“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2). That sounds ridiculous. Joy in something that causes suffering? But maybe James is saying that to be human means that you will suffer. No matter who you are, where you come from, or how much money you have, you will face trials. It’s up to you how you react to those trials.
Dear Downers Church Family:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”
Each one of the above quotations seems to transcend time. By reading them, one understands that all of humanity experiences trials and suffering, outside of own choices, but we can choose how we react to our experiences. As for these specific quotes, they all come from the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Viktor was born on March 26, 1905. He received both an MD and PhD from the University of Vienna, specializing in areas of psychiatry and neurology. His heart was tied to reducing depression and suicide. Even as a medical student,Viktor would work with high school students who were suicide risks. Eventually, he was asked to lead the suicide prevention department at the General Hospital in Vienna. After several years (and thousands of patients), Viktor accepted a position at Rothschild Hospital as the head of the neurological department.
Life abruptly changed for the Frankl family in 1942. Viktor, his wife, his parents, and brother were all arrested and transferred to the Thereisienstadt concentration camp. Six months later, Viktor's father died. In the next three years, the Frankl family would be transferred to three other concentration camps, including Auschwitz, where his brother and mother would be killed. Viktor’s wife was also sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration where she was eventually murdered. Viktor had lost every member of his immediate family except for his sister who immigrated to Australia.
During his time in the concentration camps, Viktor tried to help the despondency and depression of other inmates. He was known for counseling inmates to reflect on the positive memories/thoughts of their lives. He eventually developed a theory of psychotherapy called logotherapy. Viktor believed that even in unbearable conditions people could survive if they understood that their life still had meaning and their suffering had a purpose. Viktor Frankl has contributed much to the area of psychology for trauma survivors.
Could this be what James was writing about in his letter? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (vs. 2). That sounds ridiculous. Joy in something that causes suffering? But maybe James is saying that to be human means that you will suffer. No matter who you are, where you come from, or how much money you have, you will face trials. It’s up to you how you react to those trials.