Choosing One’s Attitude – Finding Meaning

Dr. Victor Frankel an Austrian psychiatrist, wrote of being confined to a Concentration Camp in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankel could have given in to despair. Daily there were people who died of illnesses, malnutrition or were brutally killed. Yet, Frankel, not only lived, but survived to tell the story of his survival. He said of that experience, “Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”

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During his imprisonment, he was startled by the realization that prisoners who were physically strong when they arrived, were often the first to die. Others who appeared frail, survived. The difference he observed was in their attitudes. In his book Frankel writes, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the ones who walked through the huts comforting others . . . giving away their last piece of bread. They . . . offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of the human freedoms . . . to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances. . . . to choose one’s own way.”

No one walks through this world unscathed. Each of us will inevitably face hardship, loss, illness or some form of injustice. We are confronted with choices at those moments. Will we wallow in self pity? Will we make life difficult for family, friends and the stray person who stumbles in our path? Will we make sure that everyone knows about our pain? Will we isolate ourselves and turn away from people who care? Or will we look, not at our losses, but at what we have left? The choice to stop wallowing in our pain is the beginning step of healing. Frankel’s heroes were people who used their lives bringing hope and comfort to others.

The apostle Paul was a survivor. Writing out of his many hardships he says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” II Corinthians 4:7-9

This is the gift of overcoming that God gives to each of us. Out of that power of God living in him, Paul developed a resilience to face the hurts and struggles he had to face. Paul had come to know one who would give him the strength to endure, wherever he found himself, whatever his circumstances. This is the same Lord who comes to us and who offers us a source of power and strength to endure. The power, that comes from God, is a power that allows us to face life’s anguish and confusion.

Too often, we think that we are alone. To think this way is to be wrong. God is always here, waiting for us to open our hearts to the gifts of compassion, mercy and kindness. God is wanting to be with us and to get us through whatever difficulties, crisis, or heartache we face. But we have to ask and we have to open our hearts to let God in. God, who loves you, yearns for you to do just that.

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