A Point on Which to Fix
After spending years in Nazi concentration camps and somehow finding purpose in an otherwise hopeless situation, Dr. Viktor Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.’” Dr. Frankl was quoting from Nietzsche in an attempt to formulate a theory about human suffering. In short, if in the throes of great trial, we find our purpose (“the how”), then what happens to us (“the what”) will be less important.
Frankl believed that what kept him going during the long, dark and hopeless seasons was the belief that he would one day see his wife again. His wife’s face became his fixed point of focus, his hope compass that got him through the interminable days at the work camps. Frankl was convinced that when you lose your purpose in the face of suffering, you lose your health, your mind, and, in the end, your life.
Though most of us in postmodern times have not experienced the torturous captivity and inhuman conditions like Frankl, we can still experience seasons where we feel like we are in a prison. We can face long stretches where we feel constricted in our very souls. This kind of confinement cannot be seen with the eyes, touched with the hands or smelled; it is, nevertheless, as painful as if we were in a prison. The mental torture and sense powerlessness one might feel when they have no purpose can be one of the most confining states in which to live. In these times, we can lose our hope compass.
Going Beyond Our Fixed Points
Dr. Frankl believed that one can find their meaning on “this side of eternity.” Your hope compass can only be found within this life. This can be in the form of a loving face, a future career change, or perhaps helping someone who is hurting. If you find a way to make yourself useful, then you suffer well and transcend your pain, if you don’t then . . .
Finding a purpose within our pain is an amazing way to get beyond it, but what if someone is unable to find a purpose in their pain here and now despite their efforts? What if our fixed point of focus within the present doesn’t materialize like Frankl’s image of his wife? Perhaps this is where the Bible might have something to say. Paul the Apostle said, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” The beauty of the Gospel of Christ is that it transcends whatever happens in this life, and in so doing, does not need to rely on fixed points within “the now.”
A Fixed Point That Will Get You Out of Bed
The fact is that our hope compass, the one that gets us out of bed and gives meaning to our pain, doesn’t have to be fixed in this life. This is what the gospel offers to those who look to Christ for hope. It says of Moses that, “He persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” This is a poetic way of saying that the point to which Moses fixated was not in his present life, but on God and his eternal purposes. This kind of surpassing vision fueled the martyrs who rushed headlong into the mouths of lions in Rome; what their eyes focused on went far beyond their mortal existence. Their usefulness was found not just in knowing their purpose in this life, but in knowing that God had a purpose for them that goes beyond this life.
What is Your Fixed Point?
What is that “something” you live for? Is it enough to cause you to triumph over all your pain? Does your “Hope-Compass” only exist in this life? If so, I would challenge you to read the words of Jesus that not only ring true in this life but also in eternity: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)