Can we define our own purpose for living?


(Margie Black) #1

Hi everyone,
How do I give a Biblical response to the statement “We make our own purpose in life.”


(SeanO) #2

@karenblessing That is a great question. In my response to a similar question below, I point out that there are 3 things we all need: love, permanence and assurance. We cannot give ourselves any of those things, but God can give us all of them. The cross proves God’s love for us. The resurrection of Jesus guarantees us permanence - eternity with God. And God’s care for us gives us assurance that He will be with us always and that all things work together for good.

If we try to define our purpose apart from God we cannot give ourselves the most desperate desires of our hearts. Like the idols in the old testaments, we end up trying to find love and assurance in things that are not even living. We dig cracked cisterns for ourselves.

Jeremiah 2:13 - My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Imagine trying to fill a cup with water when the cup has a huge hole in the bottom! That is what trying to define your own purpose apart from God is like - you can not offer yourself what you truly need. Only in Jesus’ do we find life - abundant and full of glory!

May the Lord Jesus grant you wisdom as you study this question more and try to answer those who are asking. Feel free to ask more questions or take the discussion further.

Tim Keller Counterfeit gods

Here is a sermon where Tim Keller talks about the futility of trying to create our own purpose, which is equivalent to having counterfeit gods. Very in depth analysis of how when we try to create our own purpose it ultimately breaks down.


(Margie Black) #3

'The meaning is in the journey" was a further clarification of that - and it comes from a young adult raised in a Christian family and in the church who just so happens to be my son. It’s a very post-modern viewpoint and one that is so ambiguous and nebulous that solid rational reasoning seems ineffective as a counter. I have no idea where he got it other than the culture around him. I have painfully observed that most of us in Christendom don’t have the knowledge or even the awareness of what is happening to be able to address postmodernism and its philosophies very well. Nabeel Qureshi got me interested in pursuing apologetics. There is a huge need for it in the church. There are still many dear older saints who are content with “The Bible says, I believe and that settles it”. That’s not a wrong philosophy, it just doesn’t give answers to those with deeper questions. We have to know the questions to have answers that work. My flaw was both - I didn’t know the new questions and I didn’t have the antidote.


(Jolene Laughlin) #4

So much this! I think it is a widespread phenomenon in the church, and every time I read an article wondering “Why are our young people leaving?” I want to shout this. Thank you for recognizing this, for seeking deeper answers, and for sharing your story.


(SeanO) #5

@karenblessing I want to echo @Jolene_Laughlin and thank you for sharing your story. Since Nabeel got you interested in studying apologetics, have you found any potential answers for your son’s question? Not necessarily answers that he is ready to accept right now, but answers that have the potential to provide meaning and direction when he has the ears to hear them.

One thing I think that could be helpful is to point out that Jesus invites us on a journey called discipleship and it is a journey that has no end. Even after this life ends, we will continue to know God more and more and have many adventures and stories to experience and to tell, though we may not know what that looks like yet.

C. S. Lewis pointed that out well in his book ‘The Last Battle’, which I am sure you are familiar with… When the children in the story come to ‘Aslan’s Country’ (the equivalent of Heaven in these books), here are some of the ways Lewis describes it:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

In a sense, Knowing Jesus is the greatest journey and the only one that will truly last. Looking forward to hearing what other resources or thoughts you have come across. May Jesus give your son eyes to see and ears to hear!


(Brittany Bowman) #6

Do you know what reading he has been doing? It may be helpful to know what blogs, Facebook groups, and podcasts he is studying. Maybe if he is willing, you could scroll through his Facebook newsfeed together to see some of the quotes that pop up in ads and friends’ pages. In some ways this thought of a mythological and majestic quest reminds me of Joseph Campbell, which I had to read in a very obscure high school experience a few years ago. Candidly, it was over my head then and still is, but it does at least sound somewhat familiar.

Here are some Campbell quotes, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”

“God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that.”

“What each must seek in his life never was on land or sea. It is something out of his own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else.”


(Jolene Laughlin) #7

In reflecting on what I would say if someone said this to me, I think I would start by engaging them in a deeper conversation, without having an agenda or trying to pressure them into a different way of thinking.

“I have a hard time grasping exactly what you mean. What do you mean by purpose and how does one create it? Is purpose a feeling, or an activity and why does everyone seem to want or need it? Why do we need it at all?”

I remember hearing a story about an experiment in a concentration camp where they made the prisoners get out of bed each day and move an enormous pile of rocks across the yard. The next day, they would be told to move it all back. This movement from one place to another and back occurred every single day. In most cases, the men assigned to this endless job either went insane or became utterly depressed and angry to the point of being suicidal. The pointlessness of it wore on them in a way that other work, with a specific goal, did not. Why do you think that is? Could these men have created a purpose themselves to keep from going insane? How would they go about doing that? What would you say to people who feel lost and purposeless and can’t seem to find a way around it?"

I think that the more you delve into the statement and listen thoughtfully to the underlying emotions and feelings behind what he is saying, the more you will be able to find the right words to discuss this world view. I have often thought that these are catchy sayings, and they sound really profound, but they aren’t as well-thought out as what it initially sounds like.


(Margie Black) #8

He stays off social media by choice. Most of his reading/computer consumption is educational or video games. Examples of his media consumption choices are Myth Busters, How the States Got Their Shapes, Top Gear.


(Brittany Bowman) #9

Sorry, I may have gone off track a bit in that thought. As a communications student, I’m fascinated in where people get their information, and it blows my mind how easy it is for information to get sorted online now. I was surprised how many sites were dedicated to Joseph Campbell’s works in high school, but I went down a rabbit trail on this one, sorry. :C Know I’m praying for your family.