A Truly Successful Life: Ten Principles for a Life of Meaning and Purpose
“You will know that the Divine is so great and of such a nature that it sees and hears everything at once, is present everywhere, and is concerned with everything.”
“God is, even though the whole world deny him. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.”
“Faith is the basis of the path, the mother of virtue; it nourishes all roots of goodness.”
Haarlem, Holland, the Netherlands
February 28, 1944
The Ten Boom family had been assisting and harboring fugitives of Jewish descent (and others) for nearly two years in Nazi-occupied Holland. Jews were being persecuted merely for their lineage in every country that the Nazis invaded, and unfortunately, most citizens either joined with the Nazis in the persecutions or simply remained silent while the black wave of hatred and atrocities flowed across the land.
In the midst of this, Corrie ten Boom, a fifty-two-year-old woman who had never married, her older sister Betsie, and their eighty-four-year-old father whom they lived with and cared for, had begun taking in anyone who needed help. They allowed these people to live with them, fed and cared for them, and hid them from the Nazi troops who prowled the streets.
Then, on this fateful day, a man came to their home to meet with Corrie and begged her for money. He claimed that he and his wife had also been harboring Jews, but his wife had been arrested. He said he needed the money because there was a policeman he knew who could be bribed to let his wife go for the right price. “It’s a matter of life and death!” he exclaimed.
Of course, Corrie agreed to help. How could she not? She had devoted her life to caring for people. “Come back in thirty minutes,” she said. “I’ll have the money for you.”
It was a set-up. With solid evidence that the Ten Booms were assisting fugitives, the Nazis invaded the Ten Boom home soon after the man left. Six Jews hid behind a secret compartment that was in Corrie’s bedroom (the “hiding place”), escaping detection by the Germans, but Corrie, Betsie, their father and others who were at the home at the time, including their sister Nollie, brother Willem, and nephew Peter, were arrested and taken to concentration camps.
In the end, the fugitives in the hiding place escaped. Nollie, Willem, and Peter were released from prison almost immediately, but Corrie’s father, Casper, died after only ten days in custody. Corrie and her sister
Betsie suffered in three different prisons for ten months. One day, before Betsie died in the concentration camp, Betsie and Corrie talked about God. Betsie said, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”
Despite these events, Corrie’s faith, upon leaving Ravensbrück, the horrific women’s concentration camp, was deeper and stronger than ever before. She forgave her captors and began traveling the world in a ministry to share the truth that she had heard from her beloved sister Betsie, “that no pit is so deep that God is not deeper still.” Her life and experiences under the German rule became the subject of the moving book The Hiding Place, along with a feature film by the same name.
I’ve always considered Corrie ten Boom to be one of my heroes. Such love, such kindness, such caring, so much like my own grandmother. What is it that enables people like her to prioritize their highest ideals even above their temporal well-being? To risk their lives, to be willing to die for what they know to be the right thing to do? I believe it is the conviction that universal principles of right and wrong exist, and the conviction that, at our core, we are spiritual beings made to live forever; there is life after death.
It is broken down in a person’s mind something like this: “God exists, and God wants us to live a life of love. My own conscience tells me it is the right thing to do. And I believe that when I live my life in accordance with love, Heaven smiles. My soul is everlasting; if my body dies here, I will join God in eternity. Therefore, I’m not afraid to live out what I know to be right in my heart.”
Throughout history, what have people always had no matter what difficulties in life they had to face? A sense of the eternal. A sense that love and goodness and truth are divine and reverberate throughout eternity. A sense that, even if we die in a horrific squalor of a situation, God still believes that we, as individuals, have worth – even if no one else does. A sense that Heaven applauds when we do something good – that our good deeds and sacrifices reflect the love of God, matter for eternity in the lives of our fellow human beings, and that they haven’t been in vain. And if we give our life for someone else, the ultimate act of love and sacrifice, it’s okay because God remembers and is there to welcome us home.
This is seeing and living our lives from the perspective of eternity. And we are able to do that because of faith.
Everyone has their own idea of what faith is, and what their personal faith (if any) consists of. For our purposes, the faith that I refer to consists of the following convictions:
· Something created the universe and the life that exists within it.
· This First Cause continues to exist, is benevolent, intelligent, and can be personally interacted with.
· This First Cause is popularly referred to as “God.”
· God set all the laws of the universe into motion, creating not only the scientific laws but also a single overarching moral law: the Law of Love.
· God is, in fact, the creator and source of all the love in the universe.
· God gave humanity absolute free will and the freedom to live our lives how we see fit, for good or ill.
· We can have a personal relationship with God, Who will guide us and teach us if we are receptive to His still, small voice.
· We are sempiternal spiritual beings (once created, our souls will live on eternally) and will continue to exist after physical death.
These convictions consist of a portion of my personal Faith. And it is this Faith that prompts me to view my life from God’s perspective – the
perspective of eternity – and to prioritize my life with eternal priorities. With this perspective, I’m not afraid to die; and the more that I align my personal values and life’s priorities to my Faith and things of eternal worth, the more joyful it is to be alive. This is the secret of fulfillment: Align your life to eternal principles and order your values and priorities accordingly.
Why do I believe in God? Because of the existence of existence itself; the existence of love and all its variances (goodness, gentleness, kindness, altruism); the existence of conscience (that there is right and wrong); the existence of the internal spiritual hunger within all humanity (the “God-shaped hole” in our hearts); the existence of consciousness and self awareness; the existence of life; the complexity of all things, from the smallest atom to the vast universe (or multiverse) itself; all these things (and more) attest to the existence of Divinity.
In my view, it requires more faith to NOT believe in a First Cause for the existence of all matter (visible and invisible), than to believe in one.
Communion with God
“The mind’s highest good is the knowledge of God, and the mind’s highest virtue is to know God.”
-Benedict de Spinoza
My interactions with God consist of prayer on my part, and realizations and personal epiphanies from Him. He is very quiet…silent and non-invasive. God doesn’t normally interfere in the business of life. Rather, He can help us to see how we can deal with life better ourselves. He can help us to learn and to grow intellectually, spiritually, emotionally.
I take the Bible to be God’s message to us, and read it as such. In addition, I sometimes feel that God is communicating to me through something that I read in another book, or in a news or magazine article. Sometimes it is something that I hear in a movie or TV show or song that inspires me, or is relevant to a specific situation or line of thinking that I have been personally exploring. Sometimes it is through the words of another person. Sometimes it through the beauty of art. And sometimes it is simply a thought or a realization that dawns on me from within my own mind and heart. If the thought does not violate the Law of Love or the tenets of my Faith, and rings true with my spirit, I accept it and make it my own.
When my wife prays, she will sometimes experience a wave of peace that washes over her consciousness. This is one way that God speaks to her. When she experiences that peace, she knows that her prayers are in accordance with the will of God.
As you can see, different people can experience God in different ways, and it is always intensely personal. Never let anyone make you believe that a relationship with God must always be conducted in a certain formulaic way. That is not the case. When you reach out for Him and seek Him in your own way, He will be there. He’s always there.
God Loves You
Remember that you are loved. God loves you, because God IS love; it would be against His nature not to love you.
You may lose everything in this world that there is to lose, but they can’t take away your bond with God. No matter what, you still have eternity, you still have Heaven (the afterlife), and you still have God. He will be faithful to you, in His love for you, when no one else will.
In poverty, in riches, in sickness or in health, in sin or in holiness, in life or in death, God loves you unconditionally; He will forgive you when you ask Him; He is there for you. You are not alone. Never forget that.
“…the tears come, and I cannot brush them away; I would not if I could, for they are the only tribute I can pay the departed…”
-Emily Dickinson, personal letter, 1852
I knelt on one knee over my grandfather’s fresh grave and bowed my head, my shaggy blonde hair whipping in the biting October breeze. Tears were cold in that breeze. Overhead the granite sky erased the sun. The cemetery was deserted; save for one sedan that motored slowly past me, curious faces peering out at the sight of me weeping over the grave with my motorcycle parked next to me, my weathered black leather jacket shielding me from the cold.
I had a reputation in that town of rebellion, of anger, of trouble. Though I was only seventeen, I had been a singer in numerous local rock bands, and a disc jockey on a couple of area radio stations.
But that day I was merely lost.
I had been living with my grandparents for several years. Despite my rebellion, he had been my best friend. Since he and my grandmother had taken me in, they had been like a second set of parents to me, and I loved them both dearly.
So I didn’t care if anyone else saw me mourn. I didn’t care if the people in that car knew who I was. All I wanted was my best friend back. I needed his guidance; I needed his wisdom; I needed his love.
It was thirty years ago but that scene is burned into my memory like a photograph. The idea of death moves me deeply, like all people. It seems unnatural, harsh, cruel. I hate it.
To see the body of someone who at one moment was alive and vibrant – full of personality, intelligence and warmth – now lifeless and cold…haunts me and renders me speechless. I can barely comprehend it.
Death is the ultimate thief.
My only consolation is my firm belief that our spirits live on with God after our physical bodies die. I believe that the human spirit is eternal, and that it is united with our physical bodies until they die. After death, our spirit continues to exist in a form that is beyond our current understanding, but that will continue to be unique to our personality and will be recognizable to other souls. My Christian faith also tells me that our bodies will eventually be resurrected and reunited with our spirits at Christ’s return.
Our belief in the afterlife is what gives us hope. It is what gives us courage to be true to our highest ideals. It is the basis of faith.
Someday I will see my departed loved ones again. We will embrace and rejoice; tears will stream down our cheeks, and old regrets will be forgotten. Someday, even the memory of our separation by physical death will evaporate like the dew of a brand new day.
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
-James 4:8 (HCSB)
The man who wrote the sentence above knew what he was talking about. He was James, the brother of Jesus, and he didn’t believe in Jesus’ claims of Divinity until after the resurrection (John 7:5; I Cor. 15:3-8). Rather, he thought Jesus was out of His mind (Mark 3:21).
Everyone has periods of unbelief. Everyone struggles with faith. But God is real, and He is there, waiting for you to draw near to Him, as James discovered.
I believe that a person is not whole, not complete, without an awareness of the Creator, the unifying force behind the universe, and without aligning themselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, with Him. To seek Him, to find Him, to spend time in His presence, to communicate with Him, to have eyes to see and ears to hear His responses, is an inviolable necessity for a full, meaningful, and complete life.
So draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
© 2008 by Douglas L. Tanner