THE MEANING OF LIFE
Girls High – Potchefstroom
I would like to share with you a few thoughts about the meaning of life.
In other words, the reasons why you are excited about every new day in your life –
excited and eager when you wake up in the morning to put on your clothes and then grab hold of every opportunity the day might present to you.
On the other hand it could be that you usually just want to pull the blankets over your head again because there is no desire or courage to face the new day.
- The power of lies
A couple of years ago I counselled a young lady (21) who wanted to jump from a high building in Pretoria – her brother persuaded her on her cell phone not to do it.
She told me that it was her fourth suicide attempt – the previous time she tried to kill herself with a shotgun – the bullets were supposed to hit her full in the face but because of the impact of the shot, the rifle moved to the right and consequently her upper right arm was mutilated.
She told me that life didn’t have any meaning for her anymore and rejection was the root problem.
Her dad was an alcoholic and while her mother was pregnant with her it happened quite often that when he was under the influence of alcohol, he insulted and abused her mother and then shouted: “I don’t want this baby!” (her brother told her about this).
She also told me that throughout her life she always had this feeling that she was not supposed to live.
This girl thus received a powerful message of rejection already in the mother’s womb
… however this message was not the truth because it was connected to pain and trauma and therefor a lie.
This is always the case when anyone of us experiences trauma, pain, rejection, humiliation, molestation, rape, etc. – lies that are often projected towards us are:
- I am not good enough
- I am not up to standard
- I am just a piece of junk
- I am not supposed to live
- I am not worthy of being loved, cuddled or cared for
- God is only interested in other people, but not in me
When doing trauma counselling, after we have written down all the detail of the traumatic experiences, I usually start again at the beginning of the list together with the counselee – going through the whole story again, in order to identify all the lies.
After that, we begin to replace the lies with the truth.
If you believe the idea that you are not supposed to live because your dad shouted that he didn’t want this baby when your mother was pregnant with you, then that is a lie that you have believed up until now.
And this lie must be replaced with the truth – and the truth is that God is the only Creator of life, and He decided that you would be born because He had a special purpose in mind for your life.
- Negative thoughts and negative thinking patterns
A pattern of negative thoughts and negative talking can eventually become a devastating power that can rob you of life’s real meaning.
The effect can be so severe and intense that it can eventually even have a negative influence on your body and your biology.
In fact, this is confirmed by research
The researcher, Eric Kandel, received the Nobel prize in 2000 for research done related to this field: explaining from a scientific basis how it is possible that my thoughts can influence my body
What he and others said can be summed up as follows:
- As experience changes our brains and thoughts > we are changing our biology.
- The immune system is closely focused on the ‘discussion’ (self-talk) that is
going on in the mind.
You know, these statements brings to mind a proverb that says: “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words”
Another translation: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue… “
If you have been bombarded with negative thoughts and sayings about you as a person since you were little, about the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you eat, about your body, and eventually everything you do…
Then eventually you are going to believe those lies as if they are the truth, and that could destroy you in the long-term emotionally (depression), spiritually (where is God?) and even physically (more and more physical ailments – psychosomatic)
The deeper root of this problem has to do with feelings of total rejection, worthlessness, hopelessness, eventually depression and thoughts of suicide.
A small child is not able to distinguish between truth and lies, especially when these lies came from authoritative figures and important people in your life – then you will believe every word they said as if every statement was 100% the truth.
… at that stage we are not able to realize that very often those who said bad things to us were themselves emotionally wounded and broken on the inside, and out of their pain they then projected pain onto us.
What is also important is the fact that people who have been traumatized and rejected and emotionally wounded, find it very difficult to discern between truth and lies.
Even as adults they are not able to realize that a lot of things that have been said to them were lies and it came from people who were struggling with a big void inside of them.
That is why we say: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
With my words I can either speak life and truth, a blessing towards myself and towards others, or I can destroy and verbally abuse myself or others.
- At some stage I did counselling with a lady who told me that at the end of grade 10 in high school she gave her report to her dad and his reaction was: “You are pathetic!” (although she didn’t fail any of her subjects).
Since that time in her life her academic marks just spiraled downwards, and secondly, she developed an eating disorder as well as depression.
When she brought back her first report during her first year at university, his reaction was to take away all her financial support as well as her car.
She was consequently forced to terminate her studies – and yet again – she didn’t fail any of her subjects!
He, however, was a hyper perfectionist struggling with a lot of unresolved issues in his own life and was now just projecting his pain and unresolved issues onto her.
What he told her during both events were not the truth, but she couldn’t discern between lie and truth at that time.
The result: subconsciously she accepted everything as the truth.
However, the emotional pain and rejection were so overwhelming that the average young person would not be able to handle it.
This then resulted in depression and an addiction (food).
In such circumstances the addiction becomes a way of escape – escaping for short periods from these painful thoughts and memories and rejection that this person is wrestling with day and night.
Eventually you reach a point where you ask yourself: “Is life really worth it?”
Years later as a married adult woman this lady was still struggling with depression and an eating disorder as well as marriage problems.
That dad most probably didn’t realize the power of death in his words.
- What am I living for?
Viktor Frankl was a young Jewish psychiatrist in Vienna, Austria, at the beginning of the Second World War.
As Germany occupied Austria, Viktor Frankl’s wife was pregnant and she was forced by the military authorities to undergo an abortion to get rid of her baby.
After that Viktor and his wife, his parents, a brother and a sister, were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp as well as some other camps.
Eventually he lost both his parents, his wife and his brother in those camps.
After he was eventually liberated together with other survivors, within six days he wrote his top seller: Man’s search for meaning
Some of his basic premises in this book were:
- “Saying yes to life in spite of everything.”
- “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
- “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!” (In other words: what have you learned up until now through your pain and your trauma – can you apply the lessons in your life?)
If ever in future you struggle with the ’Why-question’, this is one of the books that you must definitely read – excellent!
[My first wife died in a car accident and our youngest daughter was in grade 7 at the time – and then at some stage after this trauma I gave her this book to read.
Today she is 36 and she is a senior air hostess with Emirates in Dubai and she is still testifying about the impact that this book had on her life – she can still quote some of Frankl’s sayings]
When people were dying in that camp because of hopelessness and despondency and being overwhelmed by the total meaninglessness of life, Viktor Frankl always encouraged the others by telling them:
Each one of us must ask ourselves this morning: “What is the most important thing in life for me? – What am I really living for?”
A couple of years ago a study was conducted among 8000 students at 48 universities and colleges in the USA and they were all asked the same question: “What is the most important thing in life for me?”
The results could be divided roughly into the following two categories:
- 22% indicated that they would like to make a lot of money in life.
- 78% indicated that they would like to find their real purpose in life – in other words, to eventually find something worth living for.
Frankl said: If you have found this purpose, you will be able to handle any trauma or any crisis and you will not want to quit.
- Years ago in another city I counselled a school girl when she was at the end of grade 10.
Her mother brought her to me because she didn’t want to live any more, and for the first time in her life she had to take antidepressant medication to survive emotionally.
The reason for all of this: The previous week, after a three-year relationship her
boyfriend broke up with her and the next day he was in a relationship with her best friend at school.
When I talked with her alone she told me that there was a strict rule in their house according to which nobody was allowed to cry.
This rule came from her dad because he grew up in an orphanage and that was his only way of coping as a child with all his emotions of rejection and hurt.
In other words: Just put a lid on all your emotions, tell yourself that you are strong and tough, and go on with life!
This girl’s mother was diagnosed with cancer but they were not allowed to talk about it or cry about it
I asked her: “Is there any other person with whom you can talk, in whose presence you can cry, someone you trust? A friend, a relative, a teacher?”
… and she told me there was nobody.
Afterwards I asked her mother if her husband would be willing to come and join us in our next counselling session because he had the key to all his daughter’s problems.
… the reason I said this was because I knew that if that dad would just be willing to put his arms around his daughter and tell her that he loves her and allow her to cry on his shoulder because of her big loss, then that depression would very soon be something of the past.
Her mother however told me there was no way at all that he would be willing to do that – my heart ached tremendously for that girl.
In her case we also had to work through ‘n number of lies like the following:
Regarding the boyfriend:
- I am worthless
- I failed – I am not good enough
- Someone else is better than I am
From her dad the subtle lies were:
- Your emotions and your pain are not important to me
- Your recent loss is not such a big issue
- Lift up your head, be strong, and prove yourself
These could be the devastating messages and lies from those who are the most important persons in your life at that stage.
And therefore one can understand why she didn’t want to live anymore.
We then had to work through all these lies and I had to correct each one of them
And for the very first time she could hear the truth because up until that stage nobody ever rectified these lies.
The truth had to do with the question: How did God look at her life and how did He feel about her recent loss?
- God is full of empathy regarding all our losses
- Furthermore: She as a person was precious to Him, someone with talents and godly gifts and very unique.
And this is true of each one of you this morning despite all the lies that broken people could have told you since you were little.
- Rejection and loneliness
We therefore can say that feelings of rejection and loneliness are able to grow until it becomes a prison – a prison in which some people are serving a life sentence
This is a verdict that they’ve brought upon themselves – and some eventually reach the point in this prison where they feel it is not worth living anymore.
They’ve reached this point of hopelessness because they were totally convinced about the lie that there is no way of ever being released from this prison cell.
In the well-known Meier Clinics in the USA they are treating 4000 patients every week.
Their statistics pointed out that 80-90% of these patients indicated that they didn’t have a single friend who knew all their secrets and their personal struggles…
…hence they are people who are going through life alone and isolated.
Against this background the psychiatrists involved with these clinics recommend that every person must have at least 4-6 other people with whom they can relate on a very personal level, someone whom you can trust and know that they will be there for you whatever the circumstances.
- Father wounds and mother wounds
These are two modules in one of my counselling courses and one of the books that we focus on is a book titled, Released from the prison my father built, by James Ryle.
At the age of six he and his three brothers and a sister were placed in an orphanage because his father was jailed at that stage.
Because there was no father or mother in his life, he grew up full of rage and inner turmoil and during his puberty he became more and more rebellious and resistant.
Eventually he became involved with drugs and the wrong friends.
Then at some stage, while under the influence of alcohol, he was involved in a motor car accident in which someone had died, and that lead to him being several years in prison.
At some stage during his incarceration he experienced a period of intense spiritual growth which eventually ended up in full-time ministry after his release.
After being reconciled with his father many years later, he learned that his father was a member of the building team (all of them prisoners) who built that prison in which James served his sentence a couple of years later.
His father was the welder in the team and he told his son that he welded all the bars when that prison was built.
James Ryle then recalls how he clearly heard the voice of God that night after his father gave him this information – and God told him:
“James, I have set you free from the prison your father built. Now I will use you to set others free from prisons their fathers (and/or mothers) have built. Go home to your friends and tell them what great things I have done.”
This eventually became his life’s passion and goal, namely to reach out to others who have become imprisoned, either physically or emotionally through pain and hurt from the past.
Thereafter, whenever he told people his own story he added questions like the following:
- in? What is your cell-block called?”
- “What name would you give to that particular thing that keeps you locked up?”
He usually pointed out that aspects like anger, greediness, fear, sexual perversion, loneliness, etc., could all be examples of people who are not really emotionally and spiritually free – people who are still trapped in that little prison cell.
In numerous cases it also seemed from people’s life stories that such negative emotions and behaviour had its origin in broken and painful relationships with either a father or a mother figure or some other authoritative figure.
- To summarize
- Has there been a pattern of negative thoughts and thinking because of repeated humiliation and rejection?
- What are all the lies that you believed up until this morning?
- Do you believe the lie that you are not supposed to live? That you are not worth being loved?
- Are you struggling with any kind of addiction as a result of overwhelming inner pain and hurtful memories? This could have resulted in drugs, alcohol, sexual addiction, cutting (self-mutilation), etc.
- Are you still in a prison? If so, which prison are youin and what is your cell-block called?
- Remember Viktor Frankl’s words:
- “Just hang in there because there is still something to live for – somewhere there is still somebody who loves you and who cares for you – please don’t quit!”
Should most of these questions still be a problem for you, then the good news that I have for you this morning is that you need not stay any longer in that little jail cell!
There are solutions to every problem, and this week people are especially available to care for you and sit with you and talk with you through every painful issue.
If you are willing to respond, then the door of that little cell can swing open and you can start a new season of real freedom in your life.