The Meaning of Life

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him – James 1:12

Wednesday evening, talking with my friend Ray after Bible study, we both agreed as to how much we enjoy the ongoing process of learning. At the same time we share a concern when it comes to the tone of public discourse and the apparent absence of anything approaching a classical education, a well-rounded understanding of history, or a substantial grounding in reason.

What interests me is how my learning experiences seem to run together, overlap, and complement one another. It’s as if my continuing education is being coordinated in some providential fashion. My group studied Ecclesiastes in the fall, we’re getting into more wisdom literature via James now, I’m immersed in a thorough text reviewing Reformed theology, I just completed reading a couple of excellent novels (Ordinary Grace, All the Light You Cannot See) that both took deep dives into questions of meaning, and then – looking for a new series to watch one evening – Rebekah and I stumbled upon a brilliant 2018 adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1848).

We completed the series yesterday evening and I’d absolutely recommend it.

Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity:

“Vanity Fair,” Thackeray reminds us at the beginning of each episode, is “A world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having.” The theme music is a marvelous cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along The WatchTower.

“There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief…”

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I love the way Thackeray’s penetrating phrase paints such an accurate picture of what is wrong with the focus of so many lives. A world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having.

Striving in that sense is the exact idea that’s at the heart of the Book of Ecclesiastes – a chasing after the wind. The spot-on visual from the series Rebekah and I watched has all the characters seated on a merry-go-round, constantly chasing in a circle, never actually getting anywhere.

Connecting with Joy:

michael-palin-in-vanity-fair-5153262

In our group discussion Wednesday I asked the guys what they thought about the following advice from James 1 – Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

My friend Robert pointed out that when this was written life was always a series of struggles and troubles. So the writer is essentially suggesting that we consider each and every day an opportunity for great joy, regardless.

For us, today, we often miss the chance for joy because we have arranged our lives to avoid challenge and struggle. Not only that, but what we strive for – what is not worth having – too often takes us in another direction altogether.

A few things worth thinking about- DEREK

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief
Business men, they drink my wine
Plowman dig my earth
None were level on the mind
Nobody up at his word
Hey, hey
No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
The hour’s getting late, hey
All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl… – Bob Dylan


Categories: Bible, commentary, culture, life

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