A View of Suffering and Joy


from Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl

The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent. To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.

It also follows that a very trifling thing can cause the greatest of joys. Take as an example something that happened on our journey from Auschwitz to the camp affiliated with Dachau. We had all been afraid that our transport was heading for the Mauthausen camp. We became more and more tense as we approached a certain bridge over the Danube which the train would have to cross to reach Mauthausen, according to the statement of experience traveling companions. Those who have never seen anything similar cannot possibly imagine the dance of joy performed in the carriage by the prisoners when they saw that our transport was not crossing the bridge and was instead heading "only" for Dachau.

Suffering fills the available space. Nearly everyone has had that experience. Whatever cold we have now is the worst cold we have ever had. Whatever sorrow we are experiencing now is the worst sorrow we have ever or can ever endure.

What had never occurred to be is that joy is similar. The joy I feel at this moment is the greatest joy possible and so it is with all possible joy.

God lavishes His gifts in the extreme, not in the middle ground. God does not care for the lukewarm (witness His statement to Laodicea). So rejoice or suffer, but do it all in the fullness of what it is to God, for each is His will and gift for the moment.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 19, 2006 8:11 PM.

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