I think most of us have asked this question before when bad things happen to us. That is a normal response, but not how everyone responds to tragedy.
This morning I was privileged to hear Dr. Edith Eger, Ph. D. She goes by Edie to her friends. Edie was giving her testimony this morning at a men’s breakfast, telling us about being a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp. She was a teenager when her family was taken to the camp. They separated her father from her and the rest of her family as soon as they arrived and they never saw him again.
The Germans then took her Mom and put her in a line with other Jews. She naturally wanted to be with her Mom and her sister. There was a great deal of yelling and confusion, at which time Dr. Joseph Mengele himself took her by the hand and moved her to the other line with her sister. He told her that her Mother was going to take a shower and she would join her soon. She never returned from the showers. When she asked a guard when her Mom would be back, he pointed to the black smoke coming from the chimney and said, “There is your Mom and Dad. They are not coming back.” She later had to dance for the entertainment of Dr Mengele.
Edie had two sisters. One, Klara, was smuggled out of the camp. Edie and her other sister, Magda miraculously survived the torture and murders in the camp. When they were freed from the Germans in 1945, she was only 16 years old and weighed just 40 pounds. They pulled her nearly lifeless body from among the dead. Her back was broken, but never her spirit.
She is a living testimony that God can bring good out of tragedy. She has dealt with her personal demons and has given her life to instilling hope in others. She knows from personal experience that you can only give away something that you personally have. If you want to give hope, you have to have hope. If you want to give peace, you have to have peace. If you want to give love, you have to love yourself.
She learned that there is great power in forgiveness. Revenge is satisfying, but forgiveness is more powerful and transforming. To learn to pray for those that are your captors….those that have tortured and murdered your friends and family before your eyes….that is more than most of us will ever have to face in our lives. That puts things in perspective when we are having a pity party about our “bad day,” or when we are being unforgiving against our friend or family member who offended us.
What I learned from her is that God has a plan for each and every one of us. He has created us uniquely. There is only one you, and one me. Our gifts that we have been given are not just for our own entertainment, but to give to others. Light can transform the darkness, but we have to step in to the light.
I pray that we all recognize our divine purpose and live it to the fullest…giving of our time and talents to God and to others. Edie epitomizes God’s perfect peace, even when she was going through literal Hell. We all have our moments of Hell on earth to some degree. How we respond is up to us. Don’t ask, “Why me?” Ask, “What’s next?”