By Will Dole
Why are we here? What is our purpose? Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Even if we believe this, our search for significance is often misguided by ego, seeking to fill our vacuum with our wants and desires.
Not only is an ego-based search not Biblical, we know from experience it just doesn’t work—nothing actually fills our emptiness. We can drink all we want, and only find the bottom of the bottle. We can sleep with every woman we may desire, and still feel lonely. We can make all the money we could possibly want, but it will never be enough. We can even work with all our might to please God, yet in the end it will not bring us any closer to finding our purpose.
These strategies fail because they are based on the faulty premise that we need to strive for our own fulfillment. Sadly, a lot of Christians buy into this notion, evidenced by the many Christian self-help books on how to have the best life or be a better person. Isn’t this just a variation on the theme of an ego-based search for purpose? A Bible-based search for purpose is antithetical to such approaches in that we must conclude that our lives are not, primarily, about us.
In his introduction to the book of Genesis in The Message, Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “First, God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we don’t sense the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God in the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at the center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God.”
So what about us? Where do we fit in with “God, God, God”? The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English replies: “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” God made us to bring Him glory, and consequently, we reap the benefits of doing so.
God created many astonishing things to glorify Him in amazing ways—ants that can lift many times their own weight, animals that can change color to match their surroundings. These creatures boggle the mind! After each act of creation, God said His work was “good.” However, He declared His creation of man to be “very good.” We are not just another one of God’s impressive creatures, but as the pinnacle of His creation, we actually bear something more: the very image of God! (Gen. 1:26, 27)
God made each of us to reflect Him in all that we do—like a mirror reflects an image. As His image bearer, we have been given far more value than anything else in creation. And yet, we largely are not fulfilling our purpose of mirroring the character of God. Why?
It goes back to that fateful day Adam ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God designed us to reflect His nature, but when we choose to sin we shatter that mirror. In our fallen state we lack the understanding of what we are supposed to be reflecting. Our efforts to piece the mirror back together amount to nothing. Until we look to Jesus for our salvation alone, we will continue to sin, continue to fail, and continue to be shattered in every sense of the word.
This is not the bad news it seems to be. In 1 Peter 2:24 we are told that, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” So we see that Jesus Christ died for us not primarily so we could go to church on Sunday, listen to a preacher, and feel eternally safe—although we can certainly do those things—rather He died to make us a people who are His very own. With an intense love for the unlovable, Jesus purchased us in order to piece our broken mirrors back together. As we radiate His glory, we will find our purpose. In the process of fulfilling our true purpose—rather than looking for our own fulfillment—we will find everlasting joy!