4th January 2020

A Purpose in Life

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

I apologise in advance for picking a subject which is depressing and all too familiar. We can’t escape the sad fact that there is an epidemic of suicides in recent years. This is despite the fact that people are well nourished, free of disease epidemics, and mostly haven’t been effected by war. We wonder therefore what is the cause of so much despair when people are comparatively well off! I am convinced there is a direct connection between the lack of purpose, and lack of religious faith in present day living and the high numbers of suicides.

A story that has given me hope and inspiration in that situation is that of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Born in 1918 in Russia, his widowed mother strove to give him a good education. She also gave him an upbringing in the Christian Faith. As a young man he found himself imprisoned in the Siberian prison/labour camps for some relatively mild criticism of the authorities. Conditions in the Soviet labour camps make for grim reading. In his major literary work Gulag Archipelago, he wrote his account of life in the camps. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. He was also awarded an honorary degree by Harvard University. In his Commencement Address, he condemned, among other things, the lack of spirituality and traditional values as well as the lack of religious faith in present day Western culture.

A similar story to Solzhenitsyn was that of Austrian/Jewish psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankyl. Frankyl was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. He observed during his imprisonment in the camps that while many prisoners succumbed to despair and ended their own lives, those who survived tended to be those with a strong reason to live – loved ones waiting for them or some other significant purpose. He was fond of quoting “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Given the cruel and unjust situation in which he found himself, Alexander Solzhenitsyn could have succumed to despair, or become bitter, But to paraphrase Robert Frost, he “took the other road” and through his writings put his experiences in the labour camps to the use of his own and future generations.

The culture in which we live lacks purpose and faith. We of the Christian Church have faith and the knowledge of God. Have we a purpose in life? It should be possible to formulate a purpose for our individual lives if we haven’t already identified such. We could start by praying for one! Living our individual lives as an embodiment of the Kingdom of God is a worthwhile (all be it somewhat generalised) purpose for our lives. Of course we are grieved by the suffering we see due to the lack of purpose and lack of the knowledge of God. As Matthew five implies, example is and has always been the most powerful teacher, and a tool for evangelism that is available to us all every day.

Prayer
Father, help us to have a purpose in life in line with your purposes for us, for your people, and for your creation.
Amen

Study by Joe Casey
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About the Author:
Joseph Casey is an Elder in the Limerick Congregation of the Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International, Limerick
Please phone for venue

Meeting time:
The first and third Saturday of each month at 1:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Joseph Casey
Phone: +353 872592983
Email: joecasey@shannontechnology.ie