Sometimes when I read I will come across a line in a book that impacts me so much that it is riveted in my memory for a couple days before I can really say why it struck me. I will mull over it in my head subconsciously for some time until I am able to fully digest the significance for my life. That’s how most of these blog posts come about – I formulate them in my mind from a line or passage that I’ve been thinking about for days, weeks, or months, then finally sit down and write them out to clear my head.
One passage in particular that struck me like that from Nightis the story of when Wiesel was in the hospital because of an injury to his foot. The end of the war was drawing near, and so the hope of deliverance was growing in the concentration camp. Wiesel recounts that he was put in a bed next to a Hungarian Jew who had dysentery to the point that his voice was the only sign that he was even alive at all. He became known as “the faceless one.” During their stay at the hospital, there was a rumor that their camp was close to being freed by the Red Army, and so Wiesel and his neighbor began to discuss the sound of gunshots that they heard that night:
My neighbor, the faceless one, said: “Don’t let yourself be fooled with illusions. Hitler has made it clear that he will annihilate all the Jews before the clock strikes twelve, before they can hear the last stroke.”
I burst out: “What does it matter to you? Do we have to regard Hitler as a prophet?”
His glazed, faded eyes looked at me. At last he said in a weary voice: “I’ve got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He’s the only one who’s kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.”
When I first read those last two lines, I was shocked that someone could say that. I could understand the Jews in Auschwitz asking “Where is God?” But who would put faith in Hitler? Of all people, Hitler? – ask anyone and they would label him one of the most evil men to ever walk the earth. How could someone regard Hitler as a prophet and put their faith in him? And how could a Jew of all people say that about Hitler, when he himself had lived through and seen all that Hitler had done to the Jews?
But then I realized – I’m not so different. It’s shocking for me to read that someone would put their faith in Hitler – but how many times have I put my faith in something far worse? How many times have I repeated that self-same quote in my life, but replaced Hitler with Sin? I essentially say,
“I’ve got more faith in Sin than in you, God. Sin always keeps it’s promises, all it’s promises to me, but I have yet to see you keep any of yours.”
Sin always delivers on the pleasure I expect, or it gives me the comfort I need in the moment, or frees me from the consequences I don’t want. When the war is raging around me and I’m desperate for something now, I hear the lies of Sin telling me that the “Red Army” is too far away and will never reach me to deliver me from the concentration camp. It’s sometimes too easy to put my faith in Sin. At least Sin gives me stale bread and soup to eat.
But I forget that what Sin really wants is to kill me, just like Hitler. That’s the real promise of Sin. Satan comes to “steal, kill, and destroy,” and he wants to deliver on that promise (John 10:10; 1 Pet 5:8). His promises may look appealing for the moment, but they always lead to death. John Owen is right when he says, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Sin isn’t concerned about my well-being or freedom. Sin doesn’t mind giving me some fleeting pleasure or comfort or food in order to keep me coming back for more. But like Hitler, it’s end goal is to kill me – not free me. Sin is much more subtle than Hitler though.
I have to remind myself that God promises life – and not just life, but eternal life! We can trust God on his promises – that which he promises he will perform (Rom 4:21) and he is not slow in keeping his promises (2 Peter 3:9). It is often hard to see in the middle of the concentration camp, when we hear gunfire and feel like we’ve been abandoned in the hospital – but he is faithful. That’s when I need those on the hospital bed next to me to remind me of God’s goodness. That’s when I need the praises and prayers of the saints to drown out the voice of the “faceless one” who would have me trust Sin instead of God. That’s when I need to say with the Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget none of his benefits…” (Psalm 103:1-5).
You can read the first one here: Where is God? (Part I)