Abundant Living, Vol. XIV, Issue 27

“How then can we live?”  – Ezekiel 33:10 

Not long after being diagnosed with cancer my late office partner and beloved friend Jim Webb was informed by his doctors that his life expectancy was at most a year.  The following day Jim came and sat down in my office to share this news with me.  But unlike most people who had just received a death sentence, Jim instead looked up at me with that trademark smile of his.  “You know,” he said, “a person can do a lot of good in a year.”

“How then can we live?”  It is an age-old question, as mankind from the very beginning of creation was granted free will; thus, giving us the freedom to decide the answer for ourselves.  And while it is true that people experience different conditions not necessarily of their choosing, from slavery to privilege, from poverty to wealth, from illness to health, even within the most extreme of these conditions, humans still have the ability to choose how to live.  This is the core message expressed in Dr. Viktor Frankl’s classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, which is a reflection on his years imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.  That is where Dr. Frankl, considered the father of modern psychiatry, observed how his fellow victims would choose to live their lives even under the most horrific conditions ever imposed on human beings, when virtually all freedoms were taken away.  Yet even under those conditions there remained a certain freedom to choose.  While no one had a choice except to try to survive, many chose in addition to do all they could to help others as well.  Like my friend, they might have been thinking, “a person can do a lot of good in this place.” 

Due to the extreme aggressiveness of his disease, my dear friend was unable to achieve the year he had expected, nor the good deeds he had hoped to accomplish – at least not in the way he had imagined.  Although, the good he did is far more than he realized and is still being carried on.  So how did Jim answer that age-old question?  His older daughter, speaking on behalf of the family, expressed it so eloquently and succinctly.  “Dad’s mission in life,” she said, “was to bring God’s Kingdom to earth.”  The Prophet Micah said it this way: “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8) 

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