I know my title is depressing. Yeah, yeah...it REALLY makes you want to read on, doesn't it? It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. Right?
But haven't you asked that question at some point in your life?
-When death takes someone dear
-When we don't know how we're going to pay our bills
-When our children face a life-threatening illness
-When our spouse proclaims they no longer love us
I know I have asked this question more than ever since the death of my father in 2006. It was then that I had to face the void left in my heart by this larger-than-life man. As I stood at his grave and contemplated the fact that, although he brought joy to the lives of many, the memory of his life would fade and life would go on. Even two years later, just last week, as I stood staring at his tombstone, the question lingers and stings me to my core. All his work...his life...his laughter...his ministry...the constant theme of working his fingers to the bone for those he loved...was it worth it? I wish I could ask him.
Or how about the fame and riches of a Michael Jackson? Yesterday was the memorial service following his untimely death. As his soul moves into eternity...was life worth it for him? All the fame and glory, which faded after time...the riches...having the world as his oyster (for a time)...was it worth the scrutiny, the horrible allegations he faced, the constant pressure of being Michael Jackson---was it all worth it?
I mean, even though Michael's name will go down in history and my father's won't-either way-life will go on.
Was it all worth it? The question begs to be answered.
Never before in my life has the book of Ecclesiastes so poignantly echoed in my heart and mind.
"Meaningless, Meaningless" is how the writer describes life. He says it is a "chasing after the wind". He describes his lifelong pursuit of happiness by seeking knowledge, women, riches, and hard work. Yet, in all these endeavors "happiness" was captured in fleeting moments at best.
His conclusion is that the whole purpose of mankind is to fear God and keep His commands.
Is this depressing? At first, it seems to be. It echoes the sentiments of all those who seek the best that this life has to offer, attain it.....and find it sorely lacking.
It is this reality that has truly evoked in me the realization that scripture is correct; we really are strangers in this world. Never before have I longed so much for Christ to return and take His people home to the place He has prepared for us. Gone are my youthful longings of a long physical life here on earth, filled with fame and glory and maybe some riches thrown in for good measure. No more. Now, I long for a joy that lasts. For that place where my health won't fail, my energy never fades, and worry will be an obsolete memory of what was. My heart now yearns to be reunited with all those who have gone before me, a reunion that is always joyous and never ends.
For the first time in my life, I have a deep, heartfelt appetite for heaven and I can't wait to get there.
So, is life really worth it? It is a trickier question than I thought. In some pursuits, it is not. If one is looking for happiness in the externals that life dangles in front of us, I believe it only ends in lonely disappointment. However, if one seeks the inner happiness that can only come by knowing the Lord intimately then we can view temporal riches as just that-temporal-and we can be okay with that. If you earn lots of money, enjoy it, but don't seek your joy there. If you become famous, stay humble and know that fame can fade quickly. If you seek knowledge, learn all you can and use it to help others-but know that the brain is fragile and our memory can quickly be affected by illness or injury. In other words, enjoy the good things life brings but know that real joy can only come in a relationship with the Divine. Pursue Him and your joy will withstand any changes in this fickle existence we call "life".
In the meantime, let me offer some places where once can find moments of pure joy, even while we wait on the eternal:
-the hugs and kisses of a child
-the word "daddy" or "mommy"
-seeing a life change for the better and knowing you were part of that
-the bliss of serving others
-holding hands with the person you're spending your life with
-moments of spiritual connection with others
-knowing you are in the Lord's will-truly letting Him work in your life
-watching your child learn and grow; seeing them read or swim for the first time
I could go on and on. Moments of true joy only come in relationship to God or others. This is where joy shows itself, short of heaven. This is where we build our true legacy. And, honestly.......THESE are the moments when life is truly worth it.
Everything else, in the long run...means very little.