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  • Reverend James Squire

Logotherapy: The Importance of Future Considerations

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Photo By Marcin Czerniawski

Years ago when I was studying in New Haven I came across a slim volume of a book concerning the Holocaust, Man’s Search For Meaning, by Victor Frankl. The book has two basic parts. The first shares what it was like for him to be in a Nazi concentration camp. The second part of the book describes a type of therapy pioneered by Frankl, “Logotherapy”. The book seeks to answer the question, “How can people find meaning in their lives under the worst possible conditions?” Frankl quotes Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” (Frankl 2006) The book is a vivid account of life in a concentration camp. In this extreme setting he learned how to survive and thrive in any situation.

There are two ideas at the heart of what Frankl discovered and that form the basis of Logotherapy. The first tenet is the value of love and loving as a key ingredient in one’s life. Frankl thought that love was the be all and end all of life. In other words, we all desire to love and be loved. Beck Weathers, who was part of an ill fated climb up Mount Everest, was able to survive when so many others didn’t because he constantly thought of his wife and children. He could not imagine life without them. He was driven to this reality as a result of traveling the world over looking for meaning. Then in his quest for survival on Mt. Everest he was led to discover that meaning had always been in his own backyard. (Weathers 2015)

The second idea at the basis of logotherapy is that one must have a future goal to look forward to. Mankind is the only species whose life is future directed. Hope is future oriented and beckons us into our future.

The Importance Of A Sense Of Future In Slavery

The history of slavery in the United States holds many similar survival stories that reflect Frankl’s findings. Enslaved people were often criticized for having an unrealistic view of their situation. Their religious fervor and music focused on the Promised Land, not on the justice they needed more immediately. I believe that it was that future consideration of heaven or a better life in the future that enabled them to survive.

The goal of the Underground Railroad was described as getting to the Promised Land. Any enslaved person dreams of being with loved family members and friends. That was part of their identity and a daily dream. Spirituals that were sung by enslaved people had covert meanings. The codes often related to how to escape to a free part of the country. There are many metaphors of “home”, for a home is a safe place where everyone can live free.

The “Gospel Train” includes a direct call to get away.

The Gospel train’s comin’

I hear it just at hand

I hear the car wheels rumblin’

And rollin’ thro the land

Get on board little children

There is room for many more

I hear the train a comin’

She’s loosed all her steam and brakes

And strainin’ ev’ry nerve

The fare is cheap and all can go

The rich and poor are there.

No second class aboard this train.

No difference in the fare.

“Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, describes the identity and destiny of an enslaved people. It is filled with hope to connect them to a new future.

Swing low sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, what do I see,

Coming for to carry me home.

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home. (

Future Considerations In Judaism and Christianity

The enslaved people in the United States were influenced by the biblical traditions of both Judaism and Christianity. These traditions played very important roles in their spiritual lives. One of the central elements of Jewish scripture is the story of the Hebrews escaping the bondage of Egypt to enter the promised land “of milk and honey”. This event is celebrated every year as Passover. Foods served for Passover symbolize the event. For example, unleavened bread is used to symbolize the haste with which they had to leave Egypt. They had their sense of a future goal to reach the Promised Land. This story is repeated each year across the world. The service of Passover deals with the central question, “How is this night different from all other nights?”

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed these famous words. Well I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter to me now, because I have been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life --longevity has its place. But I am not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I have looked over, and I have seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I am happy tonight; I am not worried about anything; I am not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. (Delivered on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee at Bishop Charles Temple)

The heart of the Christian tradition is the Resurrection. It is the core of the Christian identity. Just as Jesus was resurrected so will those who believe in him now will be resurrected. They will have eternal life, the ability to be alive in the fullest moral sense, and to look to a future at a heavenly banquet. The Christian identity is clear and the future destiny of the Kingdom of Heaven is just as clear.

In the Gospel of Matthew we hear, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Apocalyptic literature in the Bible says that God will have ultimate control over all future events. In the book of the Revelation of St. John, we see the description of this kingdom which we are drawn to as a future home, “After this I looked and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne, robed in white with palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice saying, “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne of the lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

One can see how a future perspective could be envisioned for those who are undergoing hardship, “They will hunger no more and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, not any scorching heat; for the lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17)

Identity and destiny are essential to surviving and thriving in this life and the life to come.

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