America’s queen of talk, Oprah, left no stone unturned before leaving NBC and developing her network, OWN—the Oprah Winfrey Network. While interviewing author and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, thousands of fans along with the famous daytime star, glimpsed a fraction of his hellish, nightmare. Arm in arm, the two of them walked around the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, as Wiesel described his experiences. To those looking on from the distant comfort of television, the charred bricks, snow-laden train tracks, ghoulish old photos of human skeletons, and mountains of hair, shoes, and glasses of the Jewish dead loomed foggy and surreal.
Wiesel’s recollections, aptly described in his memoir, Night, are anything but vague. They rebound off the pages as a personal and historical documentation of a living hell—one whose screams shriek to this day from the scorched souls and scarred lives of survivors.
When I read Night, the brutality of such inhumane acts and loss of innocent life grieved my soul. I blinked in disbelief and shuddered with the turning of each page. The horrors grew more ghastly, more demonic; and the story ended in unresolved hopelessness. Compassion rose in my heart as I closed the small book. I sobbed into my hands for a few minutes. My bones ached with the inability to change circumstances for the Wiesel family, for the whole Jewish nation. I felt so small and insignificant, so unfairly pampered in life and completely inadequate to effect change.
One statement from Night pierced my heart:
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.
It is hard to wrap my mind around the anguish and despair that drove a Wiesel to write such words. I tried to imagine the lamp of my life extinguished in one action—in one night so dark the light could never penetrate it again. As I read, my heart longed for a miracle or an eternal light—that had the power to pierce the darkness and cancel the curse.
The immortal God dwells that kind of illumination. Scripture calls it “unapproachable light.” He is not like light or to be compared to light. The Lord of Creation is more than the sun and all the light sources of the universe. He is the source of all enlightenment. Psalm 139:7-12 says there is no darkness too deep to hide from our Creator.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.
Condemned to a concentration camp for hiding Jews during World War II, Corrie ten Boom’s darkest hour did not hide her from God’s light. She had much to say about her own night at Ravensbruck, located 90 kilometers outside of Berlin. One declaration from her journal pierces the darkness:
No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still: with Jesus even in our darkest moments the best remains, and the very best is yet to be.
Released from the concentration camp by a (divine) clerical error, Corrie prepared for the best. She became a healing voice around the world, describing the depth of God’s love amid the heinous circumstances. Corrie’s message about the power of forgiveness, for those who dare to forgive, shattered the blackest night. Self-proclaimed “tramp for the Lord” and heroine, Corrie emerged from that nightmarish hole as a sunbeam of hope.
Not only did Wiesel wrestle with the curse of darkness but with questions of God’s justice:
Some talked of God, of his mysterious ways, of the sins of the Jewish people, and of their future deliverance. But I had ceased to pray. How I sympathized with Job. I did not deny God’s existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.
All his ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Written by his own hand, the Bible of Andre Trocmé bears this inscription in French:
Happy are those hungry and thirsty of justice; for they will be satisfied…
Andre Trocmé earned the right to speak of justice, especially for European Jews. As a French Protestant pastor in Le Chambon, Trocmé became an agent of God’s love. In the winter of 1941, Trocmé opened his home to a cold and hungry Jewish woman who was fleeing the Nazis. His act of kindness multiplied and became a strong shelter. The entire town followed his example; and for the next four years, they collectively rescued and sheltered 5,000 Jewish refugees.
Strong faith and conviction led Pastor Trocmé to risk his life for the lives of others. He despised the injustice of the world around him. As an instrument of God’s just intervention, Trocmé saved thousands of Jewish lives who did not deserve to die.
Faith and justice must exist side by side. There will not be justice if faith dies, conversely there will not be faith if injustice goes unpunished. These two are so intertwined that Jesus used them in a parable in Luke 18 about the woman who persuades the judge by pleading for justice. Because she does not let up, he grants her request. Jesus goes on to explain that God will execute justice on the earth if His people plead day and night for it. We can understand that this means to plead for justice during the day and night seasons of life.
During times of dark injustice, those with faith will weather the storm still believing a just God will even the score. Like Pastor Trocmé, God may use our very lives to right the wrongs of a world overcome by evil. There will not be justice without strong faith that is willing to die for conviction.
Along with demanding justice, Wiesel believed God answered his prayers with silence:
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.
Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, Who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God-the Lord, the God of his fathers-even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people (II Chronicles 30:18-20).
God answers prayer in the most unexpected ways. Dr. Klara Schlink, president of the Women’s Division of the German Student Christian Movement (1933-35), prayed for revival in her Bible study groups. On September 11, 1944 Darmstadt, Germany, was destroyed by an air raid and over 12,000 people were killed. On that dark and deadly night, the young girls discovered a holy God, as they repented of their sins. Revival sprang up, and new life emerged. The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary emerged out of those ashes with a handful of German women who dedicated themselves to loving the Lord Jesus and to the healing and reconciliation of wounded Israel.
This movement still exists today and has expanded to other nations. The sisters have demonstrated a deep love for the Jewish people globally by many, unseen, and unsolicited acts of generosity and compassion. They have openly repented for the sins of the German nation and asked forgiveness. Their acts of kindness have brought healing and reconciliation to both Germans and Jews around the world. All of this happened by one woman’s simple prayer for revival.
God hears our prayers but answers in unique ways. This is called the serendipity of God! We must believe He listens and His answer will come creatively in the right way and time.
Oprah is famous for asking each she interviews if he/she sees the good that comes from suffering. She broached the subject with Wiesel. Of course, his writings have educated many on the subject of Holocaust and Jewish suffering; but Wiesel’s wounded heart was still so evident. This was a difficult question for him.
Jews have strong objections about Jesus and the Good News as we know, apply, and live. Many stem from their wounds of suffering through unjust persecution such as the Holocaust. While I agree their affliction should never be minimized, it is my constant prayer those who hurt would not distinguish the light of their faith in God. No matter how dim, that candle will continue to flicker and eventually illuminate truth.
The worst of times, crowded with injustice and ghastly inhumanity that brings life to the level of scum are just an eclipse, rather than night. Yes, the dark is real, and the pain agonizing. Yes, God seems silent, distant and maybe even removed in the steely darkness. But He is still there with justice and hope for tomorrow. Night does not eradicate the light. It never can
I can’t answer the hard questions of why and where was [is] God. I can’t defend Him. I can only mirror His light and love that lifted me.
Even in a total solar eclipse as the moon blackens the sun’s bright rays—during the darkest moments—a ring of light rays called corona can be seen encircling the sun. The corona crown gives testimony that the light is present behind the dark and will return with noonday brilliance
God dwells in unapproachable light, and we are all brought into relationship with Him by the blood sacrifice of Yeshua who is the Light of World. God is not cold and indifferent to our suffering. That is why He sent Jesus.
Isaiah foresaw the birth of the Yeshua, the Light of the World and Jewish Messiah, when he made this prediction:
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined (Isaiah 9:2).