Meaning Matters – 9/25

by Peter Whitelock

Categories: Past Events

Isn’t the point of life to be happy? Sounds like a reasonable proposition, and the idea is enshrined in our own Declaration of Independence, as the “pursuit of happiness” is conceived as an “inalienable right.” But is happiness a large enough goal in life?

In a TED talk I recently discovered, Emily Esfahani Smith shared her research showing that even when we’re pursuing happiness what we are really seeking is meaning. Her studies show that meaning comes from belonging (being loved and accepted unconditionally), purpose (knowing how our lives can serve others), transcendence (being connected to something larger than ourselves) and storytelling (sharing with others the stories that define who we are). She calls these the “four pillars of meaning.”

In reflecting on her presentation, I think she’s on to something, especially with regard to Christian faith. Jesus centered his ministry on the radical idea that the Kingdom of God has drawn near, and we can enter into it now by faith through forgiveness and grace, if we choose. He had this belief that his disciples could love one another unconditionally, find purpose in serving others, encounter an intimate relationship with God as a loving parent, and connect their own unique, individual stories to his own redemptive work in their lives and in human history.

I can’t recall one time Jesus promised his disciples they would be happy, specifically, but he did promise something better. He promised we would find joy, purpose and meaning in following him into the Kingdom of God, and into a quality of life that cannot be diminished by time or death. I’ve found over the years that this is something worth pursuing, indeed! You might benefit from taking another look at the four pillars Smith describes above, and ask yourself, “How has my experience of the Christian faith delivered meaning in these ways?”

Grace and Peace,

Peter Whitelock