withdraw from the struggle of creating a life with purpose. But I want you to remember there is no preordained design for living. Every one of us is faced with the task of creating our own meaning, so where is the source of meaning in your life? Is it your financial wellness? Is it your Family and friends? Is it your faith?
The wrong source of meaning in your life, my friend, is what leads to emptiness and hollowness, or a condition that the great psychologist Frankl calls the existential vacuum. Let me reiterate here that satisfaction and meaning in life is a byproduct of engagement. You may ask, “Engagement with what?” It is engagement with the true source of meaning for your life. A source that is very deep and crystal clear like the Wellspring.
Remember that when Thomas, one of the Disciples of Christ, was in the same confusion as you are now, he said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6).
It is like Jesus was saying to Thomas, hello, I am the direction, I am the real source of meaning, I am the reference point for any answers in your life: not talk-show hosts, and definitely not babalawos or fortune tellers. I am the still point of your turning world, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10).
I am the real deal, and if you want meaning in your life, come and engage with me. He extended the same invitation to all, including you: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mathew 11:28). Life is very short. This is the right time. This is your opportunity to engage with Christ. True meaning only can be created out of your rugged engagement with the ultimate Truth. Jesus Christ, is the Ultimate answer to your quest for meaning. He is the Way, Truth, and Life, and your commitment to Him surely will provide a true source of meaning for the purpose that will make your life worthwhile.
Try it today, and you will never be disappointed.
Written by: Ike Eweama in Maryland, USA. (Rector/President of Gregorian Orthodox School of Theology).