Night Had Fallen (5)

June 22, 2006

My posts (#1, #2 , #3, #4) on Night were varied – a few from the book itself, one from the preface, and one from Wiesel’s Nobel prize acceptance speech. The common thread in all of them was the numerous mentions of faith, and each quote demonstrated different aspects of Wiesel’s faith, particularly loss and renewal. And the post that ties them all together is this:

And that connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost?

This quote is an attempt to respond to the incredible evil that stared Wiesel in the face daily. It was this very problem of evil that led Wiesel away from his childhood faith. How can a good God, the God of the Exodus, the God who gave us Canaan, the God who will one day send Messiah – how can God allow his people to be turned into smoke in the fires of a German hell? What sort of promise-keeping God is this? This terrifying statement comes from a lips of one of Wiesel’s hospital ward mates, and it demonstrates the complete loss of trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that had occured in the lives of many of the Jews during the Holocaust. Indeed, some had more faith in Hitler than in the God of their ancestry.

And I pause and think. Can I truly blame them? What would happen to my faith if I saw my little sister and mother carried away, never to return? What would happen to my faith if I were forced to run miles in the brutal snow, and then experience the death of my father soon after? What would happen to my faith if the only thing that I heard from the God I once trusted was silence?

I pray that God would sustain me – I am too weak.

And yet it seems that Wiesel’s faith, buried in the ashes of his people, was somehow resurrected (at least this is how I interpret his Nobel prize speech). And it is this faith that spurs him to action for the good of others.

What do we as Christians make of this? I can think of no other response except that of the bold quote above – to proclaim the suffering of a Jew from Nazareth as the key to this suffering. We must tell his story. It is a story of pain and agony, of obedience to the point of death – even the death of a cross.

It is this story of God’s vindication of this man, this man in whom the love of God is revealed. This man in whom true humanity and true deity are revealed. This man who showed us all that God is not an outside observer, but intimately involved with the evil in this world. With the evil in my heart.

It is the story of a God who is not deaf. Indeed, he has not only heard the cries of suffering, but also himself cried out to God in his forsaken state. And this very God rose from the grave to offer hope and resurrection to all who will believe that God’s new creation is beginning in this man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, it is an unfathomable mystery. Does it make the pain and sorrow go away? No. But it does provide the comfort and assurance that God is not a God who is distant, but a God who has gone into the very heart of evil and returned victorious.

“For God’s sake, where is God?”

And from within me, I heard a voice answer:

“Where He is? This is where-hanging here from this gallows.”

Wiesel is close. During suffering, we must answer: “Where He is? This is where – hanging here from this cross.”

Yet at the same time we must answer: “Where He is? No longer on the cross, nor in the tomb, but exalted and victorious.”

May He quickly return to bring that victory to a creation that desperately needs it.


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