Why the Meaninglessness of Life?

Have you ever been struck by that feeling of pure meaninglessness? That deep down feeling in your heart of meaninglessness. Perhaps it occurs when you are at work or when you are alone. Does it happen occasionally or constantly? Some may not have any idea what I’m talking about. That’s ok. I must admit I have experienced this meaninglessness a number of times throughout my life. It’s never been fun, but honestly this meaninglessness has taught me something that is extremely important.

A Universal Issue

Scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins says,

“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

From continent to continent, meaninglessness seems to reign supreme. At first glance, it might not be easy to recognize because we tend to mask meaninglessness with busyness or pleasure. But it is there. We toil and strive to find meaning in this cold, dark universe every day of our lives, and if we are honest with ourselves we rarely find meaning. Sure, there are times when we might experience pure bliss and euphoric sensations, but that existential angst is still lives.

The Void

We all experience meaninglessness—a hole within our soul. This is what encountering the void is like. The void within our souls has been a part of the human condition ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3). This deep chasm of meaninglessness that we all find within ourselves searches constantly to be filled. This is why our search can sometimes seem like it’s complete. We temporarily fill the void with a number of earthly goods (relationships, sports, alcohol, work, drugs, etc). We may feel like there is no void within ourselves when we are intoxicated by earthly pleasures. Nevertheless, as time passes, the void will make itself more known. It is inevitable. You cannot escape it.

The Absurd

Albert Camus, philosopher and journalist, says, “Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” The reason he could make such a statement is because he was willing to admit the absurdity of life. You might not know, but it was some of Camus’ views that contributed to the formation of a philosophical position that came to be known as absurdism.

The absurd is all about a conflict. The conflict is between (1) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (2) the human ability to find any.1 Isn’t that our struggle today? Don’t we wake up and face this absurd reality every day? So what is the solution to man’s perennial problem?

The Solution

C.S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Perhaps this thought is just simply too good to be true. But just maybe, Lewis was right. I have never heard a Darwinian explanation that accounts for man’s constant search for meaning. How can unguided Darwinian naturalism account for our innate subjective desire to find meaning in life? How can Darwinism account for the desire that human beings deal with every day as we driven to find our place in this world?

This is where C.S. Lewis provides a solution to this problem facing humanity. When faced with the reality of living in a meaningless universe, experiencing the void daily, and facing the absurd constantly, man seeks meaning with something outside of oneself. Something to fully satisfy. Something that will make man feel alive.

The Answer

Perhaps you think that Christians are just wishful thinkers. Intellectually inferior people who must believe in some personal deity who cares for them because they can’t handle meaninglessness of life. Perhaps this really is the way world is. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe the one called Jesus was who he said was (Jn. 14:6). What if he did descend from his heavenly kingdom to redeem humanity (Jn. 6:38)? If he is who he claimed to be, it changes everything. It changes the way we view the universe, the void, and the absurdity of life.

Of course, I am not naive. If you come and drink from the living well, it doesn’t mean you will never struggle against meaningless in life (Jn. 4:14). I am a Christian pastor and I struggle with this almost daily. Even the most faithful Christians have struggled in this life. There’s little doubt that you would too. The ramifications of sin stretch deep and wide.

But Jesus is the answer to the absurdity of life. Why then do I feel like he’s not so often? Perhaps this is because my lack of faith. However, we must boldly and daily approach God and confess, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk. 9:24). We must cling to the gospel during our darkest days. We must remember the promises of God. Maybe one day in the new Heavens and the new Earth we will all understand why we had to struggle. Until then, the struggle is real, and the feeling of meaninglessness still lives. Keep holding on, friends. You are not alone in this battle. We struggle together in Christ.

Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He also works on the editorial team for Credo Magazine and Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net.