Whenever we come close to despair, the strongest lifeline is to think like Joseph. That is how psychotherapist Viktor Frankl saved the lives of several of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, by helping them realise that they had a task to perform or a mission to fulfil that they could only do by surviving. This gave them the will to live. People who have suffered tragedy have often found meaning by alleviating the suffering of others. The grief may not disappear but it is redeemed. The adagio, with its intense sadness, is not the last movement of the symphony.
Seen through the eyes of faith life is not what Joseph Heller called it: “a trashbag of random coincidences blown open in a wind.” Each of us is here for a reason, to do something only we can do, and all the pain and heartbreak are bearable if we can discern God’s purpose or hear, however muffled, His call. As Nietzsche used to say, “He who has a strong enough Why can bear almost any How.”
In crisis, the wrong question to ask is, “What have I done to deserve this?” The right one is, “What am I now being summoned to do?” Each of us has a task. Every life has a purpose. We can bear the pain of the past when we discover the future we are called on to make.