Excerpted from The Quest
“These things I have spoken to you, that my Joy may be in you, and that your Joy may be full.”—John 15:11
Stripped of their freedom, their dignity, even their clothes, the prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II had little reason to feel hope or joy. Separated from their wives and husbands and children, many would never see them again. Viktor Frankl was one to lose his wife along with everything else. He remembered the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. He observed, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
In this time we have been together, we have discovered several reversals in the beliefs with which we may have been operating. The truth, we have seen, is often quite the opposite of what we had been taught and what we had been practicing.
The secret of prosperity, for instance, lies not in getting, but in giving. Love warms our hearts, not so much when are loved as when we are loving. True forgiveness is forgiving someone else, but in asking forgiveness of ourselves because we judged another in the first place.
Now we come upon still another "reversal." We will see that true joy is completely independent of what happens to us from the outside. No person or event has any real reason power to make us us happy, and that may come as a surprise to most people because they spend their lives waiting for events and people to change so that things will get better.
To many, it would seem incongruous that joy has nothing whatsoever to do with circumstances. After all, hasn’t each of us been guilty at one time or another of saying things like, “If only my marriage were smoother, I would be happy,” or “When I get a new job, my life will be great,” or “How can you expect me to be happy when I have to take care of my invalid father?” or “Once the kids are out of college and on their own. I’ll be able to enjoy my life”?
If we keep looking to the people and events of our lives to supply us with joy, life becomes like a shooting gallery at a carnival where as soon as you succeed in knocking down one target, another one pops up! We can end up trying to “shoot down” one trial after another, never getting a breather and never getting the chance to relax and enjoy life right here, right now. We spend our lives chasing what we envision as happiness only to discover that whatever we may have caught in our nets turns out to be only a temporary stimulation and never lasting joy.