It’s natural for everyone to desire fulfillment and happiness. Most of us can probably think back on meaningful things we’ve done and remember how we felt a real fire about the activity, along with a powerful feeling of satisfaction and well-being.
Are times like this in our lives meant to be short-lived? Or are there ways to experience consistent, long-term meaning? Veterans Day can be a good time to consider these questions. Those in the military often have a roller coaster ride of experiences. Very soon after committing to service, they can be given huge responsibilities. They may be taught very quickly how to operate multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment and answer for the lives of fellow soldiers. A strong sense of purpose and duty is often found in this work. But there’s also constant adrenaline rushes that may leave some feeling addicted to the excitement. Once one’s military duties are complete, some have found that civilian life can feel inconsequential, even meaningless.
After his discharge, a friend of mine found himself unthinkingly going out at night, simply searching for someone to fight. Then he finally recognized that he was really just searching for those intense emotional infusions he’d experienced prior to and in battle. Once he realized this, it wasn’t so hard for him to turn from those hollow desires. Adrenaline rushes and intense emotions are so short-lived, but living a meaningful life doesn’t have to be.
Finding lasting satisfaction and meaning in our lives takes place as we stop looking for it in physicality and human emotions. In fact, many veterans have discovered that it is in God where we can find a more permanent peace (see Ryder Stevens, “Living to serve,” Nov. 9, 2006, JSH-Online.com and Janet Horton, “A spiritual response to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” November 23, 2010, JSH-Online.com). Rather than a show of weakness, searching for satisfaction in God truly is evidence of valor. Substantial, even great, accomplishments happen in selfless service to God.
Christ Jesus certainly understood this; his greatest desire was to share with others how they could live a life with profound meaning. He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Having a more abundant life filled with meaning and substance, with joy and accomplishment, is the natural result of putting God first in our lives, serving Him by loving others and ourselves. This is what we were created to do, because God, whom the Bible calls Love, simply cannot go unexpressed.
We each, as Love’s offspring, are the active proof of God’s loving nature and caring presence. It’s right to commit to bringing out God’s love in everyday life because of the wonderful ways it can enrich the world. Respected author Henry Drummond wrote, “You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love” (“The Greatest Thing in the World,” p. 60).
In our commitment to love and serve God, we may encounter some rough places, but through understanding that God hasn’t sent such trials but redeems us from them, we find that those tough obstructions give us handholds to help us go higher. You can’t climb a smooth mountain, as the saying goes. Facing those rough places turns us more unreservedly to God, and it’s through humbly turning to God for strength that anything can be faced and overcome. “When the smoke of battle clears away, you will discern the good you have done, and receive according to your deserving,” wrote Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy in her book about prayer and healing, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (p. 22).
A life with deep meaning is a beautiful life, a life where one’s satisfaction is still a priority, but it’s gained through the joyful understanding that abundant goodness is bestowed on us by infinite Spirit, not from any form of materiality. As Mrs. Eddy puts it in another of her books, “The sublime summary of an honest life satisfies the mind craving a higher good, and bathes it in the cool waters of peace on earth; till it grows into the full stature of wisdom, reckoning its own by the amount of happiness it has bestowed upon others” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 227).
This powerful, joyful satisfaction can never be short-lived, since opportunities to serve God, love God, and express God are consistently coming to us, giving every single day of life constant, lasting meaning.