I like people! (That’s right, I do not watch TV!) I like to talk to them, listen to them, see how they enjoy … But like any man, I have my limits! I do not like after the third or fourth episode of wailing, on the same subject, to listen to them. It gives me a sense of helplessness!
As much as I try to encourage them, to squeeze my brains to find solutions, there are simply some who have a problem for each solution. That’s very daunting, even for me, which I like to consider myself an optimist.
The worse part is that, sometimes, I agree with them. Life seems, at some point, a long line of events, seemingly meaningless. And if you have a little time “to analyze the problem,” you start asking yourself some “easy” questions: “Why do we live? What’s the meaning of life? De we appear from a mere accident, as evolutionary biologists say, or lif is more than what happens to us? ”
For Christians, it is simpler to answer such questions, because they believe in the creation of the world by an Almighty Creator. Therefore, if we accept that we were created by an infinite Intelligence, then it means that our existence must also have a meaning. But which one? How can we find out the meaning of our life?
One of the profound passages of the Bible, which we usually overlook, was uttered by Christ when He asked His disciples to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane even before He was caught. The words spoken by Him in those moments are a true map to the meaning of our existence: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 26, verse 41).
I know it is not one of the quotations full of “Asian” wisdom. But do not be disappointed! At first glance, it is very difficult to accept that such a text may contain fundamental truths for our existence. But it is the reality!
His message is very clear. What happens to us in life seems to be impossible to control, but we have total control over how we react to situations outside us.
Christ was to be arrested by the people at the temple, tortured, mocked, and then unjustly, to suffer one of the most painful and degrading deaths that they knew at that time in the Roman Empire. And He was perfectly aware of this.
The fact that He prays to God the Father to find a way to escape all these trials (the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 22, verse 42) shows that He was neither unconscious nor masochistic. He simply accepted what was happening to Him due to His love for man and all creation.
So He was the One who gave this sense to His existence!
Everything was possible, because in those trials He chose to go all the way, and not to give up Who He was. It was His Spirit that determined the body to pass through all these trials and the one who transformed reality through the Sacrifice.
It’s not a myth, it’s not a metaphor of some fishermen from two thousand years ago, it’s not an invention! Is the truth! And this truth has been lived by countless people throughout history and will, probably, be lived by many others until the end of the world.
Suffering, if you know how to overcome it, ennobles you and makes you rise above the moment. It helps you transform, evolve. It helps you to give another meaning to your life.
One of the best known examples in this regard is that of the survivors of the Nazi torture camps. Victor E. Frankl, the founder of the third Viennese school of psychotherapy – logotherapy, was one of them. During the time he was captive, it was subjected to the most terrible suffering man can cause to man.
His book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, is a tremendous testimony of suffering and a hymn dedicated to the meaning of life. Here, we find one of the most interesting statements about the purpose of life in general and of each of us in particular.
And such a testimony is worthy of consideration, because it comes from a man who, at one time, had all the reasons not to live. He did not know anything about his family, the manuscript he had worked on all his life before was lost, and he was locked in a Nazi camp.
There, in one of the most severe states of human degradation, he understood how powerful man is, because, even in suffering, he is the master of his destiny. He had no reason to be upset about the fate, the Universe, God, or the soldier who was oppressing him. This would not have helped him with anything! It would not have given him a new meaning of life in any way.
He chose to live! He chose to hope and do everything in his power to survive those horrors. He simply took every day as a new chance. And it worked!
Released from detention, He chose to do something useful with his life! So, he dedicated himself to helping those who were suffering. A truly noble act, which happened, because a man understood that only he and no one else could give meaning to his life!
But how do we make our lives meaningful or how do we discover the meanings of our existence?
Victor Frankl speaks about three ways:
1) to create, to do something;
2) to be in a relationship with someone;
3) by suffering.
We’ll start with the third way – suffering. You must realize it is not absolutely necessary. If we are not going through a dreadful situation, there is no point in causing this suffering. If we deliberately caused our suffering, we would be masochists!
If we go through a terrible suffering, we can give meaning to our lives by the way how we react to what is happening to us. With the help of God, we can rise above the suffering. We can transform ourselves! We can evolve!
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The second way to find the meaning of life is to cultivate relationships. If man isolates himself, his life is lost. Its existence makes sense only in communion with others. Whether we are talking about friends, relationships between parents and children or brothers, or about the closeness of lovers, all these experiences can be defined as love in its various forms.
It is love that, in one way or another, gives meaning to our lives. It has the power to give, to transform and to last. It has the power to make us eternal. By love we are exalted and we exalt the others. By love, we approach God.
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If we are not, however, able to do so, we can give meaning to our lives by the footprint we leave in the world – by what we do or by what we create. The great explorers, the inventors, the artists, the great people of the world who have transformed history – all of them have given their lives meanings that inspired generations. They are our heroes!
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So, our life has a meaning! And we are the ones who create it!
Now, let’s resume the words of Christ: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Watching refers to the awareness of our reality and identity. It is to understand who we are, what is our stage of evolution, what qualities, what defects we have and what we want in life. It also means to be mindful of what is happening around us and to understand the world we live in.
Prayer has always been the way man communicates directly with God. There, in the depths of our souls, this dialogue gives us strength because it invites God into our lives, and His presence strengthens us.
These two experiences, watchfulness and prayer, help us not to fall into temptation. It helps us to progress. It helps us transform the reality, giving it other meanings.
If we have this ability and understand that our souls shape the reality in which we live, then certainly we will not try to play the victim role and we will not seek to blame anyone for what happens to us. Simply, we will have the power to go further, for God will be with us!
Consequently, we do not have any reason to complain about what’s happening to us. Even if we suffer, we can exalt ourselves above our momentary condition. No matter how heavy the loss is, it is not insurmountable. Surely, others have gone through what we’re going through and moved on. Because they chose this!
If we constantly complain, we do not give an authentic meaning to our lives. We simply ask for attention because, most of the time, we mistaken attention with love. If we really want to have love, we must love first. That’s what God does! He loves us first, and we respond to His love (John’s First Epistle, chapter 4, verse 19).
Perhaps our sufferings (a broken fingernail, a super expensive garment that now we cannot afford for the moment, our favorite team losing a game etc.) don’t have the transforming power of the sufferings of the martyrs, of prisoners in concentration camps or even of prisoners in communist prisons.
Maybe we do not have the extraordinary capacities of those who have transformed the world or turned it into something better!
But we certainly have the ability to establish relationships, to love. We have the capacity to transform our lives and others into an authentic communion.
We have the power to give this meaning to our lives!
P.S. 1: I’m sure you have something to thank God for! Please make a list of the first 5 things of this kind and keep it closely! When you have the feeling that things do not work the way you want, look at this list! It helps! Enormously!
P.S. 2: Is it true that those who complain all the time experience a long row of misfortunes or is it just an appearance? What do you think?
Please write your thoughts in the comments section!