Saturday, December 7, 2013

What do Frankl, Mandela, a dog, and Jesus all have in common?

What a better time to cozy up with a warm cup of coffee, a blanket and my computer to write a blog post than when I'm snowed in?? The town of Fayetteville has essentially shut down because of a little less than a foot of snow, so it has given me ample time to study, sleep, and put some thought into this blog post. 

A lot has happened in the past week. Along with studying for some pretty difficult finals I have had to say goodbye to my sweet dog, Billy, who was the best pet a person could ask for. I've also been following the news about the death of Nelson Mandela, one of the most influential people from the continent of Africa, and maybe the world. I've also been thinking a lot about my relationship with God. I know all of these things don't necessarily seem to connect right now, but let me share with you something that will make it all make some more sense. 

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice."-Victor Frankl

Still no connections? Okay let me elaborate. Victor Frankl is one of the people I had to study for my final in my psychology class. He studied how people in concentration camps during World War II were more likely to survive if they found meaning in the lives of people around them, even if that meant giving a child their only blanket in the cold, or a stranger the only piece of bread they had. An amazing finding, right? I then started to think about how much Mandela must have suffered in his 95 years of life. He was in prison for longer than I've been alive. He became truly famous on an international level at the age when most people are retired. He lost a son to AIDS (many times people look over/don't know this fact). In all his suffering though, he found meaning. He became the president and worked for HIS people. More than that, he pushed for non-violence, which is hard to do in a corrupt world. He confronted his son's death and supported education for his people about the risks associated with HIV/AIDS. In his last few months and days on this physical earth, he suffered immensely. But I have a feeling he didn't dwell on the pain. He found meaning in his world. In our world. Not all of us can be a Nelson Mandela, but shouldn't we try?

And about Billy, sweet Billy. My entire family (and some of my friends) can attest to how much that dog was loved, and how much he meant to each of us. He may not have been a human, but a loss is still a loss. Having to accept his trip to heaven got me thinking. As I have learned in my class called "On Death and Dying" (what a semester to be taking this course..) it's normal for one loss to spark the memory of other hardships. It is not something I tend to brag about or share very often, but I have faced a fair amount of loss in my life-suffering if you will. It would be so easy to kind of give up and take on a negative view of the world. But for some internal reason, my heart and my head won't allow me to do that. I've come to think that internal reason is God. Pushing me towards knowing there's something better ahead, I just have to keep going. 

My sister, Maggie sent out a great email the other day, in the wake of dealing with Billy's loss that shared what she learned from a book by Joel Osteen. It read, "When facing a crisis, it is easy to fall apart, but what you don't realize is that that crisis is not a surprise to God, he knows the end from the beginning." That is exactly true. It sums it all up. God didn't promise an easy life, but he did promise full one. He promised that He knew what was and is to come. We just have to chose to follow Him. 

Let's talk about the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus. You could say He dealt with a fair amount of suffering in His life and you would be right. But in the end we see that Jesus found meaning in sacrifice. He says in John 19:30 "It is finished." Perhaps the most telling words in the Bible. "It" being his job. His job-being the ultimate sacrifice sent by God. 

So there you have it. The above train of thought is what happens when you take 11 inches of snow, a tad bit of studying, CNN, and a lot of extra time to think about things and you put it all together into one blog post. I hope the connection of Frankl, Mandela, Billy and Jesus all make sense now. 

I also hope that each person reading this can find meaning in their life to cease any suffering. It is a really hard thing to do, I know. But we have to at least try. Look at how successful Mandela was in doing so.