1 Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychologist and philosopher. He was also Jewish, and he began practicing psychology in the later half of the 1930’s. The Nazi regime soon imprisoned him in a concentration camp. This place forced him to confront questions about what makes life worth living. Frankl survived the war, and wrote a book detailing his conclusions. He claims that humans need three things to experience a meaningful life; first, a meaningful purpose to strive towards. Second, they need a community of unconditional love and support surrounding them, and finally, they need to seek out the redemptive characteristics of life’s worst challenges. (This treatment of Frankl originally put forth in Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and Scary Close.)
With Frankl’s help, the men in the camps kept in their minds the memories of their wives, and sought to survive to see them again. When they were forced to march for miles or work through the night, the men would quite literally hold each other up, and for those on the verge of suicide, Frankl would whisper in their ears that there was hope.
Yet, it is two different things to hear these truths and to live them.
Not every man that Frankl spoke to survived. When a prisoner heard what it took to survive, they were left with a choice. Either they chose life, or they soon succumbed to the camps, in one way or another.
Our world is quite divorced from that of a prison camp.
We will likely never experience the same magnitude of suffering that Frankl did, and yet, I submit to you that today and everyday, we all face the same choice that those men had pressed into their face. However, that choice is almost more insidious for us.
Those with Frankl knew they were choosing life, again and again and again, day in and day out. Some who chose death only made that choice once, but others in the camps chose death slowly, as they did anything possible to numb the pain of their existence rather than confronting it. We have the luxury of believing that our choices aren’t so heavy or deep or important. Psalm 1 says otherwise.
God designed His people for a purpose,and I think Frankl properly glimpsed that purpose.
Yet, one of the first pictures of this life is given in the creation narratives in Genesis 1–3. God creates the whole world and then places humanity at the pinnacle. Then God takes a day off, and yet He does so within the creation, with humanity. Then, as God makes animals, Adam names them. The two are like an assembly line, churning out new creation into the world. This is the world as it should be, when every verb applied to the human existence is followed by “with God.” We live with God, we work with God, we rest with God. As we live in this rhythm, we are like “trees planted by streams of water,/which yield their fruit in its season/and their leaves do not wither.” Yet, Frankl’s choice is present even in this paradise.
God designed His people for a purpose, and attempting to live outside that purpose is like using a knife to hammer in nails.
In the creation story, Adam and Eve choose to define good and evil apart from God. God clearly says that this will inevitably lead to death and destruction, and human history has verified that truth again and again. Humanity has tried on far too many occasions to control the world like God does, but they try to do it apart from God. Human constructions cannot stand without their true Creator, and human life without Him is, “like chaff that the wind drives away.”
Yet God designed His people for a purpose, and nothing can prevent God from shaping His creation in that direction.
While we cannot truly escape the consequences of Adam and Eve’s choices, we are not bound by them. Day in and day out, we are confronted by the creation that God has placed us in. Day in and day out, the creation asks of us a question. Will we choose life? Will we delight in God and His work in this creation? Or will we choose to pursue life apart from Him? To live for our own purposes, or to numb ourselves with Netflix and Instagram such that we do not even hear the question anymore?
God designed His people for a purpose, and He has not left us to get there by ourselves.
We are meant to choose, day in and day out, with God. For God so loved the world that not only did He give His one and only Son for the sake of the world, but He sent the Holy Spirit to walk through this world with us. The Spirit reminds us of our bridegroom, Christ, and keeps the hope of seeing Him in our mind. The Spirit shows us God’s hand propping us up when we fall, and most importantly, at even our lowest points, the Spirit whispers in our ear, “I am making all things new”. He is with us. May we choose to live with Him this coming week.