Gary, Carl, and I visited the United States Holocaust Museum today. There is no experience with which to compare this harrowing, sobering, and unfathomable tour of one of the darkest periods of recorded history. That one human being was capable of treating another human being the way the Jews were treated defies understanding. We saw pictures and videos of the pogroms, boycotts, concentration camps, executions, and experimentations. An entire ethnic group across an entire continent was seized with terror for over a decade. To have witnessed such atrocities and survive must have scarred and wounded the psyche. Perhaps no one who survived this genocide saw more than the Romanian writer Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel, who spent time in the Auschwitz, Buna, Buchenwald, and Gleiwitz Concentration Camps. In fact, he only reluctantly became a writer to share his dark experience at the hands of the Nazis. In his first book, Night, he wrote,
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
I do not stand in judgment of Mr. Wiesel’s pain. Who of us will ever know its depths? But his words demonstrate how pain and suffering can undermine and even destroy faith. Paul told the Romans, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). We will not be cast in the throes of despair Wiesel has known, but when we encounter trials, difficulties, and suffering may we keep our faith in God strong. It may be hard to love our enemies (Mat. 5:44), but may we maintain our love and fidelity to our God–no matter what!