Viktor Frankl is amazing.
If you don’t know his story, you should go and buy – and read – Man’s Search for Meaning. Right now.
A Holocaust survivor, the book shares his experience in the concentration camp in a way that simultaneously horrifies and inspires the reader. A professional psychologist, Frankl wrote the book in attempt to make sense of his experience and the experience of other people in the camp. Who would survive? Why? How could men come to treat each other in such awful ways?
The book addresses fundamental questions of suffering, human behavior, and freedom.
But not freedom from the concentration camp per se.
Instead, the interior freedom of character that comes from accepting one’s fate, maintaining hope when all seems hopeless, and recognizing that the one thing you can always change is yourself.
I’ve never experienced anything remotely like a concentration camp.
I’m sure you haven’t either.
And yet, the anxiety of the world and the wounds in my heart bind me in troubling ways.
I’m moody. Or angry. Or anxious. Depressed. Snappy. Etc.
I too often indulge my fears.
I too often use snacking and Netflix to numb my anxiety.
I am, more often than not, not free.
But that’s because freedom is hard work.
To reject the familiar people, things, comforts, and anxieties I know to be unhelpful is hard.
To heal the wounds in my soul requires vulnerability and humility that’s really uncomfortable.
To be free requires faith. And a willingness to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), down a narrow road through a narrow gate (Mt. 7:13) that can feel lonely at times.
Yet, the more we walk down that road, the easier it becomes to loosen the ties that bind. Or, more accurately, to allow the Holy Spirit to loosen those ties, so that my ‘yes’ can be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ can be ‘no. (Mt. 5:37)’ And the next step can be less anxious than the previous one, even though the circumstances don’t change.
Freedom, is not the ability to ‘do whatever I want,’ but rather the ability to be unencumbered by the weight of sin and self. To choose the good, even when it’s hard. To find joy in suffering because you know that Easter comes shortly after Good Friday.
I do not know how I would have fared in a concentration camp. I’m not arrogant enough to think I would have survived, let alone come out with a deeper, kinder soul.
But that opportunity was present and, as Frankl shares, less uncommon than one might think.
It was, it turns out, one of the keys to survival.
I don’t know what you’re going through. What binds you. What frustrates, angers, irritates, or troubles you.
But, whatever it is, it’s an opportunity.
An opportunity to invite Jesus in to shake you free from the shackles of the past – or present – so that, in the future, you can be free.
God bless you.