Typically, as we enter college or the workforce, we begin to ask “Who am I? Why am I here?” A bit over a month ago I read the Sartre quote, “Without God, we are condemned to be free... Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself.”
That sounds like being condemned to me. Just this last week, a TV show mentioned a September 2017 Pew Research Poll that asked the open-ended question, “What provides you with a sense of meaning?” Or, where do we focus our lives? Get our identity and worth? Find a purpose to build our lives on?
The results: family at 69%, career at 34%, money at 23%, faith and spirituality at 20%, friends had 19% and tied with activities and hobbies. We’re all over the page, aren’t we? Two thoughts struck me as I pondered this.
First, I grieve that Americans placed faith in fourth place. According to another Pew poll, 71% self identify as Christians. 40% attend worship regularly. Yet God ranks in fourth place at 20%. Hmmm. That seems like a disconnect.
Perhaps Sartre is winning. Look at the other five—all are transient—we can lose them at any time. Families die, divorce, move away, disappoint us; friends do the same. We can lose a career by one bad mistake, an economic downturn, or retirement. Money? Remember the devastation brought on by the Great Recession of 2008? And many of the activities and hobbies we pursue require good health, which can depart at any moment. So what happens to our meaning, our purpose, our identity?
Maybe we should think more deeply, and grab onto a source of meaning that can last a lifetime, and beyond.
Kick Starting the Application
What primarily gives meaning to you? Has that worked? Have you lost or changed that? Why? Where does God fit into the spectrum of meaning for you? Pray about this, and do you feel a nudge from God to reevaluate and refine your source of meaning?