The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional, Darkness & Light; download your free copy today.
Midnight Light, part 2
by Meridith Matson
Holocaust survivor and Jew Viktor Frankl survived Auschwitz, one of the most brutal concentration camps during World War 2. He was also a neurologist and psychiatrist and took his experience in the camp as a chance to understand human behavior. Frankl is most known for his book Man’s Search for Meaning, originally titled in German: trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager. That is, “…Nevertheless Say ‘Yes’ to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp.”
Frankl observed three stages of most prisoners: shock, apathy, and lastly reactions to dehumanization. Ultimately, the prisoner’s ability to survive depended entirely on their outlook and inner world. If the prisoners had a hope for the future and a reason to hold on in their spirit, they would survive. If all hope was lost, they were destined to die in the camp one way or another.
Frankl writes about one memory in particular:
“We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk[…]
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
Reflection: How has love been an instrument of light and salvation for you in times of darkness?