What is the meaning of life?
The Greek philosopher Plato declared that the entire task of philosophy is melete thanatou: “mindfulness of death.” In 2006, medical journalist Dr. Timothy Johnson wrote, “The meaning of life is that it stops.”
Not much has changed during the past 2400 years.
Mortality rates are holding steady at 100%. For the past six months, CNN has kept a running ticker in the corner of its screen, tallying the number of Americans who have died from COVID-19.
Despite constant reminders that none of us is going to get out of this world alive, it’s not easy to acknowledge that’s going to happen to me one day. For many of us, even the thought of death generates a surge of terror.
Cosmologists assure us that we shouldn’t take this personally. The universe, which began with the Big Bang, will ultimately vanish in the Big Freeze. The reason there’s no future for you is that there’s no future for anything.
What can we do?
We can succumb to WMD’s: Weapons of Mass Distraction. Instead of cultivating “mindfulness of death,” we can pursue addictions to sports, entertainment, travel, sex, video games, housecleaning, personal fitness, hobbies, shopping, religious busywork, surfing the Web, alcohol, or opiates.
Or we can cram our minds and our calendars with a never-ending devotion to work. Will that address the problem of death and satisfy our deepest longings for meaning? No. But as John Capozzi notes, “The executive who works from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm every day will be both very successful and fondly remembered by his wife’s next husband.”
It doesn’t have to be this way.
The book of Hebrews tells us, concerning Jesus, “the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” (Hebrews 4:14-15, The Message)
One of the Holy Spirit’s primary jobs is to prepare us for the end of our lives – to face death without fear.
It helps to embrace the right prepositions.
People commonly speak of passing into death, as if we’re tumbling into an abyss where everything will be lost. But it’s more accurate, from a biblical perspective, to say that we go through death into something wonderful. We leave this small corner of God’s neighborhood so we can relocate into a vast new hemisphere of divine real estate.
Something big awaits us. Will it be the Big Freeze? Or merely the Big Sleep?
Jesus assured his followers that we are heading for the Big Celebration – a reunion like no other, a welcome-home party.
No wonder the Bible’s most oft-repeated command is, “Don’t be afraid.”
Life can be tough. And death can seem so deadly.
But because of the One who put death out of commission on the cross, all shall be well.
What is the meaning of life?