Is Life Good?

“Life is good,” they say, and that sometimes feels true. Life is beautiful, but things break — important things like marriages, friendships, careers, and bodies. There are moments of great joy and wonder but also seasons of disappointment, loneliness, and pain.

Is life good? To even raise the question feels like an offense — perhaps even a dangerous offense — against good manners.

We need to believe that life is good, or what are we doing here? We especially need our children to believe that life is good so they will pursue with hope and diligence the happiness we so desperately want for them.

We need to believe that life is good, but can an honest person, with eyes open to the sorrow and cruelty that surround us, really say that it is?

And here we come to the heart of things. It’s not a question about good. It’s a question about life.

If by “life” we simply mean the human experience, then no, life is not especially good. Some people are luckier than others, but we all suffer, and, in the end, we all die. One philosopher described human life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” and even St. Paul concludes, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

If life is good, it must not be primarily about the human experience, which — for all its beauty — inevitably ends in futility and failure.

But this is the crisis of our generation. Having abandoned hope for anything beyond the human experience, we demand goodness here and now, and we often do not find it. Our belief that life on earth must be good dooms us to disappointment and a life that is not good. We are starving for meaning and purpose, and, as mortals, we are running out of time.

This crisis comes from forgetting who we are — not merely a particular human body having particular experiences, but something far deeper, more enduring, and more personal. Life is not a set of circumstances; it is the fact of our individual existence. It is the self we are choosing to become during our human experience and the self that will continue beyond that experience.

Life is good because, above all else, life is the Creator’s conscious choice to invent you as an individual. Life is good because this painful process of choosing the self you will become has great meaning and purpose.

If we are to have any hope for a life that does not disappoint, we need to remember who we are — not fleeting organisms on a dying planet, but eternal souls who were created to experience life and goodness in ways we cannot yet comprehend.

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“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people…. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

-Revelation 21: 1-4

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