I recently finished Night by Elie Wiesel. The book is the first-hand account of Wiesel, a Jewish teenager in Romania, taken from his family home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp (he was later moved to Buchenwald). Through this horrific experience, Wiesel witnessed the death of his father, severe human suffering, and the depths of evil. Along the way Wiesel makes numerous pointed theological statements about God in the midst of suffering. The following quote forced me to put down the book, ponder, question, and pray.
The context: Weisel is being forced to watch the hanging of two men and a boy. The two men die quickly. The boy lingers between life and death for more than half an hour.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“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 …” *
* I’ve read translations that clean up the grammar of this passage. The copy I own is quoted above.
This passage is interpreted in a number of ways.
Some read the inner voice of Weisel communicating the death of his view of God. As if to say – with the death this boy so dies Weisel’s belief in the God he once claimed to know.
Yet, I read the passage in another way.
I read the inner voice of Weisel not communicating the death of his view of God but rather, communicating a belief in a God who is with us even in the midst of suffering.
Even in the midst of the worst imaginable evil – God is there. Jesus bears the title “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.” He is with us at the birth of a child. He is with us at the death of a child. He is with us the day we are hired. He is with us the day we are fired.
Where is God in our triumphs? Right by our side.
Where is God in our suffering? Right by our side. Even in the gallows.