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Remembering Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize: The power of trusting your past to God

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.


Elie Wiesel smiles
Elie Wiesel, 81 year old Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winning author, smiles during a press conference in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on this day thirty-four years ago for his role as “the world’s leading spokesperson on the Holocaust.” Wiesel lived through the horrors of the Holocaust after he was sent to the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps as a teenager. 

After his release, he became a journalist, but it took him ten years before he felt able to write on what he experienced. His memoir was originally published under the title And the World Remained Silent but is better known to English-speaking audiences as Night. He has since written over forty books on the Holocaust, but Night remains the most prominent. 

While it’s been at least fifteen years since I last read it, his haunting account of what he and others went through remains a powerful and formative influence on my understanding of the period, and the same is true for countless others. 

The platform he gained by poignantly sharing his experiences gave him the platform to become “the leading figure behind the establishment of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.” and positioned him to become an advocate for other persecuted minorities as well. 

How God can redeem your past

My hope and prayer is that no people group ever has to experience what the Jews faced at the hands of the Nazis in World War II, though even now there are people groups like the Uighur Muslims in China who are coming to know something of that struggle. Still, we don’t have to face a historical atrocity for God to be able to use us to help others. 

The willingness to be open about our past is often all the Lord needs to redeem those hardships and struggles in a way that helps others today. 

And it’s all right if it takes a process to reach the point where you’re willing to be open. It took Wiesel ten years, but that process will be as unique to each of us as the experiences that shaped it. What’s important is that we surrender that history to God and allow him to work in and through us as he sees fit. 

There will be times where that process is uncomfortable, and that’s all right too. But, as long as we allow that discomfort to limit what the Lord can do in and through our lives, then we can’t experience the full measure of his redemption, and our potential impact for his kingdom will be diminished. 

So take some time today and ask God if there’s any part of your past that hasn’t been completely surrendered to him. 

Then entrust whatever he shows you to your heavenly Father, knowing that you are his child rather than his tool.

If he chooses to use your past to help others, it will help you as well.