Have you ever reached the limits of your strength? We can think in physical or emotional terms of strength. What are your limits? How much can you lift? How much can you endure? And for how long?
It seems as if sometimes the human capacity is limitless. Some people go for years, slugging it out on their own. Who are the weak ones? Who are the strong?
Search for Meaning
I remember reading Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and also a Holocaust survivor. As we can only imagine, a concentration camp situation tests the limits every type of human endurance. In this scenario, the survival of the fittest can truly be evaluated.
Frankl talked about those that just gave up. He described the scene where one day the prisoner would refuse to get out of bed no matter what the consequence. From a secret hiding place he would slide out his last cigarette and enjoy every puff. He would not even get up to use the toilet. After a few days he would die.
During his experience, Frankl had an epiphany. Upon this he based an entire school of psychiatric thought called Logotherapy. Frankl wrote:
“Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation… when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, ‘The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.'”
Frankl taught that finding a motivation or meaning to your life can allow you to endure any circumstance. The Christian can learn a lot from Frankl’s teaching.
This message was discovered by a Holocaust survivor. But what about the casualties? What about the weak ones that perished?
Strength In Weakness
Very early in the book there is a passage that struck me profoundly. It says:
“On the average, only those prisoners could keep alive who, after years of trekking from camp to camp, had lost all scruples in their fight for existence; they were prepared to use every means, honest and otherwise, even brutal force, theft, and betrayal of their friends, in order to save themselves. We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles… we know: the best of us did not return.”
I believe the message of Jesus focuses on those that did not return. Those that were too weak, or perhaps those that understood their weakness was the secret to their salvation.
It is in the wounds of Christ that we find a strength that is not ours. When we have been beaten and scorned, when we have been pierced by the lance, when our limbs have been nailed to the wood – this is our epiphany. It is in love, the love of giving, that elevates us and gives us meaning. If we act in order to save ourselves, then another dies in our place. If we step forward to be sacrificed, others may live.
Jesus says, “Follow me”. How many times, because of selfishness or fear, do we do whatever it takes to hide our wounds? Who ends up paying the price? Your deepest wounds – those that you keep most secret, those that you hide in order to save yourself – this is where Christ works his miracles. This is where He gives us meaning.
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