December 19, 2023

Meaning Making (Part 2): What Does Spirituality Have to do with Meaning-Making?

In order to assign meaning we must believe in a bigger picture.

Connecting the Divine to our Mind

Once we have connected with a belief, we are able to dig deeper into our belief system and journey a step further by asking the “why” behind those beliefs. Often, many of our beliefs are rooted in spirituality. As a result, our spiritual framework will fundamentally influence how we organize our belief systems and create meaning. 

Spirituality—our experience with and response to a source of meaning beyond the material and ordinary realm—has been documented as part of the human experience in every culture and time period as far back as we have recorded history. It continues to hold the power of introducing more positive ways to interpret situations, leading us to see the larger picture of difficult seasons and experiences. Knowing this, we have the opportunity to embrace spirituality as a guide during our hardest life moments. 

Spirituality can be a medium by which we search for purpose, inner wisdom, and meaning in our lives. It offers us a standing invitation to safely search ourselves in order to better understand and challenge our own beliefs before landing in a place of surrender and devotion to what we find. 

Hardwired to Question and Answer

Humans naturally search for answers and meaning—we are hardwired to want to make sense of our circumstances. When we fail to make a connection between hardship and an ultimate meaning, we veer off into unhealthy mental spaces that bring suffering, such as depression, anger, and anxiety. Assigning meaning and using our spirituality to connect to the transcendent gives a framework to find good in our circumstances and grow into a life encapsulated by meaning, not simply in spite of our sufferings, but through them. Adopting this perspective is a gift we can give ourselves—it undergirds us with strength for the next time trouble surrounds us.

During times of uncertainty, suffering, or loss, those who have and can draw from their spiritual resources tend to have better psychological and social outcomes.12 It can serve to orient the mind and spirit. When we experience disconnection and despair, it is often related to a lack of hope, meaning, and love. Research shows that hope3 from faith built on transcendence—hope for ourselves, our families, our communities, and a better world—helps us thrive even in times of great difficulty. We need hope from a sense of a loving God or benevolent power that holds us and cares for our world.

Meaning-making is Built on a Spiritual Framework

As mentioned in part 1, in order to assign meaning we must believe in a bigger picture, that things will ultimately work out in the end, and have the ability to trust that we are being shaped and growing out of the hardships while being held by a loving spiritual source. These are all spiritual beliefs that inform the framework we use to make meaning. In order to attach healthy, loving meaning to our circumstances, we must be acutely aware of what we are attaching them to.

Spiritual beliefs are formed from the cumulative collection of our spiritual experiences and interpretations and contribute to how we make sense of our world. They involve beliefs about the transcendent that can elicit and foster well-being, purpose, connectedness. Transcendence and experiencing transcendent emotions can deepen these spiritual beliefs and make us more faithful to them. As we are able to become more faithful to our belief system, the more natural it becomes for us to be able to assign meanings of hope, purpose, and peace within our lives. 

The Meaning Triangle

Viktor Frankl’s Meaning Triangle4 from his book, Man’s Search for Meaning5, is a powerful way to prompt our process of uncovering and identifying our beliefs in our own search for meaning. Frankl’s Meaning Triangle is three ways by which we can search for a higher order of meaning in our life. He suggests that we can use our creativity, experiences, and our agency to change our attitudes as on ramps to meaning.

  • Creativity: Giving something to the world through self-expression, using our talents in various ways (i.e., the work we do, our unique giftings).
  • Experiences: Receiving from the world through nature, culture, relationships, interactions with others, and our environment.
  • Change of Attitude: Even if we can’t change a situation or circumstance, we can still choose our attitude toward a condition (i.e., often a self-transcending way of finding meaning).

Can you identify ways in which each of these influence meanings you currently hold? In what ways could any be shifted in order to more fully align with what you believe and to shape your life in a more positive way? 


Here are some prompts to help explore your connection to meaning and your higher purpose. Write down the areas in which you and your loved ones find or would like to find meaning.6


Everyone has unique gifts to offer the world. What are your giftings? How can you use them to connect you with a purposeful life?

Examples: Work, good deeds, art, music, writing, invention, helping others, sponsored events, voluntary work, charities, hobbies, interests


The giftings of others, as well as the beauty of nature, offer meaning to our lives. Consider experiences that connect you with transcendent emotions (joy, peace, gratitude) the most consistently. 

Examples: nature, music, art, theater, concerts, galleries, museums, literature, outdoor mindful activity, mindfulness, being with others, spirituality


Our beliefs impact our ability to make meaning. Changing our perspective may not change the situation, but it can help improve the quality of our lives. Consider:

  • Is there another way of looking at this situation?
  • What is the bigger picture?
  • How might someone else view it?
  • What advice would I give to someone else dealing with this?
  • What’s the most helpful response I could apply here?
  • Can I adjust my belief to match this new perspective?
  • Does this experience deepen my belief system?

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Further reading:
The following are some books that may help expose broader ways of thinking and allow for deeper belief introspection.
Books/studies for the What’s Loss Got to Do with it (Reframe this title to something that reflects “Finding Meaning in Times of Suffering”- distinctly about loss and meaning, a deeper dive into suffering that is touched on in the other two meaning making blogs):
Thrive Center


Continue Exploring


Meaning-Making (Part 1): The Power of a Meaning-Making Mindset

Father talking to his daughter


The Power of Storytelling: Shaping Future Generations with Our Past


A Practice: Questioning Beliefs to find Meaning

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