“Pick One”

A very old saying tells us that “time heals all wounds.” It does. It can also make us forget scars that we would do well to remember. August 15 marked the 78th anniversary of the end of World War II. I imagine that two years from now we will see massive celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Axis Powers, primarily Germany and Japan. But the War’s end has a dark companion anniversary: the discovery of the Holocaust perpetrated on Jewish and other people.

Shortly after the discovery, the phrase “Never Again” became a global mantra. But the passing of eight decades can cause the deepest scars to fade. So here is just a brief list of facts to remind us:

The Holocaust, the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews:

  • Herded into train cars like cattle.
  • Forced into concentration camps.
  • 6 million Jews killed (12-14 million people total).
  • Gassed, shot and subjected to horrific medical experimentation.
  • Men, women and children; no one was spared.

Also worth remembering is trace evidence of how some responded to the horrors they faced. Here are two examples:

“If there is a god, he will have to beg for my forgiveness.”– Anonymously carved into the wall of Cell Block 20, Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp.

Then, there is this one:

I believe in the sun, though it be dark;
I believe in God, though He be silent;
I believe in neighborly love, though it be unable to reveal itself.

Several sources claim the second passage also was found scrawled on a concentration camp wall. It wasn’t. Blogger Everett Howe unearthed the true story. It turns out it was written on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany:

Catholic Scouts had discovered underground passageways which had been unused for many years under old buildings, and these could now serve as refuges from the Gestapo. At one point, nine Jewish fugitives hid here for four months without ever being caught.

The following inscription is written on the wall of one of these underground rooms, which in some ways resemble the Roman catacombs: “I believe in the sun, though it be dark; I believe in God, though He be silent; I believe in neighborly love, though it be unable to reveal itself.” (Trans. of original article published June 26, 1945 in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Nachrichten by an unnamed reporter writing from Cologne.)

Howe’s work was reported by Debi Simons, as she was investigating the origin of the song “Even When He is Silent,” which is based on the passage. So, what does this mean for us? God willing, we will never face anything even close to what Holocaust victims did. But we all face serious trials. Which frame of mind will we choose? The one found at Mauthausen-Gusen? Or the one found in a cellar in Cologne?

Will you trust that which you create, can control, or conceive? Or will you trust that there is a God who is truly in control, no matter how dire your circumstances?

With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple. Isaiah 40:18-20 (NIV)

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25-26 (NIV)

In times of despair, we can trust gods we create, or we can turn to the one true God and place our trust in the God who created us, cares for and about us and never abandons us. The person in the concentration camp felt completely alone, even though he or she wasn’t: God was there. And that is understandable. The person who wrote on the cellar wall in Cologne obviously knew that God was there. Each day we are called to make the same choice.

Will we feel God’s presence and rest in it, or look for our circumstances to change, to have man-made idols to worship? And we can share that peace with others:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Which one did you pick today? Which one will you pick tomorrow?

I believe in the sun, though it be dark;
I believe in God, though He be silent;
I believe in neighborly love, though it be unable to reveal itself.

— Pastor Jerry Bader, Samaritan’s Heart Mission Church

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