I first heard of Man’s Search for Meaning in Donald Miller’s Creating Your Life Plan course, an e-course that is built upon much of Frankl’s work. After taking the course, I added this book to my ever-growing to-read list and then went about my merry way. I hadn’t given it much thought until a friend of mine brought it up last year, saying it was one of the most powerful books she’s ever read. With those endorsements, I was excited to delve into this book.
And there is so much jam-packed into this little book! I thought, very incorrectly, that I would be able to zoom through it over the course of a plane ride or two when I was traveling weekly for work. Boy, was I wrong!
The first part of the book is Frankl’s experience in a concentration camp: what he saw, felt, and went through. He describes, in detail, the worst moments of his life and clearly constructs an image of one of the ugliest times in history. There were multiple days when I could only read a few pages at a time because the suffering and torture described in the pages was too much for me. The fact that a group of people was able to do this to another group was gut-wrenching and ghastly. I’ve read about the Holocaust before, but this book struck a chord in me that I hadn’t prepared for.
Frankl shares a story about a friend who had a dream that they would be released on a certain date. The man excitedly shared this dream with Viktor and his hope grew and grew as the day approached. This man was certain this was going to happen. But a few days before the date he believed his freedom would arrive, he became ill. On the day he dreamed they would be released he was in the sick bay, his expectations still high. The day after, he was dead.
Frankl writes “To all outward appearances, he had died of typhus.
Those who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man—his courage and hope, or lack of them—and the state of immunity of his body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect. The ultimate cause of my friend’s death was that the expected liberation did not come and he was severely disappointed.” p.75
Because this man lost hope, his body became more susceptible to infection. And, when he was certain that all hope was lost, he had no reason to fight the disease he had contracted. He lost the courage to continue.
Man’s Search for Meaning has reminded me of the fact that what we place our hope in matters. If we put all of our hope in a person or an object or a situation, we’re going to be let down. Our expectations will be unmet. Hurt and loss will ultimately ensue. But we can put our hope in Christ, who will never leave us, forsake us, or fail us. We can trust him because of his character and his goodness. Will our expectations still go unmet sometimes? Of course. But we can still hope in God, not based on our situation or circumstances, but because of his character.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
I’m thankful that I can put my hope in the One who is completely worthy and able to handle the weight of that hope.
Have you read Man’s Search for Meaning?
How do you see hope? Is there anything or anyone you’re placing more hope in than God?
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