The Truth Hurts


“What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?” This was the plaintive beginning to a song written in 1966 by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the movie “Alfie.” The main character of the movie is a young, self-centered womanizer who is out purely for his own enjoyment. But, as is inevitable in life, events happen that force him to confront the difficult question: “What is the real meaning of life.” The song implies that the answer to the meaning of life is “love.” For those who do not know Christ, this answer may have a certain lovely and romantic appeal to it. It does actually point toward the truth, though incompletely. Love is, of course, the answer, but not the love that the song implies. The love that gives the truest meaning to life is the all-surpassing love of God. We see, and come to know, the depths and the power of this love in Jesus Christ.

Life is difficult. Because we are human, we are possessed of a natural desire to know the truth about things. One of the great existential questions we all ask ourselves is, “What is the meaning of life? Especially when there seems to be so much suffering, much of it unjust and unfair. The greatest suffering that we all confront is the knowledge that we will die. What is it all about then? What meaning could there be in all of this suffering and death? Paul has an answer for us. It is not an easy answer, because it is the truth and, yes, sometimes the truth hurts. But this truth also sets us free. The truthful answer for those who know and follow Christ is revealed in a paradox. What is a paradox? It is a seemingly contradictory or absurd statement that reveals, or expresses a truth.

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Here is Paul’s paradoxical answer to the meaning of life for Christians. We are, “…always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (verse 11) Do you see the paradox here? Though death is working away in us, and we are wasting away, we are being made more alive every day by our faith in Jesus Christ. This is why we do not lose heart. This is why we can say with Paul, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” This is why we are not crushed by the pressing powers that surround us. This is why, though we are often perplexed by life’s suffering, we do not despair. This is why, though we are struck down and persecuted, we are never destroyed. We have fixed our eyes on what is unseen by the wisdom of this world. We have fixed our eyes, our hearts, our minds, and our souls on the eternal, life-giving, redeeming, all-surpassing power of God who is love. That’s what it is all about, Alfie!

Lord, though we are often battered by the storms of this life we keep our eyes steadily focused on you and you strengthen us. You are our hope. This is why we do not despair in any of this life’s trials. You are our rock and we give you praise and glorify your name. Increase our faith every day, and continue to encourage us as we walk the long pilgrim road through this Vanity Fair seeking our way home to you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.