In his book Night, concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel tells about the time three of his fellow prisoners, two men and a small young boy, were accused of blowing up a Nazi power station:
The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him.
This time the Lagerkapo [the usual guard] refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.
The three victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. “Long live liberty!” cried the two adults.
But the child was silent.
“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked.
At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over.
Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. “Bare your heads!” yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping.
“Cover your heads!” Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive.
For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “Where is God now?” And I heard a voice within me answer him: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”
You know what I appreciate about Wiesel’s excruciating words? They were real. He didn’t care about how they would sound or if they were theologically correct. This is what he felt. How about you? What has caused you pain? What has made you want to end your life? What has so completely broken your soul that you wonder if you’ll ever be able to recover? Tell that to God.
Dispense with the polite, positive self-talk and ask God directly, Where were you when this happened? Were you sleeping? Are you lazy? Are you too chicken and you’re hiding? Take the psalms of lament as your permission slip to be honest with God.
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