Restoration: Facing the Pain and Suffering

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Facing the Pain and Suffering

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As I looked closely into my guide's eyes, I could see the lingering pain and the unanswered question. Although she was much closer to the situation than I was, she still had no answer after many years. It was my third visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Jewish dead of the Holocaust. Of all the world's memorials to this catastrophic break with civilization, Yad Vashem is most poignant in what it offers within the setting of the ancient land of Israel. You are sobered and shaken after a walk through the grounds. The first stop for a visitor is the memorial to the children who perished in the camps and ghettos. One and a half million children perished in the Holocaust. The Hall of Candles, where the light is infinitely reflected through a display of mirrors, makes one think of God's promise that not one little one would be lost or forgotten. God holds their memories in eternity, awaiting the day when He will renew their lives in a better world with better promises. Every time I walk through this memorial I am reminded of the hope of the resurrection for the "dead, small and great" (Revelation 20:11-12). The new Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem is more than one can absorb in one visit. On this recent trip I focused on fewer exhibits, taking in the layout of the building and the story it tells. Immediately upon entering, you see a wall of moving images from a vanished world—that of the Jews in Europe in the 1930s. You see children, young couples, old men and women going about their lives in places like Warsaw, Berlin and Prague. These would become the victims. They laugh, they sing and they live on the eve of a great tragedy. They did not know what was coming. We look back in time and struggle not to forget. From this beginning you walk through rooms that tell the story. It is a raw and visceral tale. Here you see the roots of anti-Semitism from the writings of Augustine. In another room you see evidence of the complicity of Poles, Czechs and Ukrainians in the extermination. No one is left out; no one is exonerated. The guilt and shame is spread among all who took part. At one point you stand over a collection of shoes taken from those about to perish. Dark, cracked leather is all that is left of lives that once harbored hope and possibility. The last room you visit in the museum is the Hall of Names, designed to be a repository for biographies of every man, woman and child who perished. Over two million names are recorded here, with room for more than six million. Pictures and pages of testimony are part of a cone that reaches to the ceiling, reflected in a pool of water resting in the bedrock of the mountain on which the memorial stands. From this room, as you exit the memorial, you ascend a short rise and come out onto an open-air platform that causes you to look to the sky and the tops of the trees on the hillside below. It is a cleansing, refreshing pause before moving on with the present. You have to pause and remember, and promise to God that you will never forget. The pain I saw in my guide's eyes is obvious. The question is one for the ages and for all peoples who have suffered. Why did 6 million Jews die in the Holocaust? We could also ponder why Armenians were slaughtered in 1915. Why did tens of millions of Russians and Chinese die at the hands of their own leaders in the middle of the 20th century? Why is there evil and suffering? God does not leave us without answers or solutions. That is the good news, the gospel. The bad news is this world continues to see war and terror bring pain and death to the innocent and guilty, the weak and the strong. And the Bible foretells a time of greater suffering for the nations in the years directly ahead of us. Dealing with this question of evil in our world continues to challenge the skeptic and believer equally. Read or request our free booklet Why Does God Allow Suffering? for the biblical answers. WNP

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