Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Transcending Tragedy and Suffering

Elie Wiesel, writing of his boyhood experiences at Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps and the pain and anger that remain to this day, in his book, And the Sea Is Never Full

Does this mean that I have made peace with God? I continue to protest His apparent indifference to the injustices that savage His creation….
            And what about my faith in all that? I would be within my rights to give it up. I could invoke six million reasons to justify my decision. But I don’t. I am incapable of straying from the path charted by my ancestors. Without this faith in God, the faith of my father and forefathers, my faith in Israel and in humanity would be diminished. And so I choose to preserve the faith of my childhood….
            I never gave up my faith in God. Even over there I went on praying. Yes, my faith was wounded, and still is today. In Night, my earliest testimony, I tell of a boy’s death by hanging, and conclude that it is God Himself that the killer is determined to murder. I say this from within my faith, for had I lost it I would not rail against heaven. It is because I still believe in God that I argue with Him. As Job said, “Even if He kills me, I shall continue to place my hope in Him.” Strange. In secular circles my public statements of faith in God are resented.

What do you say to encourage such a man, to help bring healing to the gaping wounds brought on by God’s “apparent indifference,” and the anguish and anger that constantly haunts him and those who survived along with him?

What I would have said to him at 22 would have deserved a baseball bat upside my head. “Do this, believe that, memorize these scriptures, and all will be well.” Today at almost 62, if I met him, all I would have are my tears and an unfathomable admiration for his witness.

Nothing and no one makes the suffering brought on by such tragedies as his go away.

Do you disagree? Then tell me this: When Job saw God, did it make all of his horrific losses disappear? Did his children come back to life and sit down with him and break bread that night or were they still dead in their graves? His suffering remained: only now, after seeing God, his faith and worship were deeper than his abiding pain.

Christians here in the US don’t much take to focusing on any theology dealing with tragedy and suffering. This is no surprise, as they don’t often deal with the tragedy of Christ’s crucifixion. “Let’s jump right over to the resurrection. That’s the ticket to the charmed Christian life!” The fact remains, however, that Jesus’ death is ever a tragedy. Yes, His resurrection gives new meaning to His suffering, but if we fail to keep the “tragic” as part of the Truth we bear witness to, we are glossing over reality and offering a peace or healing that is only skin deep.

What can a God who knows nothing of pain and suffering offer me in my dark nights of the soul? Sharing the love of God with others without sharing the tragedy of all tragedies at the Cross robs our listeners of The Anchor of Hope that comes with knowing that, as the God-Man, Jesus Christ suffered. He knows of our suffering, knows how to pray for us, and knows how to use it for bringing us closer to Him.

And, regarding our own spiritual journey, if “take up your cross and follow me” means anything, it means Christ does not promise us the American Dream. What He does promise to do is use what St Paul called our “dying to self,” for our soul’s sake, for the sake of our increased union with God, and being further conformed to His image.

Tragedies and sufferings, in and of themselves, do not redeem or restore us to God. This can only happen when we choose to convert them by seeing it as a means to an end. It is only through transcending the suffering by embracing Christ’s cross and then taking up our own for His sake, for love’s sake, that we open the door to a deeper union with Him.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

1 comment:

  1. Green (or blue), white, and red martyrdom. Sometimes these are involuntary and the Christ who saves us knows them all.