God Put You on this Pale Blue Dot
Why Your Small Life Is Not Meaningless
Senior writer, desiringGod.org
Just before NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft left our Solar System in 1989 to take atmospheric readings from interstellar space, the late astronomer Carl Sagan, then a member of the mission’s imaging team, entreated officials to turn the camera backward to capture one last snapshot of earth.
Making it known that such a photograph would offer nothing of scientific value, they complied. And what they captured was the first portrait of our planet from the edge of its Solar System, 3.7 billion miles away, an image of the earth measuring less than 0.12 pixels, a soft dot sitting in what appears to be a beam of preferential light.
Sagan later gave the image its notorious name “the pale blue dot.”
“Look again at that dot,” he said later, reflecting on the image. “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.”
Here we find and pinpoint the centerpiece of human drama — a flickering tenth-of-a-pixel in the HiDef expanse of our limitless universe. On this pebble, all of human drama has been played out like cosmic role-play gaming: sides and forces, good and evil, pushing and pulling, winning and losing.
Greater Purpose for the Blue Dot
For a secularist like Sagan, this snapshot of the cosmos is to be brought to a precipice of insignificance and to behold the meaninglessness of everything. Our lives mean nothing. Indeed the collective lives of everyone who has ever lived, combined, add up to nothing of significance.
All the drama on this blue dot means nothing.
But unlike Sagan, we are often asked to step back and ask, In the midst of this chaos of what has unfolded on this pebble, is there a unifying purpose for all of creation? Can it all be held together by something greater than itself?
The simplest answer to the question, and the most direct response to the perplexed Sagan, is the answer of Jesus Christ. He is not a theory or a religion, but the Creator himself made man, died, and was raised from the grave (historical facts in the human story Sagan too conveniently overlooked).
If the sun is the center of our Solar System, the earth is the epicenter of the cosmic drama. God existed before this mote of dust was suspended in black-matter, spinning around a hydrogen bomb of exploding gasses to light it half a day. In him, all the dust of this vast cosmos found its beginning, finds its glue, and in him we find the end and aim of this creation all along. The whole purpose of this expansive cosmos is for Christ to be demonstrated in the full beauty of his works and person — “all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15–20).
The pale blue dot gives evidence to a living Savior. Many Christians intuitively know all this. Christ unlocks the perplexing mysteries of this earth, whether or not we can fully understand those mysteries now. But of course this is only to speak of the visible world. To understand the visible world of Sagan, we must catch a precious glimpse of the unseen world that animates it.
Why God Created the World
So why did God make this dust mote?
We know from Scripture that the Creator needs nothing from his creation to make himself happy (Acts 17:24–25). We also know that God has existed eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — an everlasting experience of love given and love received; joy given and joy received; glory given and glory received. God could exist eternally in perfect love, joy, and glory. So if God did not make the cosmos and unfold human drama because he has a personal lack, why did he do it?
The short, but profound, answer is that God loves his own glory so much he must share it — share it with himself, and share it with angels, and then share it with other rational creatures, and that’s where we come into the story. The earth is a very small theater, but it is a playhouse, a God-made stage to manifest his love, joy, and glory. But not as in a cinema, as though we sit back as passive watchers and gaze at something televisual, viewing something distant and remote. The drama enacted on the theater of this pale blue dot is nothing less than the drama of us — God’s design for our sufferings, our gains, our losses, our births, our lives, and our ends.
The creation is, as you know, a fallen place of pain, and we brought this about in our sin. And yet the result of our sin, in calling forth redemption, does not shroud God’s glory, but instead sets the stage for this creation to fully manifest God’s love, delight, and joy — to fully share it with us, in his sovereign design and plan.
So this mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam, is also the centerpiece of God’s disclosed drama, the first act to an eternal story of redemption and, most importantly, a place for him to express his inner beauty, his glory. The blue dot exists for one central end Sagan missed. It is the theater for God to manifest his glory.
The Great Marriage
That is the very short story of why this dust mote of earth exists. God made it to demonstrate his awesome character, beauty, brilliance, love, and joy. He is an expressive God. And we are put here as objects of his delight, to be loved, to see the shed blood of Jesus Christ and know that there’s nothing good we need that our Creator and Father will not give to us for our eternal joy (Romans 8:32). The Creator made you. He made me. He redeemed us. He delights over us. Our praise in him magnifies him as it completes our joy.
Yes, this dust mote is a relatively small stage, but with a story as expansive as the cosmos. God’s desire to be glorified and my desire to be happy forever are married in one end which brings clarity and cohesion to all the other seemingly random and disconnected human drama witnessed by all the historians in world history.
There is meaning and purpose to life, when we look beyond the pale blue dot and see the Creator of the whole cosmos, and he moves it toward a glorious fulfillment that will bring the entire host of stars in the firmament to the praise of his glorious name. So “praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!” (Psalm 148:3).
Praise him, child of God!
For here is your God — here is your joy — the Author of the drama enacted on this pale blue dot, a piece of sand suspended magnetically in space, a blue theater for all human drama and to awe the cosmos.
Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is senior writer for Desiring God and author of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (2017), John Newton on the Christian Life (2015), and Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011). He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.