What to do when your life feels pointless
How do we continue on when this life feels pointless, like when we are treading water and it feels like we’re just passing time until this life is over? It’s a raw and honest question from Fred, an older gentleman, who does not give us his exact age. Fred wrote us to say this: “Pastor John, I avoid the thought because I don’t want to go down that path. But deep within me I long for death because it will release me from what I consider, so far, to be a pretty joyless life. The joyful moments of relationship with God seem to be few and far between now, and it seems like my life is really just a matter of passing time until Jesus either returns or calls me home. What advice can you give me? I feel really exhausted.”
The first thing I want to say to Fred is that growing weary with this world in old age is normal and good. It’s normal because our energy is being depleted by age. It’s good, because in this broken world, Christians are not really at home. Our citizenship is in heaven and we are designed as new creatures in Christ for a new heaven and a new earth with glorified bodies. So don’t be too hard on yourself for feeling weariness with this old, worn out, dying, corrupt world. You were made for something better, and it is coming.
But, what is sinful is letting our weariness become cynical or hopeless or joyless or meaningless. Let me try to help Fred by just mentioning five or six things that might be an encouragement and a guidance.
Remember His Promises
Keep the promises of God before your mind day and night. Some of them are wonderfully designed for old people like us. Here’s what Isaiah 46:3–4 says: “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
“Growing weary with this world in old age is normal and good.”
In other words, the greatness of our God is not that he demands us to carry him like the Babylonian gods on carts, but that he shows his strength in carrying us.
The weaker we get, the more precious that promise is. Keep the promises of God before your mind, especially the ones designed for us.
Never forget that you are not still here by accident. God gave you life, and God will take your life. Job 1:21 says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” God does nothing randomly or whimsically. He has gloriously wise reasons for everything he does, even if we can’t see them.
You are still on this earth for a divine reason. Your life is not meaningless. You are not here by accident. God is sovereign. If he has you still here, he has good reasons. Bank on it, trust him.
Turn off the TV
Don’t medicate your sadness and weariness with television. There are some things, I don’t doubt, that may provide innocent and wholesome recreation for your mind. But they are so few and so far between. Most television and most advertisements on television drag your soul away from Christ. They don’t promote holiness and purity and heavenly mindedness and nobility of soul. They make you feel small and stupid and silly and childish. Don’t join the millions of old people who simply vegetate in front of animated worldliness.
“Never forget that you are not still here by accident. God gave you life, and God will take your life.”
If you can read, read the Bible and read good books about God and his world. If you can’t read, get somebody to help you get setup with audio books, and listen to the Bible and listen to important books, great books, insightful books, interesting books.
God has so much to teach us in our old age, and we never lose our need of being reminded of great things that we once knew and have now forgotten.
He has given us an utterly fascinating world to understand and enjoy. Find a way to keep growing in your knowledge and in grace.
Find a Place to Serve
Be among God’s people at church and ask the leaders of your church how you can serve given your limitations. God created us, all of us, to be useful. One of the greatest frustrations of growing old is the sense of uselessness. If you have any strength or any mobility left, you can find some way to serve. That’s the last thing.
Here is a sub-point: Find someone you can care for, someone you can give yourself to. That care may be as simple as reading to them or taking them for a walk or giving them a shoulder rub or showing an interest in their life. There are always people who have needs. Until we’re paralyzed, in bed, unable to move, we probably can make some small contribution to someone else’s life.
You were made for that, Fred. You were made to love and serve, so seek it out. This is the path of joy because Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
On Feeling Useless
Fred, I don’t know if you like poetry, but I want to end with a poem. It’s one of my favorites. It was written by John Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost. It’s called “On His Blindness.”
He went blind at age 46. That’s when it finished anyway. He couldn’t see anything after age 46. He lived another 20 years, until 1674, totally blind. This poem is about his struggle with feeling useless and yet coming to a very crucial insight.
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Does God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Reading the Bible Supernaturally. This article first appeared on desiringgod.org.
image courtesy Justin Luebke, Freely Photos
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