Faith in Hard Times
"You see, Doctor, God didn't kill that little girl. Fate didn't butcher her and destiny didn't feed her to those dogs. If God saw what any of us did that night he didn't seem to mind. From then on I knew... God doesn't make the world this way. We do." - Rorschach, "Watchmen"
I was traveling this week, which meant some airplane reads. For me, that was "Night" by Elie Wiesel. It's an account of his surviving the Holocaust, so it's not a light read. But it is a compelling read. And it was one that begins, in its foreword, with an interesting musing on faith, particularly the challenge of faith in hard times.
As Wiesel notes in the book, he was a devout Jew prior to the events at the concentration camps, one who was possibly even studying to be a teacher. But his faith suffered through his experience. An unimaginable pain and suffering, knowing that the smoke rising from the camps was the fire consuming his family. And wondering where God was in the midst of such horror.
"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in the camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever..."
Thankfully, most of us will never know that suffering or sorrow. But we do see evil done in the world, including evil done in the name of those who claim to represent God. And it can be hard to maintain our faith in such times.
I like the movie "Watchmen." Those who've seen it, or read the Graphic Novel, know that it presents a bleak picture of the world. It isn't the hope of Scripture. It's something else. And it would be fair to wonder at the statement that I like the film. Let me say I don't like the depiction of the world. It's not a world we'd want to live in. But I think it's a fascinating exploration.
One of the moving scenes for me is when Rorschach is talking about how he became the cynical, violent vigilante he is. He talks about a case early in his career when he sought a missing child. He found the man that took her and, soon, learned her grim fate. A sweet, innocent girl who was brutally murdered. It causes him to respond to his prison therapist with the quote I started this post with. It's a sad and dark statement. But a true statement. God doesn't make the world evil, we do. And that can be a tough concept to reconcile.
A few years ago there was a movie called "Precious." It was the story of a girl who'd suffered tremendously in her life. A girl who had no conception of what real love is because she'd never had real love or kindness modeled for her. It made it difficult for her to even recognize love. A teacher, perhaps the first person to show her kindness, asked her about love and the girl, Precious responded:
"Please don't lie to me, Ms. Rain! Love ain't done nothing for me... but beat me... rape me... call me an animal! Make me feel worthless! Make me sick!"
Her teacher responded, "That wasn't love." And in truth, and in real love, Precious' view of the world began to change.
But for those trapped in darkness, it can be hard to see or feel the real love, the love that is God. He is there and He is not silent, but the noise of this world can drown Him out in our minds.
In the foreword from Francois Mauriac, he talks of meeting Wiesel, of reading his words and of feeling unable to find the right words. He writes, "Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine? And that the connection between the cross adn human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost?"
No. A Mauriac wrote, he just embraced the lost man and wept with him. Sometimes that's the best we can do. Weep with them and pray that, despite their grief, anger, and loss, the unfathomable love of Christ will penetrate their heart, restore their soul, and renew their faith.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." All we can do is be a conduit of that love.