My parents and sister just returned from a vacation in Germany. They visited Dachau, one of the many concentration camps during the Holocaust. My sister picked up a copy of Night and read it on the plane ride back. It was a book that I had wanted to read (Tim Stafford mentions it in his book, Surprised by Jesus, which I recently read), and since I went to Christian school, I had never read many of the classics which are standard in public school.
So I picked it up yesterday and tore through it. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize for this book & it is well deserving. This is a tragic story of this young Jewish boy and his struggle for survival after his town was raided and all the Jews were evacuated to Auschwitz, and later to Buchenwald. It is a heart-breaking story and one filled with lost hope and pleas to God.
I visited Dachau when I was 13 on a mission trip I took with Royal Servants. Even cleaned up it was terrible. Bodies piled upon bodies, conditions you would not wish on any animal.
I have absolutely no idea of how I would react in a situation like that, or how I would respond after the fact. Mr. Wiesel lost hope in the situation and gained hatred after the fact. These are both very natural, almost expected reactions. One would be more astonished at the absence of these reactions.
Which is why Jesus is such a compelling person. The duration may not have been as long as the Holocaust, but Jesus prayed for those who mistreated him and unimaginably forgave them. Forgiveness is a lost spiritual discipline in our day and age. Jesus spoke about forgiving others because we have been forgiven much (Matthew 18.21-35). It would be near impossible to forgive someone, if you haven't yet realized what you have been forgiven of.
Another thing that struck me we the quick dissipation of hope. Again, I have not been remotely in this sort of situation, and cannot say how I would react (I would hope more like Paul and Silas in prison, than Mr. Wiesel, but probably somewhere in between). Last night, I lead my small group through 1 Timothy. We are discussing finances, but I was struck by Paul's words, "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy". We can put our hope fully in Jesus. He has & he always will prove himself trustworthy. I encouraged them, as I will you, to look back on your life & count the instances in which Jesus has been faithful and one worthy of your hope.