Have you ever been so overwhelmed by life that you have considered suicide? Have you ever felt as though your life has no meaning and you would rather be dead? If you have answered yes to either question, you are not alone. Many people despair of life as they struggle with poor health, broken dreams, lost relationships, old age, and poverty.
Dr. David Goodall is one such person, with a unique solution to his woes. Born in April 1914, Goodall emigrated from England to Australia where he became a successful botanist. Now, at age 104, he has determined that his life is no longer useful or enjoyable and so has travelled to Switzerland to end his life this week in an assisted-suicide facility.
One might might wonder why such an old man would want to die when so many would love to live as long as he has. He is not diseased and his mind is sound. But the dull rhythms of his old age are no longer enjoyable compared to his younger years, and so he has chosen to end it. According to CNN, “the scientist described his treatment as ‘cruel,’ adding, ‘they oblige one to stay alive, when one hasn’t got anything to live for.’ (emphasis mine).
Does Life Have Meaning?
One cannot help but sympathize for a man who considers that he has nothing to live for. And, the argument could be made biblically that he never really has had anything worth living for. The writer of Ecclesiastes, who had almost everything that one could ever wish for, said that life was meaningless, meaningless…under the sun (Eccl. 1:2). He was right. Nothing without a heavenly focus, done with eternity in mind, is of any enduring meaning. This applies to the young and the old. The problem then, with people like Goodall-and many others like him-is that they believe that their lives are meaningful if it is pleasurable and productive. When pleasure and productivity ceases, so does the motivation to live. For Goodall, his successes as a scientist stimulated his passions and filled him with a sense of meaning, which, when taken away left him feeling useless.
Where is Meaning Found?
The secular worldview, properly understood, should force every adherent to arrive at the conclusion Goodall has drawn, but decades earlier. Truly, there are many things in life that are pleasurable, but they are not meaningful. Meaning comes when we participate in pleasure and endure hardships for the ultimate glory of God.
The Scriptures teach:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)
It is this unique vertical focus on the glory of God that allows every true believer to find hope in the most hopeless circumstances. By choosing to define success and meaning in temporal pursuits and by responding to God’s call to give him glory even in the most mundane experiences, we can continue to look up even when life is pulling us down.
There is Hope!
It is normal to feel the weight of unwelcome circumstances and to begrudge them-we all do. But there is hope, and that hope does not come when circumstances improve but when we realize that they are temporal and that glorifying God is both right and pays eternal rewards.
You are not a machine to be discarded when you break down. You are eternally loved by God regardless of your productivity, and have been designed to bring glory to God in all things and in all circumstances. The sooner you believe and receive these words, the sooner you will find peace and be able to rest in his presence and promises until the Lord calls you home.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Is. 26:3)