My Question: How do I explain the meaning of life to my daughters?

Hi everyone,

I am going through the Jesus Among Secular Gods study with my family. We are talking about the meaning of life. I have two teen daughters. My answer was to be in right relationship with God and others for His glory and I backed that statement with Scripture. The question my daughter had was, can I explain the meaning of life without using Scripture. I struggled big time. Any suggestions?

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Hey Samuel,

It’s always amazing to me how we can spend endless hours studying scripture or listening to lectures and trying to find the answers to questions that we have always wanted to have for people, and then all it takes is one little innocent question from our children to bring us back down to feeling like we know nothing. Children and young adults ask amazing questions.

Trying to explain the meaning of life without scripture, to me, is a difficult task as well. I believe that the reason it is so hard is that scripture, our lives, and our very meaning is wrapped up together in a bundle. When you look at the ways that people in this world try to explain their purpose or meaning without God…it’s almost always such a hopeless and empty explanation. There is a reason for that, God made us. He made us in His image with a special connection to Him and an ability to share in a relationship with Him. Trying to explain the purpose and meaning of our lives without God is a struggle because there is no real explanation of our life’s purpose and meaning without Him.

A great many problems arise from any attempt to explain ourselves without God. The scriptures are our very operations manual for life itself. Therefore, I think the true thing to explain is not that we can describe our lives without God or the scriptures, but that we cannot truly explain any part of ourselves apart from God and His word without falling very short.

That is what I would try to instill early on is that we must always place God first in our lives and recognize Him as the very center of our life. Trying to explain ourselves or our lives apart from Him is when we begin to fall into trouble. We are His creation and He loves us so much that even when we turned our backs on Him, He sent His Son to save us through the ultimate sacrifice. Whether we recognize God as our savior and Lord does not change the fact that He made us, He saved us, and without Him we are lost.

I am merely attempting to think of how I would explain this to my children and I hope that helps you out. If you have any other questions please do not hesitate to ask. Thank you, and your daughter, for that question and I hope that God will guide you and grant you discernment in finding His answer for you. God bless you and your family Samuel. Thank you.

Matthew

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Having meaning usually is bound up along with purpose. If something lines up with our sense of value, and and we can associate with it, it gives us meaning. Meaning to us gives us a sense of worth.

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Thank you. I guess that’s the point. I can’t really explain meaning outside the Creator of meaning. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and time.

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Wow, such a great question. The thing is you’ve answered it. The answer is ‘no’ you can’t. Gently throw the ball back in your daughters court and ask her the exact same question; If there is no God (revealed through the person of Jesus Christ); can she explain the meaning of life? Just listen and don’t give answers until she thinks it through.

You don’t have to answer her or give her too much information or start quoting Richard Dawkins books to her. Try and get her to think for herself, especially if she’s a teenager. (I have a teenage daughter, and late teens to twenties completely reevaluate all they have been taught including faith as part of becoming an adult)

From an atheistic perspective; humans are just accidental blips of matter/energy in an empty cold universe that neither knows nor cares that an about her as an individual. In an atheistic worldview, An individual person actually has no intrinsic value; all hopes, dreams, emotions; thoughts are just chattering of neurons firing; and actually without God; there is no such thing as free will or love, as we are just slaves to our evolutionary genes… can’t remember which atheist said it, but all our running around and doing things its just fidgeting before inevitable death after which there is nothing.

If you take atheism to it’s logical conclusion you arrive at nilhism. All meaning is erased.

BUT, the Bible makes an astonishing claim (and I think we take it for granted). The Creator God entered into His creation, suffered and died at the hands of his creation, and rose from the dead.

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Thank you very much for your reply. We meet again as a family next Tuesday and I will take your advise and gently ask her the question and let her think. I have no answers really outside of Scripture. Thank you.

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Neither have I. The more I look at the alternative world views the more I’m convinced. I placed my faith in Christ as a young person, and have really only looked at atheism worldview seriously at this stage (the motivation being to share Christ with atheists who have not read the Bible)

Ravi speaks on 4 questions that make up a worldview; and all 4 questions need to be answered. You are probably familiar with them if you are going through Jesus among secular gods.

Origin:
How do you think the universe came into existence?
How do you think human life began?

Meaning:
What is the purpose of human life?

Morality:
How do you determine good and bad?

Destiny:
What will happen at the end (at death)?

This is quite a good video which mentioned all 4 of those categories.

What part of the book study for Jesus among secular gods are you up to? I’ve not read that one just yet, took me a bit to get through ‘Jesus amoung other gods’. It’s sitting on my shelf at home along with two others I got for Christmas :slight_smile: (logic of God by Ravi, and ‘Saving truth’ by Abdu Murray)

I was curious what section of the book caused your daughter to ask this question…?

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Thank you for your response and the video (no idea how you did that).

I really liked the book, It was fantastic. Some of my favorite sentences in the book, “Every truth, No matter the discipline, says something about who God is and what He has done. Now you can love the truth, because the truth—being personal—is a fitting object of love.” Page 230. “In surrendering, one wins. I’m dying, one lives.” Page 177. “Primarily, for a Christian, heaven is not a place but a person; it’s is not a reward but a relationship.” Page 103.

The study guid we have is a companion to the book and we just finished week on and are now doin the “personal study” for the next week. In week one Ravi asks the question, “What are some of the biggest questions about life that people regularly ask?” That is what prompted Emma’s question.

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I agree with @matthew.western. I read an article by Thomas Nagel called, “The Absurd,” where he talks about the ultimate lack of meaning in life. What does anything we do matter? In a hundred years or so just about everyone who is alive will have died. Most will never be remembered and the things we do will most likely have very little impact. Even those who do make an impact and are remembered, in a billion years the sun will blow up and destroy the earth. Yet, we live life so seriously and live as though everything matters infinitely. According to Thomas Nagel this is where the absurdity of life comes in. How do we reconcile this? He, since he denies the transcendent, appears to conclude that the absurdity of life itself is meaningless and we should, therefore, ignore it.

This is where you land with out God. To be honest it is quite depressing. Yet, if this is true, why do we have this sense of ultimate meaning? Why do we do anything? Build anything? Write anything? Create anything? Why have children if we are all doomed!?

Well, that, to me, is evidence of the echos of eternity. The truth is, our actions do matter, our work does matter, because they have an eternal significance. They will echo into eternity and will impact the new heaven and the new earth. We are meant to establish the kingdom of God on this earth as in heaven. This infuses our lives with meaning. Meaning which it would not have without Him.

I hope this is more helpful than depressing!

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@Gmack, I really liked that quote “For a Christian, heaven is not a place by a person; it’s not a reward but a relationship”.

@Joshua_Hansen, so true and this reminds me of another Thomas Nagel quote (from Andy Bannister’s book we are reading through).

Other atheists who have reflected carefully on their motives have similarly admitted that their atheism is not so much rational as emotional; here, for instance, is philosopher Thomas Nagel:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p. 91). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

and another from Huxley; who says the philosophy of meaninglessness is actually because there was a motivation to not want any interference (from God) to live however they liked.

For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotic revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever.

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (pp. 90-91). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

(@Joshua_Hansen) your original quote from Nagel also reminds me of Ecclesiastics; Solomon had it all, and tried it all; and concluded at the end of the day life “under the sun” (that is, without acknowledging God or the eternal) was meaningless;

Perhaps three videos that might be good for your daughters is the wisdom series from theBibleProject on Proverbs, Ecclesiasties and Job from theBibleProject?

I remember watching Ravi on youtube speak at the Liberty University on the problem of pleasure and the loss of meaning… also might be a good resource to watch together…?

(also, a bit of housekeeping; you mentioned “how to insert a video”, the forum software does it automatically. Also you can check out the Site Tutorials on how to edit posts here :slight_smile:

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Thank you so much for the comment and the videos

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I recommend doing some apologetics work with your daughter because it looks like she got the message from someone stated as, “Why do you need to follow a book?” Your daught, it seems, doesn’t understand this verse:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/heb.4.12.ESV

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Thank you. Most of the kids she runs into don’t have a high view of Scripture. I hope this study is a good intro to apologetics for her.

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Thank you for these quotes! This helps with some writing I have been working on!

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