By Y Bonesteele
A new report from Scientific American shows that humans have a life span capacity of up to 120-150 years, omitting any possible stressors like cancer, heart disease, or getting hit by a bus. The article, however, looks at this optimal life span rather pessimistically. The author writes, “What if death simply cannot be hacked and longevity will always have a ceiling, no matter what we do?…In the end, if the obvious hazards do not take our lives, this fundamental loss of resilience will do so.”
To me, however, 120-150 years seems extremely long! It means that I, in my mid 40s, possibly still could have another 75 to 105 years of life left. That’s incredible to think about.
The oldest person on record in our modern day to have ever lived was Jeanne Calment from France, who daily smoked a cigarette and drank a glass of red wine. She died in 1997 at the age of 122. Of course, she has nothing on Methuselah who is the oldest person reported in the Bible, living 969 years (Genesis 5:27).
With so many potential years before us, how are we to think of our lives? Some of us at 40 are already trying to plan for retirement at 65. If we stay on this earth twice as many years after that, however, gardening and golfing may not suffice to bring meaning to our lives. And without meaning and purpose, life can be rather dismal, boring, and unfulfilling.According to a study from Lifeway Research, most Americans (57%) say they wonder, “How can I find more meaning and purpose in my life?” at least monthly. Click To Tweet
According to a study from Lifeway Research, most Americans (57%) say they wonder, “How can I find more meaning and purpose in my life?” at least monthly. About 1 in 5 say they consider the question daily or weekly. It’s a question on all our minds, whether we perceive our lives to be short, after a year of a global pandemic, or long, after reading this report. What will we do with our days, months, and years then? How can we find the meaning and purpose many are searching for? Here are five ideas.
1. Enjoy the sanctification process.
It would be easy to go through life merely surviving the daily grind, even in ministry, as a very slow lockdown year has caused us to see life without luster. Being in lockdown, behind a mask, and handling relationships over Zoom was not the best of times, and some would even say it was the worst of times. But as with any year, especially as ministry leaders, we should be able to see what God has been doing through this year in our lives—molding, melting, refining, rebuking, disciplining, clarifying, and celebrating.
This is the sanctification process we get to enjoy as we see God transforming us into the likeness of Christ—in His patience, His grace, His humility, His perseverance, His love. Our days and years are a gift to bring us closer to Christ, in our character and in our relationship with Him, and that’s something to celebrate.
2. Enjoy making disciples.
Our call and task as believers is to make disciples. It’s a command from Christ for the purpose of growing His kingdom. When making disciples is our “job,” however, we can sometimes lose sight of the joy of how it enriches us, even as it grows our numbers.
As we make disciples, if we only look at the growth of our church or of God’s kingdom, we fail to enjoy our newly added family members. We fail to enjoy having new brothers or sisters. In making disciples, it’s not a numbers game for God. It’s a celebration of a growing family. We’re then reminded that we need each other. We enjoy each other. We love each other, even when we don’t feel like it. That’s family. And in loving our family we find purpose.In making disciples, it's not a numbers game for God. It's a celebration of a growing family. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
3. Enjoy serving God and His people.
There’s no better mission in this world to align with than God’s mission. He is at work in a variety of ways throughout the country and throughout the world. The opportunities are endless at any age—25, 45, 65, 85, or more. Tutoring at an afterschool program, talking with new moms at a pregnancy center, teaching English as a second language, mowing the lawn for a neighbor.
As ministry leaders, some of us are already doing this for our job. But are we doing these things on our day off? If it wasn’t our job? When we retire?
Serving God and His people in any context, big or small, at church or outside its walls, in groups or individually, will give life meaning. Yes, there will be plenty of times to lie listlessly on the beach or cruise around the Mediterranean, but there will also be many times available to volunteer at your local food pantry or hospital. Do you want meaning and purpose? Serve God and others.
4. Enjoy loving others.
Clearly some days seem long, and some seem short. And there will be times where it seems you don’t have enough hours in the day to do all that is needed and desired. Sometimes finding meaning is just loving others for that day. Inviting a neighbor over for coffee or tea. Enjoying sitting on the porch talking to strangers who are out walking their dogs. It’s playing puzzles with your grandkids. Or buying lemonade from a neighborhood lemonade stand.
It’s listening to the news and mourning sin in our world but seeing the image of God in every living person. It’s loving those who are different than you, in close or distant proximity. It’s giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and forgiving and asking forgiveness when needed. Some say life is too short to hold grudges. But you can also say life is too long to hold grudges. Don’t waste your days in bitterness. Live it loving others.Some say life is too short to hold grudges. But you can also say, life is too long to hold grudges. Don’t waste your days in bitterness. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
5. Enjoy God.
Last, but surely not least, spend your days and years enjoying God. Of course, I could have said “loving God,” but like a parent who may love their kids but not enjoy spending time with them, perhaps “enjoying” is the better word.
Enjoy God. Spend time with Him. Soak up His words. Experience the beauty of His creation. Celebrate all the blessings He has given. Sing with Him, make music for Him, sit in His presence. Listen to, learn from, and laugh with Him. Every year is a blessing. Every day is a blessing.For those of us in ministry, sometimes we forget that living for Christ is not just our job description; it's our life description. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
For those of us in ministry, sometimes we forget that living for Christ is not just our job description; it’s our life description. It gives us purpose and meaning. Whether He gives you one day or 150 years, treasure our all-knowing, all-sovereign God, who loves us like no other. Whether they’re few or showered upon us in buckets, let’s not waste the moments of our lives.
Y is an editorial coordinator at Lifeway Christian Resources. She has her M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology with an emphasis in Evangelism and Discipleship.