Why Does Life Seem Meaningless?
WHY should you believe that life will ever be more than just a “brief span of empty existence through which” we pass “like a shadow,” as King Solomon put it? (Ecclesiastes 6:12, The New English Bible) God’s inspired Word, the Bible—an unfailingly dependable source of information—promises that life in the future will be truly meaningful.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
The Bible tells us what God’s original purpose was for the earth. It also explains why the world is filled with injustice, oppression, and suffering. Why is it important that we understand these things? Because the main reason people think that life is completely meaningless is that they are unaware of—or choose to ignore—God’s purpose for this planet and mankind on it.
What Is God’s Purpose for the Earth?
Jehovah God * made the earth to be a perfect paradise home for humankind—a place where men and women would enjoy a full, satisfying life in human perfection forever. This fundamental truth contradicts the commonly accepted but Scripturally baseless idea that God made the earth to be some kind of testing ground for humans, to see if they deserved to live a more meaningful life in a spirit world.—See the box “Must We Leave the Earth to Enjoy a Meaningful Life?” on page 6.
God made man and woman in His image, giving them the capacity to reflect His wonderful qualities. (Genesis 1:26, 27) He made them perfect. They had everything they needed to enjoy a productive, meaningful life forever. That would include filling the earth and subduing it, transforming the whole planet into a paradise just like the garden of Eden.—Genesis 1:28-31; 2:8, 9.
What Went Wrong?
Obviously, something went drastically wrong. Mankind in general poorly reflects God’s image. The earth is certainly no paradise. What happened? Our original parents, Adam and Eve, abused their free will. They wanted to “be like God,” deciding for themselves what was morally “good and bad.” In doing so, they followed the rebellious course that Satan the Devil had already taken.—Genesis 3:1-6.
Evil, then, is not part of some mysterious, predetermined plan of God. It came into existence when Satan—and later Adam and Eve—rebelled against God’s rulership. As a result of their rebellion, our original parents lost Paradise and perfection, bringing sin and death upon not just themselves but also their descendants—the whole human family. (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12) This is what brought about the conditions and circumstances that make life seem so meaningless.
Why Not Stamp Out Evil Immediately?
Some wonder, ‘Why did God not stamp out evil immediately by simply destroying Satan and the other rebels and starting over again?’ Would that have really been wise? How would you react if you heard of a powerful government that immediately executed anyone who challenged its authority? Do not such actions alienate fair-minded people and undermine a government’s moral authority?
God chose not to act against the rebels immediately. Wisely, he allowed time to pass so that the issues raised in Eden regarding his way of ruling would be settled—once and for all.
Removal of All Evil
The key thing to remember is this: God has permitted evil to exist for only a limited time. He has done so knowing that he can completely undo its grievous consequences once the vital issues raised by rebellion against his way of ruling have been settled.
God has not abandoned his purpose for the earth and mankind. Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah assures us that He is the Maker of the earth, the one “who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) Very soon now, he will begin bringing the earth back to the perfect state he originally purposed. With the rightness of his way of ruling absolutely established, he will be justified in using his irresistible power to enforce his will and utterly destroy all evil. (Isaiah 55:10, 11) In the model prayer, Jesus Christ included an appeal for God to take this action. Jesus taught us to pray: “Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:9, 10) What does that include?
God’s Will for the Earth
Among other things, “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth.” (Psalm 37:9-11, 29; Proverbs 2:21, 22) Jesus Christ will “deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one.” He will save them “from oppression and from violence.” (Psalm 72:12-14) War will be no more; nor will death, tears, pain, or suffering be anymore. (Psalm 46:9; Revelation 21:1-4) Multitudes of people who have died during God’s toleration of evil will be resurrected to life here on earth, and they will be given the opportunity to benefit from these and other blessings.—John 5:28, 29.
In fact, Jehovah will undo the harm that Satan’s rebellion has caused. So complete will this remedial action be that “the former distresses [all the things that bring grief and pain today] will actually be forgotten.” (Isaiah 65:16-19) That future is guaranteed. God does not lie. All his promises come true. Life will no longer be “emptiness and chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17, The New English Bible) Rather, life will be filled with meaning.
But what about right now? Can knowing what the Bible teaches and understanding God’s purpose for the earth add real meaning to your life now? The final article in this series takes up this question.
^ par. 5 In the Bible, Jehovah is the personal name of God.
[Box on page 6]
Must We Leave the Earth to Enjoy a Meaningful Life?
For centuries, men who have no knowledge of God’s purpose for the earth have taught that we must leave the earth before we can enjoy a truly meaningful existence.
Some said that souls “enjoyed some higher existence prior to their entry into individual human bodies.” (New Dictionary of Theology) Others said that the soul was “incarcerated in the body as a punishment for the sins which it committed in its heavenly state.”—Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.
Greek philosophers, such as Socrates and Plato, taught this idea: Only when the soul escapes from the limitations of a material human body would it be “released from its wanderings and follies and fears, its wild desires and all the other ills that beset mankind” and dwell “in the company of the gods for all time to come.”—Plato’s Phaedo, 81, A.
Later, so-called Christian leaders incorporated Greek philosophers’ “assumptions about the inherent immortality of the soul” into their teachings.—Christianity—A Global History.
Contrast those ideas with three fundamental truths found in the Bible:
1. God’s purpose is for the earth to be a permanent home for humankind, not a temporary testing ground to see who deserve to live with him in heaven. If Adam and Eve had obeyed God’s laws, they would still be alive here on a paradise earth.—Genesis 1:27, 28; Psalm 115:16.
2. Whereas most religions teach that man has a soul—some immaterial entity that resides within—the Bible teaches something simpler. Man is “a living soul” formed out of “dust from the ground.” (Genesis 2:7) The Bible never describes this soul as immortal. It says that the soul can be killed or destroyed, totally ceasing to exist. (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4, 20) The first soul, Adam, positively died and returned to the dust from which he was created. He returned to nonexistence.—Genesis 2:17; 3:19.
3. Man’s future life prospects depend, not on having an immortal soul that departs to some spirit realm, but on God’s promise of a resurrection from the dead back to life on a paradise earth.—Daniel 12:13; John 11:24-26; Acts 24:15.