Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the best books I have ever read. If you have not read yet, then you really should. I plan to write more about it in a future post.
But, for now, you should know that the author, Victor Frankl, was a Jewish psychologist who had his world ripped apart when he was thrown into the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
Frankl lost everything and everyone he loved. Yet, amid such incredible suffering, he witnessed firsthand how a prisoner’s mindset made the difference between surviving and succumbing to the situation. Frankl saw that a prisoner’s mindset quite literally made the difference between life and death.
In that place, where everything had been stripped from him, Frankl discovered that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s own way.”
Frankl found that no matter what, we still retain the power to choose the way we will respond.
We retain the power of choice.
Isn’t that interesting? Free will—the thing that we are told that God values so much—remains even when all else is lost. Wow!
Now tell me, why is it so hard to believe that we are actually in control of how we respond to life and its myriad of frustrating and unfair situations?
Why does it feel so untrue that we have the power to choose?
I know in my life it often feels like I am simply riding the waves that life sends out while trying to keep my head above water. I generally feel like I am responding, even reacting, to the things that life throws at me.
But then there was Victor Frankl and he discovered the power to choose his attitude even while suffering from being frost-bitten, flea-bitten and while literally starving to death in a Nazi concentration camp.
I suppose if there was ever a place to test whether hope can prevail, it was Auschwitz.
Now, let me shift gears mentally for a moment.
Earlier today I was in prayer and I asked the Lord what He wanted to say to people in this post. I heard Him respond “Enjoy your life.”
Enjoy your life?
I was a little surprised. I was expecting something that might be a little more helpful for solving some of life’s more pressing problems.
But no, God said “Enjoy your life.”
Intrigued, I asked Him to tell me more. And, to my surprise, He told me a LOT more.
I felt the still small voice of God’s Spirit rise up like a lion getting ready to pounce. He got loud, serious and direct. Inside my heart I heard the Voice of Thunder say:
ENJOY YOUR LIFE. I WANT PEOPLE TO ENJOY THEIR LIVES. I AM NOT A KILLJOY; I AM THE MAKER OF JOY! I CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH TO BRING LIFE. I MADE THE GARDEN A PARADISE OF EVERLASTING PLEASURE AND I AM THE ONE WHO PAID THE PRICE TO REDEEM IT ALL. I WILL BRING THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS. I WILL BRING EVERLASTING JOY. FOR NOW, KNOW THAT BY ENJOYING YOUR LIVES YOU ARE BRINGING A LITTLE TASTE OF HEAVEN TO EARTH. YOU ARE BRINGING THE QUALITIES AND ESSENCE OF ETERNITY INTO THE PRESENT. BRING JOY AND YOU INVITE HEAVEN INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. AND, WHEN YOU BRING HEAVEN INTO THE WORLD EVERYTHING CHANGES!
Wow! Like I said, I wasn’t expecting that. But I loved it!
It got me to thinking…
I think we all want to be happy. And, many of us Christians know that there is a real difference between the happiness of having good circumstances and the joy that comes from deep within.
I think that most of us believers choose joy—at least on an intellectual level.
But, what about on a heart level?
If so many of us are choosing joy, why don’t more of us actually look joyful?
I know that mentally we make the choice to choose joy. But, how do we live it, how do we truly choose it?
So, I asked God again for more insight. This time I did not hear the thunder. Instead, the Still Small Voice came to my heart, speaking barely above a whisper:
… savor your senses… practice gratitude… exercise humility… … eliminate hurry, worry, pride, urgency and arrogance… … take down your defensive walls… … risk appearing foolish and laugh at yourself if you do… …smile…
All that sounded good and practical enough (albeit not necessarily easy to do).
Then the scripture ran through my head, “We are fools for the sake of Christ”. I received the divine invitation to laugh at myself more, to risk appearing foolish for the sake of enjoying my life in Christ.
In Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis wrote that “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” Lewis envisioned life in Eternity as being filled with such a degree of play and dance that it would seem scandalously frivolous to us when viewed through the lens of our overly pragmatic lives here on Earth.
I think he was right.
When we bring a new level of the frivolity and joy to bear upon our world, we bring a little bit of Heaven’s reality into the atmosphere around us.
To choose joy in the midst of toil and suffering is to bring a little bit of Heaven to Earth.
Even to find joy in the small things, in the mundane and mediocre, has the power to shift our entire experience of life.
To exercise our last great freedom—the power to choose our mindset—and choose to live in joy, is to honor God’s ultimate intention for the universe.
For, if we are made to enjoy life with God then it follows that we can start that right now, wherever we are.
In fact, it is a grace and a privilege for us to know joy as we do—to know Christ. Therefore, it is an affront to those who don’t yet know that gift if we refuse to cherish it; if we refuse to exercise it.
So, it seems a mandate—a direct order from Heaven—that you and I must choose joy!
We simply must insist upon enjoying our lives!
What a wonderful duty!
What a privilege to serve a God who is so committed to our joy that He insists that we that we actually practice enjoying our lives!
In fact, many of the Old Testament laws, like the Sabbath and the festival celebrations, bear witness to the fact that God wants His people to enjoy life. And, when Jesus came, wasn’t he always spending time hanging out at parties and having dinner with friends?
So, here we are, left with only one real choice.
As Christ followers, as the people of God, we must choose joy. We must choose joy and then actively pursue it like someone who is drowning pursues a life-preserver. For that is exactly what joy is!
Joy is our life-preserver.
We have the power to choose our response to life. We have the power to let the joy rooted deep within us come up high and blossom out.
Suffering in life may be unavoidable. But misery is mostly a mindset.
Let us choose our mindset wisely.
Let us choose to respond from the well of Living Water deep within!
Brothers and sisters, let us help each other smile more and become a winsome people.
Let us choose joy!
Blessings, Patrick Meyers