Your Invitation to Live V

Your Invitation to LIVE through Difficult Times

In Romans 8:28 the Apostle Paul writes, “And we KNOW that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.”

The Apostle Paul is not speaking from purely head knowledge rather this is a declaration of fact, firsthand experience time and time again.

Allow me to bring you several stories about living through difficult times.

1. Victor Frankl

Frankl was a determinist raised in the tradition of Freudian psychology, which postulates that whatever happens to you as a child shapes your character and personality and basically governs your whole life. The limits and parameters of your life are set, and, basically you can’t do much about it.

Frankl was also a psychiatrist and a Jew. He was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany, where he experienced things that were repugnant to our sense of decency that we shudder to even repeat them.

His parents, his brother, and his wife died in the camps or were sent to the gas ovens. Except for his sister, his entire family perished. Frankl himself suffered torture and innumerable indignities, never knowing form one moment to the next if his path would lead to the ovens or if he would be among the “saved” who would remove the bodies or shovel out the ashes of those so fated.

Frankl determined to first of all survive, secondly to learn the lessons from these horrific circumstances and thirdly to look to the future.

One day, naked and alone in a small room, he began to become aware of what he later called “the last of the human freedoms” – the freedom his Nazi captors could not take away. They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Frankl was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide for himself how all this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom to or power to choose that response.

In the midst of his experiences, Frankl would project himself into different circumstances, such as lecturing to his students after his release from the death camps. He would describe himself in the classroom, in his mind’s eye, and give his students the lessons he was learning during his very torture.[1]

2. Fernando Flores

One person who knows all about transformation is Chilean, Fernando Flores. In 1970, at the age of only 29, Flores was named Chile’s Minister of Economics, later to become Minister of Finance as the country was undergoing a transformation from Dictatorship to Democracy. But in 1973, Augusto Pinochet’s fascist forces overthrew, and killed, Salvador Allende, the democratically elected President, and seized power. Flores was imprisoned for three years until Amnesty International negotiated his release. Released from prison, Flores had a new understanding of the connection between language and action,

“When I left prison I had to figure out how to embrace my past. Those three years represented tragedy that I used to recreate myself, not something that was done to me…. I never told a victim story about my imprisonment. Instead I told a transformation story, about how prison changed my outlook, about how I saw that communication, truth and trust are the heart of power. I made my own assessment of my life, and began to live it. That was freedom.”

Flores went on to begin a PhD in the United States, based on the work of Martin Heidegger and focussed on the link between words and the self. He now works with organisations around the world helping them to transform the way they do business.

Flores specifically focussed on the power of language to create our way of being.

The critical part of the work of Flores is the ability to distinguish between the three domains of communication – Past, Present and Future. Most people spend the majority of their time creating the Present form the Past instead of from the Future. To be able to transform our way of being we need to be able to learn to create the Present based on the Future we desire.[2]

3. Paul & Silas

Acts 16: 22-25

Both Frankl and Flores emphasised the importance of focusing on our desired future. The distinction between them and Paul and Silas is that the latter based their behaviour on a future that was KNOWN.

Our elder daughter in her speech at my wife’s birthday party acknowledged the things that her mother had given her, brown eyes, brown hair, the front row in her school photos, love for shopping, and a passion for children and young mothers. She went on to say she didn’t know whether her mother had given her Cerebellar Ataxia, and although it is a genetic disorder that increasing affects a person’s mobility, her mother had taught her that it does not need to define you. She had showed her that you need to mourn the loss of function, ensure you have lots of emotional support and professional advice, and continue to live life to the full.

Romans 8:28 explains that whatever the things we face, our circumstances, our situations, wherever they have come from, difficult as they may be they have passed the will of God for us.

I have fought against the difficult times, chosen to get angry and depressed, now I have learned to cooperate with God and to seek out His purpose. I look forward to each day because it may be the day the solution comes to that perplexing problem at work, strained relationship, financial dilemma…

The yachtsman knows it’s the set of the sail that is important…

Further readings: 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14

Reflection: Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, Van Morrison

Prayer: In groups of three or four spend a few minutes in giving thanks to God.

[1] Covey Stephen R, 1991, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Business Library, Australia

[2] Ping Alistair C, 2001, The Second coming of Capitalism, Ricochet Productions, Australia


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