5 Keys to Happiness: #4: Actual Meaning In Life That Gives Us Purpose


In the film The Intern the elderly Robert de Niro says, ‘Don’t get me wrong I’m not an unhappy person. I just know there is a hole in my life and I need to fill it’.

His wife had recently died, and he had retired – and because of that he no longer felt a sense of purpose. There was no central meaning in his life guiding him.

We all strive for meaning in life. Not necessarily the big metaphysical meaning to life – but more the kind of meaning we crave whilst living in the trenches of everyday life. Meaning that gives us purpose. Many of us are on a search for meaning, and we don’t even know it.

What gives you a purpose for living?

It might be your spouse, or your children, or your career. But take these things away and what purpose do we have?

For some of us life often feels empty or rudderless. As if at any moment gravity might fail us and we’ll be left to float away into insignificance. Ultimately if there is no God then that’s our destiny anyway.

The physicist and anti-theist, Lawrence Krauss agrees. He says: ‘Two lessons I want to give people is that you’re more insignificant than you ever thought, and the future is miserable’.

Do you agree?


So what in your life gives you purpose? What makes you feel useful and wanted? Important and valued?

And will you always have it?

Finding meaning in relationships and work is not a bad thing, but even these can fail us or eventually end – and when they are taken away, so is a piece of our happiness.

And even if you have them – do you ever long for more?

The Bible says life and everything it offers is like mist, ultimately it can never provide actual meaning that lasts.[1] For that longing, for that desire for purpose that will not fail us or end, we have to look elsewhere. Beyond us – beyond the finite to the infinite. To fill the emptiness, we need to reorientate ourselves towards what gives us ultimate purpose. Ultimate meaning. Ultimate value and importance. We have to look to Jesus.


As one writer puts it, ‘We long for purpose and meaning in our lives and these longings find their fulfilment in knowing God. That’s what we were made for’.[2]

That little bit of emptiness you are feeling. That little bit of purpose or meaning you are lacking is because we were created to know God and live with him forever. We were created to know Jesus. He is the key to actual meaning in life that gives us lasting purpose and true happiness.

In him we have that little piece of the jigsaw life is missing. Nothing provides more significance, more meaning, more purpose than what Christianity has to offer.

So, if you’re searching for happiness – looking for actual meaning and purpose that lasts, start looking at Jesus.

[1] Read the book Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament.

[2] Martin Ayers, Naked God, p. 134. This isn’t a new concept, the great French philosopher of the seventeenth century Blaise Pascal describes how though we try and find things to take God’s place, ‘the infinite abyss’ that we feel – the emptiness that we feel in life ‘can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself’ in Pensées 148 – found in Blaise Pascal, Pensées (Penguin Classics), p. 45. The quote often attributed to him ‘There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ’ is likely based on this passage, and as far as I can tell, almost certainly apocryphal!

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