Many, if not most, people want their lives to count for something – they want to be significant. This can be in many spheres. At work we want responsibility, to have a higher profile role in whichever organisation we may work for. We want what we do in our work to last in some way and to make a name for ourselves which will last longer than we will. Others care more that their lives are significant to their friends and family, knowing that there are some around them whose lives are enhanced because they are there.
When those things which we hope / trust in to bring significance fail, then it’s tough going. Maybe it’s reaching an age – often somewhere around my own – when you start to suspect that you’re not going to achieve anything world changing after all. Or if family or friends reject or disappoint you, you realise that trusting your desire to be significant on those around you can be a shaky enterprise.
Contemplating the universe also makes it hard to feel significant – the earth is just one planet orbiting one star in a vast universe with an incomprehensibly large number of stars. And what’s one creature among many billions that live there? The eminent mathematician and physicist, Stephen Hawking is quoted as having said
‘We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred billion galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our existence.’
Such reasoning makes sense– but it’s wrong. The staggering thing is that we are significant to God, he does care about us. This struck me recently as I was reading the book of Jonah. See my thoughts on Jonah for more details, but basically although it’s full of dramatic elements with a whale and a city full of ‘evil’ people deciding to change, the majority of the book really describes God taking time (and going to great lengths) to impact Jonah’s life, to change his attitude and to teach him an important lesson – that God cares about people, even those who seem not to deserve it. He cares about the cities of people, and also about each individual like Jonah.
If we are significant to God we know it’s not going to be because of something extra-special that we’ve done. Perhaps we don’t want the sort of ‘significance’ that depends on someone else being great (God), rather than us. But can there be any greater significance than that the God of the universe cares about us? And because it depends on God, not us, this significance will last.