Some of the worst stories of human brutality in history, of course, came out of Hitler’s concentration camps in World War II. But out of those camps also came some incredible examples of human triumph and heroism. Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust in the infamous Auschwitz death camp, told some of those stories in his book. He testified that some of those in Auschwitz were surviving better after a year than some of them did after only a few days. He said that those who didn’t sink were those who drew their outlook from what he described as a second dimension experience.
All the prisoners in the camp shared the same first dimension experience – the terrible horrors they were subjected to every day. But the second dimension that some drew upon had, according to Victor Frankl, four elements – seeing meaning, seeing beauty, maintaining humor, and thinking future. One example that stands out in my mind was the man who ran into the barracks one day, gathered all his fellow prisoners together to go outside and see something special. He was actually celebrating the beauty of a blazing sunset reflected in the puddles from last night’s rain.
I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “Sunsets in the Puddles.”
Few, if any of us, have endured something so inhuman, so unjust, so brutal as those who suffered through the Holocaust, of course. But they can teach us something: that while you often cannot choose your circumstances, you can choose your attitude in the midst of those circumstances. Your environment, however harsh and hurting, does not have to be decisive in the kind of person you are and the kind of response you choose.
When Paul wrote our word for today from the Word of God, his circumstances were miserable. He was in prison on trumped up charges, his surroundings were horrendous, his dreams were on hold, and people outside were actually taking advantage of his circumstances to diminish him and advance themselves. He’s got so many reasons to be complaining, questioning, spewing, attacking, or giving up. Doesn’t happen, because he’s drawing on his in-vironment, not his environment – on Christ’s resources inside him where not even Caesar can interfere with it.
In Philippians 4, beginning with verse 4, Paul says from his prison cell, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Then he reveals his secret of winning amid life’s worst, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely (like a sunset in a puddle maybe), whatever is admirable, think about such things.” Then, after testifying that he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” he gives the ultimate secret of being on top, no matter what season you’re in, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
So how you handle what you don’t like is the difference between peace and frustration, between contentment and anger, and between joy and discouragement. It’s all about what you dwell on, not what you’re going through. If you dwell on what’s beautiful, if you dwell on what God is doing, or how you can lift up other people, you could be unsinkable no matter how many icebergs there are.
For as one man said, “To those who look for providences, there will always be a providences to see.” Choose joy!