Thoughts on crosses and breakdowns

by | July 29, 2013

I am ashamed to admit I was angry at God.

Years ago, Queen Karina and I crashed and burned financially after making some poor investments.

At our lowest point, after losing almost everything except a roof over our heads and our family, I felt bitter. I felt entitled to everything working out just as I had planned.

I broke down and shook my fist at the heavens and demanded to know why, when we were living right and doing our best, He had allowed misfortune to befall us. (The classic question, I know.)

Now, years later, I kneel before Him and pour out my heart in gratitude for the privilege of that experience. Nothing could have taught me more and spurred as much growth.

I now know the answer to my question uttered in anger years ago: God has to break us down to build us back up, to become who He wants us to be. Our toughest breakdowns lead to our greatest breakthroughs.

Now, that’s all fine and good to say after the trial is over. But what about during the trial? How can we endure our suffering and hold onto our faith in our darkest hour?

Viktor Frankl discovered the answer as he endured three years in a Nazi concentration camp.

The prisoners who gave up and died, he found, had nothing to live for. They lost their faith in the future. The survivors were those who had something to look forward to and who found meaning in their suffering.

He recounts his own experience of finding meaning and something to look forward to. Feeling overwhelmed and disgusted by the trivial details of his miserable life, he said,

“I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm, and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp!

“All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method I succeeded somehow in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and I observed them as if they were already of the past.”

Throughout his ordeal, he held onto that vision of being able to help others find meaning in suffering after being release.

When that vision was realized later in his life, as a psychiatrist teaching his renowned logotherapy, he wrote in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning,

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’…

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.”

Suicide is not the only way to “throw away” our lives.

We cannot bear to waste our lives in any form when we make ourselves important to others through service and when we throw ourselves into a great cause.

Who are you serving and loving? What significant cause are you engaged in? What do you look forward to accomplishing? What makes your life worth living and gives meaning to your suffering?

This quote by the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky almost took me to my knees:

“There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.”

I remembered, with shame and anguish, a time when I was unworthy of my sufferings. I remembered a Man who carried His cross worthily. And I ached to be worthy of mine.

The crosses we’re called to carry become the foundation of the legacy we build — if we carry them worthily.

With every breakdown you experience, look forward with faith, hope, and trust to the breakthrough…

(For tools to find your purpose in your suffering, click here to download my free toolkit now.)

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