The Joy of Purpose … the meaning of life, part I

You were meant to be happy. Wait. That needs to be repeated: YOU were MEANT to be happy. Joy is the design of your existence. Happiness is the object of your mortal life. It will be the result as you pursue the proper paths that lead to it. Creating and developing and discovering purpose and meaning is one way to increase that happiness.

Life itself is pregnant with meaning and rich in purpose. There is eternal consequence to what happens here in mortality. Life matters of itself, inherently, by virtue of why you are here, why you exist, why you and the human family were ever created in the first place.

Every event, every circumstance, every moment provides you with daily lessons and opportunities on living life better, more successfully, with greater dignity, compassion, courage, and faith.

Life is the ultimate university. Our lives are classrooms in continuous session.

Some of life’s most potent lessons are wrapped up in heartbreak and suffering. But if our sorrow and suffering is seen as meaningless, the pain will seem to be arbitrary, unpredictable, and without purpose. Suffering, in such circumstances, truly becomes a source of great tribulation and sadness, because then pain and suffering is random, cruel and senseless. Life, then, becomes mean and nasty.

But this is ultimately not the case. As a matter of fact, it is the absolute opposite. Life, by virtue of its creation and Creator, imbues every moment with profound and eternal meaning.

Two Basic Purposes of Life

1. Religious: Life is a trial of faith, a divine test, a time to prepare to meet God. Life is but a temporary address as we work on packing our spiritual bags for the ultimate relocation to our new heavenly home. Life is meant to shape and form and mould us into a new creature, a spiritual creature, subduing the natural man to the spiritual.

The religious worldview packs life full of meaning and purpose. You are a child of God, endowed with the spark of divine potential. The bumper sticker slogan that God don’t make junk underscores the truism that, in fact, God really don’t make junk!

The power of a religious worldview in creating and growing happiness is that there is innate meaning and purpose to life. All you experience is of value and is, in some sense, part of a larger Plan. Humanity is supposed to be tried and tested. There is purpose behind the pain. There is meaning beneath the sorrow. There is eternal light at the end of a long and lonely tunnel meant to lead us back to a Heavenly Father.

2. Secular and Religious (both can agree to this one): Life is the great university, a time to learn life’s lessons, to grow, to stretch, to overcome the pull of genetics and culture and peer pressure and instinct, to learn to live with greater compassion and empathy and nobility of character.

Suffering in either case becomes the school master, teaching its pupils profound lessons about life and about human nature. But most importantly, it teaches lessons – sometimes humbling and painful – about you. Who you are deep inside – below the surface of pretense and masks and images – becomes painfully apparent in the heat of trial and tribulation.

You are revealed to yourself, in such moments. And often you will discover uncomfortable truths about what ticks below the surface.

But such moments are important in our moral and spiritual growth. Meaning and purpose is added to the trials of life as we learn of deeper truths and work to overcome tendencies and motives that may be less than noble.

But in the end, the degree of purpose and meaning we see in life is itself dependent on our worldview. Our level of happiness is, in part, a result of the way we interpret life.

Return tomorrow for the two competing worldviews in the last in this series on The Joy of Purpose.