Meaning: The Critical (and Overlooked) Element

“They’ll believe us”, she said, “because we’ve been there.”

Every Wednesday we’ll post something about doctrine and recovery. Hope it helps.

Meaning: The Critical (and Overlooked) Element

Nearly fifty years ago, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor who endured Auschwitz, wrote Man’s Search for Meaning (Beacon Press revised 1997). Dr. Frankl observed during his imprisonment that the inmates most likely to survive the horrors of the camps were the ones with a clear and deeply held sense of meaning – a goal, vision, or cause – that was worth fighting and surviving for. And while many of Frankl’s views are by no means Biblical, his observations on meaning were keen. Without purpose, an affluent executive despairs; with it, a starved and beaten soul in a concentration camp holds on.

Then there’s you, a man who’s established lifestyle changes and is building deeper intimacy with God and others. Good start, but there’s still the question of a broader purpose, because there’s more to your life than sexual purity (important as it is.) In fact, if you’ve been part of a support group, accountability group or recovery program, you may be sick of hearing yourself referred to as a “sinner”, “man in recovery”, or “addict.” And you might simply want to put your struggle behind you never mention it again.

I don’t blame you. But first, at least think through what you’re learning about God, life, yourself and others through all of this, and see what might be worth passing on. You may have picked up information that’s relevant, and very useful, to others.

Rick Warren makes this point in The Purpose Driven Life, when he says:

“The second part of your life message is the truths that God has taught you from experiences with Him. These are lessons and insights you have learned about God, relationships, problems, temptations, and other aspects of life.” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 291)

That’s what I call a redemptive response to tragedy, and it’s not uncommon.

Chuck Colson did it with his own disgrace in the wake of Watergate. After falling from a key post with the Nixon administration to a federal prison, Colson converted the darkest time of his life into the effective, thriving ministry known as Prison Fellowship.

Jim Baker, former president of PTL Ministries, did the same after his own public humiliation. When his prior adultery came to light and his ministry collapsed amidst financial scandal, Baker endured divorce, then prison time. Released years later, he wrote his memoirs I Was Wrong (Nelson Books 1996) gleaning wisdom from his failure and passing it on.

My favorite example, though, is the late Corrie ten Boom. You may have read her book The Hiding Place, or seen the movie of the same name. During World War II, the Ten Booms sheltered Jews in Holland, and were eventually turned over to the Gestapo to pay the ultimate price. Many in her family soon died, and Corrie and her sister were sent to jail, then on to Germany to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp.

More than once I heard her speak about it, noting that as awful as it was, she’d never felt God’s presence and guidance as she did during that time. She smuggled a Bible into the camp, where she and her sister ministered evangelism and comfort in the middle of Hell.

Her sister eventually took ill and, while dying, told Corrie they must tell people what they’d learned in the camp.

“They’ll believe us”, she said, “because we’ve been there.”

And Corrie ten Boom went on to become one of the most beloved of modern saints, with a staggering message and ministry born of her worst experiences.

Now flash forward to the Church in the 21st century. Are we not, among other things, a church in moral crises? If we look not only at the discouraging statistics on moral failure among Christians, but also at recent well known scandals among Christian leadership, what do we see if not a church that is seriously compromised?

In response, God is intervening, as more and more of His men experience His wake-up call, just as you did. And that makes you part of a moral reformation He’s doing in the Church today.

As members of the Body of Christ reclaim created intent, the Church is strengthened, and better able to respond to the women and men who come from the sexually idolatrous culture – the Strangers, you could say – looking for answers. On this point, Episcopal Bishop William Fry noted:

“One of the most attractive feature of the early Christian communities was their radical sexual ethic and their deep commitment to family values. These things drew many people to them who were disillusioned by the promiscuity of what proved to be a declining culture.” (“Church and Society”, Time 24 June 1991 p. 49)

If the early Church’s commitment to family values attracted those burnt out on the excesses of their time, imagine the potential of  today’s Church! How much further can the sexual revolution can go before its members – the promiscuous, the pornographer, the homosexual – burn out and start look for another alternative? Will they not be the new “strangers” seeking answers and understanding?

More to the point: Who’ll be better equipped to provide answers and understanding, than those of us who’ve struggled with our own sexual excesses?

There’s meaning in that. We’ll have something to say to them.
And they’ll believe us, because we’ve been there.


Diana Jamerson via Facebook | Jul 21, 2011

You answered a question that I asked God just yesterday,,thanks Joe.

Jim Farrington via Facebook | Jul 21, 2011

I am a huge fan of Corrie Ten Boom, have several of her books and have read them repeatedly. I never get bored with them and it continually ministers to me truth.

Diana Jamerson | Nov 10, 2011

You answered a question that I asked God just yesterday,,thanks Joe.

Jim Farrington | Nov 10, 2011

I am a huge fan of Corrie Ten Boom, have several of her books and have read them repeatedly. I never get bored with them and it continually ministers to me truth.

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