I often refer to the sentiment: “It’s not just pie-in-the-sky when you die; it’s also steak-on-your-plate while you wait.” It may be rather crude and unscientific, but I like the simple way it encourages us to realise that although we know we ought to live with an eternal perspective, we also need to understand that life was always meant to be a fulfilling prospect too.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
The question remains: in what do we hope in order to find this fulfilment?
I tend to be a big-picture, philosophical and abstract kind of thinker (which can cause people to scratch their heads and look at me strangely, especially as I’m very much a novice in these things), but I generally divide the world into three camps in regards to worldview: Atheist, Pagan or Christian. I think it helpful to note, in this regard, that every worldview/belief system is basically categorised in one of these three ways, as either:
- there is no God,
- everything-is-God, or
- there is one-God
(A caveat: There are crossovers between worldviews. There can be no-god beliefs in the everything-is-god view, and a mixture of two or three of them practically worked out in many people in our syncretic western society. Therefore, the following is not a thorough work, but a general one, as I’m no expert)
How does that help answer our question?
Our worldview will determine what we find value in, what gives us meaning, how we find our purpose and therefore, what fulfils us.
Fulfilment in a No-God Worldview
If there is no-God/higher power, and if all there is, is space, matter, time and random chance, and no solid bench mark to determine value, we become ourselves the arbiters of it. Purpose is therefore what we make it (ie; relative), and fulfilment can only come from pursuing that self-determined purpose.
What happens when we ‘fail at life’? What do we then think of ourselves and what have we left to fall back on? Well, we can only refer back to ourselves and if we don’t like what we see, then what is the point of carrying on? Most people will find a reason to carry on, but not everyone is strong enough and I do wonder if this has contributed to the recent heartbreaking high levels of hopelessness leading to suicide.
In a worldview which champions ‘survival of the fittest’, if you don’t see yourself as fit for purpose, then why survive at all?
Not often a very fulfilling prospect, if we must rely on ourselves for a sense of meaning, since our hearts can so easily waver!?
Fulfilment in an Everything-is-God Worldview
If, however everything is God, then our value is outside of ourselves to some extent – but does not extend beyond the things of this world. This isn’t materialism, as one may see the object as having value in ways beyond our creature comforts, convenience or wealth. This has more to do with perhaps spiritualising – or even thinking of them as an illusion – created things.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (Romans 1:22-23)
Paganistic/pantheistic cultures tend to appeal to the spirits of animals or plants (animism), or in Mythology human-like gods, to curry favour on things like fertility, weather and abundant crops and many other things. It’s interesting to note that however fantastical these ideas are, they are all well rooted in the things of this world, with which we engage through our physical senses (I once read that our imagination is always anchored in the things we know or is an extension of them, as there is no such thing as a truly original thought).
Therefore our value is connected to created things, which we would then worship – sometimes inadvertently – because, if in this worldview, created things are all there is, there is no transcendent God or higher power to look to, so the immediate becomes our focus.
The extreme version of this worldview is found in Eastern thought. In this view, all is one and our aim is to become one with all in order to achieve enlightenment (to become, at the same time, both nothing, and part of everything). There is, therefore, no hope or value for anyone if bliss is only to be found in oblivion (Nirvana – In my view, this is not much to look forward to…!?).
We see these ideas played out quite imaginatively in many fascinating sci-fi dramas (Star Trek – Discovery, for example, is an excellent study of these kinds of philosophies; as well as being compelling and entertaining). Personally, I find there are gaping holes in some of the conclusions they come to, which result, due to the lack of a reliable foundational truth.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
Fulfilment in a One-God Worldview
The One-God worldview includes all the Judeo-Christian religions and in these value and purpose is derived from the One-God whom they worship (The debate over whether it is the same God in all these religions is a question for another time – Some helpful thoughts on this).
If the underlying principle is determined by the idea that God made everything, then God must have been the arbiter of all sense of meaning, value and purpose, and in Him alone can we find true fulfilment.
It has been said that the most fulfilling aspect of a persons life comes from our relationships (just think how all sense of ideal, principles and common-sense is brushed aside to save the life of someone you love). If we are valuable because we were made by God; if our purpose was to bear His image as ambassadors to the world He made; then our most satisfying sense of fulfilment must therefore be found in a relationship with Him.
Herein lies the problem:
How do we have a right relationship with God?
Since Creator-God is the arbiter of purpose, meaning and value, the source, as it were, He is also the one who initiated the possibility of being in a right relationship with Him again. The sin of Adam and Eve had broken this perfect relationship with God and separated us from Him, since sin cannot remain where God lives and it’s this same sin which keeps us from Him now. God, through His Son (who in the flesh bore the very image, expression and character of God), made a way for us, by taking upon Himself at the cross, the sin which separates us from Him. The source of our reconciliation is thus initiated directly by the source of all things Himself; the Creator-God.
It stands therefore, that in order to gain fulfilment, we have to counterintuitively give up all sense of the purpose we made up for ourselves in trying to find it, surrender to the source of all purpose, meaning and value, and then receive in good measure all these things and so much more besides.
The Lord will work out his plans for my life- for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.” (Psalm 138:8)
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Remember: it’s not in seeking fulfilment that you find it, but in seeking the Lord Himself, the source of all things.
In finding the Lord, not only will you have eternity to look forward to (Pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die) but also in finding fulfilment, and purpose have (steak-on-your-plate-while-you-wait).
Some excellent material on Worldview:
(1st in a series of short clips on Worldview)