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Would you rather your life be meaningful or enjoyable? That’s a tough choice, isn’t it? What if you could have both? Actually, I believe you can’t have one without the other. A life that isn’t meaningful can’t be enjoyable for very long. Likewise, a life that isn’t enjoyable can’t be meaningful for very long.
What Makes Life Meaningful?
Something is meaningful if it has enough depth to last beyond the present moment. A mosquito might buzz by your ear. Then it’s forgotten. But if a butterfly lands on your arm, pauses, and then flies away, that is more remarkable. What you remember is certainly meaningful to you.
If you spend your whole life working, you might accomplish something at first, but it won’t be sustainable. All work and no play is dehumanizing. We aren’t machines.
Contributing without consuming doesn’t remain productive for long. There is only so much your efforts are meant to accomplish. There is only so much you can do. Working harder can’t make up for what only God can do. After that, any more effort is only wasted effort. Working more hours becomes a distraction rather than an essential part of life.
Meaning also comes from recognizing that God is in control. He is the one flying the plane. He is the one keeping it in the air. We are passengers. But this doesn’t mean we should be passive. Meaning comes from what you can contribute, up to a point.
Unless the Lord builds the house,Psalm 127:1 NIV
the builders labor in vain.
What Makes Life Pleasurable?
God’s definition of pleasure is different than the world’s. The world defines pleasure as feeling good in the moment. It’s the opposite of meaningful. Worldly pleasure is quickly forgotten. God-created pleasure is also inspirational and hopeful.
If you spend your whole life seeking worldly pleasure, you might have fun at first, but it won’t be sustainable. Consuming without contributing doesn’t remain fun for long. Fun for fun’s sake lacks depth. A life without meaning will be empty.
Enjoying life in God’s way adds meaning. It reminds us that life is worth living. That’s priceless. There are times when there is nothing left to do… when additional efforts don’t help. In those moments, the best we can do is trust God to handle life’s challenges and find ways to continue enjoying life.
Working hard to know God and carry out the part of His plan that He has delegated to us is a pleasurable activity. Nothing is more meaningful than playing a part in fulfilling God’s plans.
Enhance Meaning by Resting and Trusting in God
What makes life worth living? Knowing you have significance is near the top of the list. What you do matters. But it’s more than that. What happens to you also matters. God cares about what happens to us. To think He doesn’t is to give up all hope.
Both work and pleasure are meaningless unless they are first inspired by God. The combined efforts of God and believers are a true accomplishment (John 4:30-34).
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 NIV
We can’t make anything last beyond this moment without God (John 15:5). Enjoying your work is also impossible without God.
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.Ecclesiates 3:12-14 NIV
Relying too much on ability and too little on God can shift your ability from a strength to a weakness. If you want to enter into God’s rest, then don’t push yourself to accomplish more than your Maker intends. Work hard. Stress less. Enjoy life. Leave the rest to God.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.