Is life just a cycle of eating, sleeping, studying, working, playing, fun interspersed with sorrows, some wins, a few losses, gathering trophies and accolades, medals, fame, fortune, then passing them on to others. Is that it? Is that all there is to life?
When I was in university studying for a degree in Chemical Engineering, I pondered the meaning and purpose of life.
Through the years, during times of rest and times of upheaval, I often find myself reflecting on the answers I found then, the answers I found on the way, and the gaps that remain.
Today is one of those times. It’s a lovely winter morning as I write this. The sun is streaming into my room. It is warm inside, but I know the chill will greet me outside when I open the door. A very gentle breeze is ruffling the leaves of the trees in my front yard. I can hear the chirping of the birds. The occasional car passes by. But the household is still. In the stillness, my mind drifts back to when I first grappled about the meaning and purpose of life.
Faith is not inherited
I was brought up in a Christian home, steeped in the rituals and teachings of our church, and surrounded by the beliefs of my family and elders. But faith is not inherited.
Religion and cultural traditions can be passed on from generation to generation, but what one believes, really believes, has to be birthed within the person. Otherwise, one is just going through the motions of someone else’s belief.
Belief embodies the mind, the heart and the spirit.
Intellectual belief is not belief if the heart does not agree. It is merely a scholarly pursuit.
Belief driven by the heart is just emotions on loose sand; no foundation, easily shifting as waves hit the sandy shores of life. In a word, gullibility.
A spiritual connection, without engaging the mind and the heart, is manipulation.
So at university I started to evaluate what I believed in. I searched for the meaning and purpose of life. I read literatures of other belief systems. I questioned the positions I took because someone else I respected held them. I listened to my heart, even as my mind was probing, searching, finding or not finding answers, sifting, testing, reasoning. My spirit told me when it was at peace with the answers, though some of the mysteries still remained beyond what my mind could grasp.
What I discovered
I discovered the following during my search.
- I can look for truth and know it.
- Though some truth may be difficult for my mind to grasp, I can test this by other supporting truth that I can understand.
- My lack of understanding does not make the truth false.
- Truth is not relative, otherwise opposites are true at the same time.
- A flawed or incomplete perception of truth does not change the truth.
- My emotions do not decide truth.
- Faith and reason are not incompatible. Logic applied to faith is not unreasonable. But logic has limits.
The years since those days at university have strengthened, rather than diminished, what I believe.
I look at the beauty and diversity of nature. I am always in awe how this could all have come about. My engineering mind appreciates the order, intricacy, diversity, patterns, simplicity, yet immense complexity at the same time.
I marvel at the exquisite design of the human body, the mysteries of life and the universe, when I read or hear over the years many new exciting discoveries of science and other investigative disciplines. For me, these things all point to a higher being.
I believe there is one eternal God. He created everything. All other options take more faith than this.
Unlike other religious texts, the Bible consists of 66 books by some forty human writers from different cultures, places and times, over a span of 2,000 to 3,500 years. Startlingly, there is unity and continuity of the message. There are also many specific prophecies, some centuries before it happened, that have been fulfilled and recorded in history.
I have read with keen interest reports of archaeological finds, controversies and later discoveries. They have verified many accounts of events, places and peoples in the Bible.
This unity of the Bible can only be through divine inspiration and authority.
The Bible records Jesus’ life and teachings. Jesus said that he is the son of God and the way to life with God. The alternative to accepting his claim is to call him a liar or someone who is deluded. I believe him.
Through my faith in Jesus, and the guidance of the Bible, I have found meaning and purpose in life. I have found the answers to who I am, why I am here and where I am going.
Who am I?
I am unique, created in God’s image, precious and much loved. He has only good plans for me – a bright hope and a future with him forever. The fact that I have suffered setbacks in life, devastating loss, upheavals, challenges, made mistakes, have not changed who I am.
Why am I here?
God creates for his delight. I am here for his delight. Not as a toy nor a robot to do his bidding. He gave me free will. The closest analogy I can relate to is that delight of a mother and father with their newborn child. So I want to delight him back.
Where am I going?
I have made mistakes. To be with God requires that I meet his standards. Impossible just by my own efforts, even if I try very hard. Through Jesus, my relationship with God is restored. He is the perfect one. He advocates for me. He stands in my place. His actions redeem me. He promised that I am going to live with him forever. Eternity beckons!
This is what I found. It’s not religion. It’s not about following rituals and trying to be good enough, because I will never be good enough on my own efforts. It’s about having a relationship with a loving God who has opened a way for me to be with him, having a connection that engages the whole of me – mind, heart and spirit. This is the treasure I want to share with others.
To explore questions about life check out Alpha. This opening video features Dr Francis Collins, Director of The Human Genome Project (at 10:19) and Bear Grylls, adventurer (at 18:37).