It’s also not to go out prematurely. There’s a better way.
By Dillon Schupp
***Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with the recent spike in COVID cases across the country and is in no way, shape, or form, a recommendation to do something unwise or physically dangerous to your physical or mental health.***
Why do you exist?
Think about that for a second. What is the point of your existence on the spinning globe in the middle of space? What is the point of you being alive?
Here’s a fact: all of us want a purpose. All of us want meaning to our lives. All of us want our lives to count for something.
(On a side note, I personally think the desire for meaning is one of the greatest arguments in favor of humans being created by God. If the material world is all there is and after life there is nothing- as an atheist may argue- then life is ultimately pointless, and that idea flies in the face of what we by nature pursue. If we instinctively want our lives to matter, to have meaning- both of which are philosophical and theoretical rather than material ideas- then it stands to reason there is, in fact, more to life than the material and that we are more than material beings, and for that to be so there must be a non-material Creator that made us to desire non-material things.)
So we all want to live a life that matters because it’s built into our nature. The question is how we go about accomplishing that mission.
There’s one idea I’ve found very helpful, but before we get there, I want to point out two notions that guarantee that you’ll miss out on living a life with meaning and work against living a life that matters.
#1- The belief that the goal of life is safety and to live as long as possible.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m all for living as long as I possibly can.
But…if that’s my overarching goal and the thing that drives my life, then I’m going to miss out on a life that has meaning and purpose.
Because discovering meaning and purpose requires this little thing called risk. It requires trying something new and going into the unknown. It demands getting out of your comfort zone. It means the potential of failure and rejection. Discovering a life of meaning is almost always if not always going to involve significant financial risk and sacrifice, at the very least in the short term, with no guaranteed return. The chance of loss is very real. Criticism is guaranteed. Bumps, bruises, and scars- physical and emotional- come with the territory.
That’s anything but safe. And it’s enough to make anyone want to lock the doors and live in a bubble away from all the dangerous things in life.
That’s safe. It’s also miserable.
Imagine for a second a life built around mere survival. You’ll never get in a car (that’s not safe…not because of your driving, but because of all the other people looking at their cell phone while driving). You’ll never try to begin a relationship. You would never consider children. You’d never try out for something new (you might not make the team). You’ll never start something new (it might fail). You’ll never really know love. And you’ll never really live.
That’s “safe”. But it’s a miserable existence devoid of meaning. You’ll arrive safely at death…and still die.
However, the dangerous swing from that is going to the other extreme…
#2- Since I only live once, I’ll do whatever I want
This seems like a better alternative than trying to arrive safely at death.
However, it will also guarantee that you’ll most likely die prematurely and in a less-than-ideal fashion. And, in the meantime, your existence will probably be no less miserable.
For instance: if I chose to embrace this mindset, I would eat cheesecake every night. I love cheesecake. It’s glorious. And I’m sure there’s a Cheesecake Factory in heaven (I think I read that in 2nd Servings 23:5, but I’m not sure).
But let’s consider for a moment the cost of eating cheesecake every day, especially considering the human body wasn’t made for that.
Can you say “heart issues”?
Sure, my taste buds will be happy. At least until I die young of a heart attack.
Or take another example: if I conclude that I need to live it up and spend it all on the most expensive and luxurious vacations imaginable.
I can do that for a short period of time…until the cash runs out. Because it turns out money doesn’t grow on trees.
Hello, financial ruin.
Granted, this will be a lot more fun than living for safety. Until the consequences kick in, because as it turns out, consequences are a real thing and they take no prisoners and offer no exceptions.
So living for safety leads to misery, and doing whatever I want likewise leads to misery.
Is there a third option?
I think so. I would describe it like this:
Living for others while living for the line.
Here’s what I mean by that.
Proverbs 11:25 says this:
A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
I don’t know about you, but prospering and being refreshed sounds like a fulfilling life to me!
But did you notice what it requires?
It requires real generosity, and real generosity always requires sacrifice. In fact, if you’re a Christian, the truth is you haven’t actually been generous until your giving causes you to have to give up something (after all, Jesus commended the widow who gave her last two cents as the most generous because she gave all she had. See Mark 12:41-44).
I bet that widow felt like she was risking everything because she was!
I also have a sneaking suspicion that she was one of the most fulfilled people in the world at that time. Because real prosperity has little to do with financial position and everything to do with being satisfied in your soul.
Generosity has the capability of doing that, and the reason for that is simple: We come alive when life stops being about us and starts being about others.
That’s why the very next line in Proverbs 11:25 says that “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
You know what refreshing others requires?
Selflessness. Service. Stepping out of your comfort zone to meet the needs of someone else in a genuinely sacrificial, self-centered way.
You know what’s missing from that equation?
Safety. There’s nothing safe about placing yourself in the posture of a servant. You may get misunderstood. You may even have your kindness taken advantage of.
Oh, and you’ll probably be worn out, work long hours, and have to take a pay cut to do it.
But you’ll be refreshed. And if you’ve ever done this before, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s something deeply satisfying about doing something for someone else and expecting nothing in return.
By the way, did you notice what’s also missing from that equation?
Self-centered living that does whatever it wants because “I only have one life.”
People who live with meaning know that they do only have one life…and it’s way too short to be spent living for themselves. They are deeply aware that they aren’t guaranteed another moment, and they know the way to make the most of the time they have is in seeking to make someone else’s life better.
That doesn’t mean they never have fun. Chances are they have more fun than most.
What it does mean is that even in their fun there’s a higher purpose in mind, and even something as simple as taking a day off isn’t so much for themselves as it is refueling so they can better serve others.
That’s a life that matters- but it comes with a condition: it will only ultimately matter if it will move the needle in eternity.
I’m all for doing great things to serve people. But the truth is we aren’t just physical beings. We’re also spiritual beings. And as spiritual beings, we’re going to exist somewhere after death: heaven or hell.
Which means that if all we did in this world was a bunch of kind things for people but never pointed them to the greater reality of eternity, we have actually done them the worst kind of disservice imaginable.
Not only that, we can do ourselves the worst disservice imaginable by serving a lot of people in a lot of good ways and yet step into eternity and discover that we got to the top of the ladder and were climbing the wrong building.
We are certainly called to serve others. But there must be a greater point behind it- an eternal point. That’s the idea of “living for the line.”
Our lives are a period. Eternity is an infinite line on which our lives are only a tiny period.
To make the most of our lives, we need to live with the line in mind- not just the period.
How do we do that?
Jesus put it this way:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.- Matthew 5:16
The point of doing good for others is to use those good deeds to point them to a greater spiritual reality: that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them, made them, and wants to know them. So much so, in fact, that He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to die on a cross for their sin and come back to life so that through Him, they could not only know Him now, but forever in eternity.
Oh…and also become the type of people who serve others and make a difference in this life, pointing them to their Heavenly Father in the process along the way.
That won’t be a safe life. And it won’t be a self-centered life.
It will be risky. It will require sacrifice. There will probably be pain, discomfort, and a lot of uncertainty along the way.
But it will certainly make a difference in this world. And it will do so in a way that echoes in eternity.
This article originally appeared at dillonschupp.com.