Life Is Relationship

May 17, 2009

Have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl? He was an author and psychotherapist who died about 9 years ago at the age of 92. Among his other accomplishments, he wrote a great book called Man’s Search For Meaning. This book begins by showing the way Dr. Frankl would start out his therapy sessions with a new patient. Many of these patients would come to him at the end of their rope, wallowing in despair, and Frankl would start out by asking a simple question: “Tell me, why don’t you just commit suicide?” Seems like a pretty counterproductive way to begin therapy, wouldn’t you say? But, faced with such a stark question, these people, no matter how far gone in their hopelessness, were forced to come up with a credible answer. Why were they still alive? What sense of meaning made life worth living?

Frankl felt entitled to ask such a question because he himself had discovered the answer. His answer came in the concentration camps of Nazi occupied Europe. A Jewish Austrian, he was thrown into the camps for most of the war and, of course, barely survived (most around him didn’t). He was stripped of every layer of humanity left him, and survived on what is most basic to life–at least, what he discovered was most basic.

You see, he was sent to the camps with his beloved wife, but they were immediately separated, and he never saw her again. But, there was one thing that kept him going while in the camps–he could never actually be sure what happened to her. And his faith in that little uncertainty gave him hope. At the depth of his despair, he knew that he had to stay alive and live on. Why? Because, no matter how faint the odds, if it was even possible that there was someone out there who loved him and who he loved in return, he had a reason to live. Just this prospect alone gave his life meaning.

The idea that he learned and passed onto his patients was that Life is Relationship. If life has any merit, any meaning, it’s that we have the opportunity to love and be loved. Sometimes we need to be asked a startling question or endure a crisis to realize this, but this understanding exists within all of us. As goes the cliche, ‘no one on their deathbed ever wished they spent more time at the office.‘ But, it’s not a guarantee, it’s an opportunity, and it becomes something like a gift. For Frankl, it was his wife. For us, it could be a friend, a father, our spouse, our children. The sum of our worth or accomplishment in life is measured, not by how much money we have, how beautiful we are, how famous we are, but by the richness in our personal relationships.

But even in these relationships, we’re often faced with the sickly reality that we’re all pretty messed up as human beings. We often hurt and are hurt by the ones we’re closest to, often as much as we help, and being human, we’re also subject to another relational hurt–the pain of sickness and death–the pain of seeing a loved one suffer or even die. So, as much significance as we can get from our human relationships, they too can often fail us, and we’re left hungering for something more.

To me, that’s why God is the ultimate necessity for life and meaning. But, perhaps you’re one who asks the question, ‘how can I have a relationship with someone I haven’t even seen? How can that give me meaning?’ Well, it’s a bit like Dr. Frankl. He had faith in even the remote possibility of his wife’s existence, and that gave him hope. And, if we really search inside, even when we’re feeling the most hopeless or cynical about life, we’ll know that there is a God out there who loves us. Think about it. If in the deepest parts of our soul we realize that the only thing that gives life meaning, the only thing that makes life worth living, are our personal relationships, then doesn’t it make sense that the source of that life would also be personal, and relational?

In the face of our despair, we can have faith in this “little uncertainty,” that there is someone out there who won’t ever leave me, who won’t let me down, who deeply loves every stitch of my existence. Even when all my human relationships seem to be falling away, I know there is one out there who can be the father, the sister, mother, brother, the spouse or loved one I may have never had. And, on top of that, there’s a bonus. As I get to know this loving God, I can also see my human relationships more infused with the integrity and love I always wanted from them.

Do you know when God first noticed something was wrong with the world he’d created? It wasn’t Eve and the apple. It was Adam, standing by himself in the garden. In the face of his glorious creation, God saw that something was still incomplete: He said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” And, still today, we all feel this in our deepest heart. It is not good for us to be alone. We are not complete as human beings until we are in relationship. With others. With our Creator. And he is out there, loving us right now, and waiting to be loved by us. In my highs and in my lows, that’s what keeps me going, and makes life worth living.


About John Michalak


An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 25 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

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  • Just Duckie
    December 2, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Man can I relate! So many times I get down, and I always try to remind myself that there are people who love me, and God loves me even more then they do! That’s something I can’t fully grasp but thank you for that reminder.

  • Jeff Bjorck
    December 2, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    You have nailed some central truths in this blog. Well-said! Indeed, God is the only Friend who will never let us down. And before I start getting too irritated at those who let me down, I look in the mirror at the one who lets me down the most. :o) Moreover, because God will never leave or forsake me, I have the strength I need to try to be the best friend to others that I can be, even though I will always be an imperfect friend.

    Well said, John!

    Peace of Christ,
    Jeff Bjorck

  • Susan
    December 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Reading this, I was reminded of a song by Talley Trio, (Southern gospel group,) which says “He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason.” The message of the song is that our relationship with God is our most important relationship, and that even in the midst of loss, we can count on and draw comfort from that relationship. I think circumstances in my life are just drawing me closer to God and loving Him more.

  • Susana Maria Rosende
    December 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Well said, indeed, John. Thank you for sharing.


  • Jeanne
    December 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    You speak truth – God is love – and we are created to have that loving relationship with one another – because He is in all of us!


  • Iuni
    December 2, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    I have a question that I’m asking myself very often. Why can’t we get closer to God only through trials? I had a breakup last year, and it’s almost a year since then and I’m still recovering and through all this year He never stoped telling me that He loves me and He’ll be near me whenever I need Him, and He’ll never disappoint me. I used to have a close relationship with my Lord before the “event” but since then… this was the only chance to make it through… – a close relationship with HIM. Several weeks I had on my PC’s desktop the fallowing words: “When you have nothing left but Jesus you find that Jesus is enough” and this is true true true… Although on some days I try to find a reason to get out of bed, I know He’s all I need. It is true that life = relationships but the most important one is our contact our constant contact with our Creator who loves us more then ever. Sometimes it’s hard to love Him, because we don’t see Him face to face, but I think that it what makes it greater. He never disappointed me… never. There were and still are moments when I don’t understand Him and His Plan for my life, but I trust Him because I gave Him my lwhole life and there are no better Hands to put it into.

    Just remember this: “When you have nothing left but Jesus you find that Jesus is enough”

  • Maria
    December 2, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Dear Iunia,

    It was interesting to read about your thoughts. I know your feelings very well and when I have it that way I always say to myself those thoughts from Bible –

    Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,to those who are called according to His purpose.”

    *It also reads: all things work together for good no matter if it feels hard at the moment.

    And you know Iunia,whan I read those words a few times then it feels better. That way I get Hope, Patience and Understanding. You can’t blame yourself for anything.Only remember Romans 8:28 and wait. You will feel when everything you wish is on your way. And……we don’t need to see God face in face.We can feel Him and what He says to us. That’s SO great that He is EVERYWHERE we go.

    God Bless you Iuni!

    Your friend,

  • Maria
    December 2, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Dear John,

    Thank you for your very spiritual blogs!

    God Bless you,

  • Herbie
    December 2, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    So true. So many times others have let us down. Whether they meant to or not we have all been let down by those closest to us. I look back in my own life and see what I may not have done or been there for someone as well as others for me, the one thing that has been always there has been God. He is always the consistant one and never ever fails us.

    Excellent blog.


  • Jim
    December 2, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Nicely done!

    I need to comment: This world we live in is still rife with that spirit that controlled the authorities over, and in, those concentration camps. May we each respond as Jesus instructs us to when we next encounter it.


  • Isle Mitsu Yur Bishi
    December 2, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Yes. One of my favorite books. Reading it in my early 20’s changed me. I am now a therapist and recommend this (and many other books) as part of treatment when appropriate. I gave a copy to each of my three children…I hope they read it and are touched.

  • Lillenan
    December 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    This is very true for sure.

    Relationships just knowing someoneloves me just for the person I am is what keeps me going from one day to the next.

    Trials may come, but I am an overcomer, and I find God both walking with me through them while waiting for me 0on the other side of them, funny how that is.

    I find actually I learn the most during these vally times as I call them…I find that I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me!

  • Joyce
    December 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks for your sharing. It’s a powerful message.

  • Lindi Jo
    December 2, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    So very true..I know in my own life, many times during my quest to find my birthmother and birth identity, I felt like giving up.. But the very basic God given desire to find my mother, and form some kind of relationship with her, never allowed me to give up hope..I am also reminded of Corrie Ten Boom as I read this message. as well as a movie i have seen on tv several times, (the name escapes me at the moment) about the father and his son, who were taken to the camps, and how the father made his boy believe that it was all a game.. He never gave up hope, and never lost his joy. He had a reason to go on, his wife and son. Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness, it takes much more strength to live and love and be loved.. This was inspiring John, ..thank You

  • John Michalak
    December 2, 2009 at 6:41 pm


    Thanks so much for your comment. I think the answer to your question would require the length of a book, rather than the limited space we have here. One thing I would say is that the whole context of our lives in a sense can be considered a “trial”. Since the sin of Adam, we live in a “fallen” world, where sin, death, corruption have their way on us. Our access to God has been stifled by our sin and a world system that wants all of our attention. Through Jesus Christ’s trials, the door has been opened to us. But, unless we identify with his suffering, i.e., go through trials, it’s often hard to know what that access to God truly looks like. That’s why, whether we’re going through a trial or not, remembering Christ’s suffering on a regular basis (through communion/the Lord’s Supper, etc.), is a vital component for truly seeking God and living the life he wants for us. I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but thanks for furthering the conversation. I believe my wife has visited Romania. Perhaps one day I can visit there as well. God bless.

  • Curt
    December 2, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I have read Fankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” several times. It’s a powerful book, full of truth. As I type this, my mother-in-law’s life hangs in the balance. She may not live for more than a few days, if that. Our family has wrestled with this “search for meaning” in a very hands-on way in recent months. It’s difficult to digest, but as believers we should realize that our happiness (in the conventional sense) or so-called “quality of life” aren’t the best measuring sticks for finding the value in life–at any stage of the life game. For in suffering and deep pain, we usually find nuggets of truth and joy that may otherwise have evaded us. Let God be glorified in health, life, and death. As a longtime amateur songwriter, one of my first songs as a young teen was called, “One Day at a Time.” The song contains a line that aptly prescribes a path for the life moment in which my family resides today, and properly credits the source of all life.

    “All I have to do is trust, and even that is not of me.”

  • Linda Baker
    December 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks, John. Always a pleasure to read your blog entries.
    Hope to see you sometime this year.


  • Margee Ortega
    December 2, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Amen and AMEN brother. What a wonderful reminder. I was just asking some friends of mine to pray that I come to some kind of way to speak the truth to those who are depressed. There are so many. I have a friend who has a web site to talk to teens about suicide. If you ever want to encourage them here’s the site – http://www.thenarrowroad.com/ Have a blessed day.

  • Jay Ferris
    March 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    We Need to talk!

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