The rug has been ripped out from beneath us, and we are on the brink of the unknown. We who once imagined ourselves invincible, with our medical advancements and (at least to some extent) our economic security, are now terrified and in the grip of grief. The other day a friend of mine told me that a coworker of hers had a meltdown. He said he felt as though he was in a bad dream and he couldn’t wake up. The weight of grief and suffering can be so disorienting and debilitating.
In the preface to Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, Harold Kushner writes, “…we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.”
If you are not familiar with the book, Man’s Search for Meaning is Frankl’s memoir of his life in Nazi deathcamps (he spent most of his time in Auschwitz) and the lessons of spiritual survival he learned while imprisoned in those concentration camps. Just as an aside, this short book is one of the most important books I have ever read. It fell into my hands during a time of intense suffering and grief, and I am not exaggerating when I say it changed my life.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance…It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be take away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”
Later he quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
We have all been given this same spiritual freedom. If you do not yet know how to begin to respond to, may I suggest beginning each day by thanking God for 5 things (even in the darkest times there are always blessings for which we can thankful). Pray, something even as simple as “Lord, I trust that you are full of love and faithfulness, and You will not let me be put to shame. Show me the way forward.” Then, trusting that God has you in the palm of His hands, go and do something for someone else-without broadcasting it to the world. It can be as simple as calling a friend to check in on them, but you must force yourself out of your inner turmoil. The Lord will take your act of faith, no matter how small it may be in the beginning, and He will strengthen you and lead you through the darkness into safe pastures.