For the most part, the violence that lurks in every corner of the film “Of Gods And Men” takes place off-screen.

Even when the violence does come into view it is more often hinted at than blasted in the viewer’s face.

One of the hints of violence occurs when Jean-Pierre is driving the monastery car through the barren landscape near the monastery. Brother Christophe is a passenger. Around a bend in the road, the two monks approach a road block. There is a bullet-riddled car on one side of the road and two bloodied bodies. It is a brief scene but serves as a grim reminder that the peaceful monks of Tibhirne are surrounded by the threat that violence might engulf them at any moment.

Two minutes later in the movie, Brother Christophe is seen alone in his cell. Struggling with his experience, he cries out to God,

Help me, help me. Don’t abandon me. Don’t abandon me please. Help me.

Christophe is not the first person of faith to feel overwhelmed by the realities of the world and the sense of God’s absence in the midst of suffering.

Long before the creators of the movie “Of Gods And Men” imagined a lonely frightened monk in a war-torn country struggling to sense God’s presence, the Psalmist cried out,

Do not forsake me, O Lord;
O my God, do not be far from me;
make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation.
Psalm 38:21, 22

This is not theology. It is real human experience. Whether we live in a country wracked by violent conflict, or in a family torn by disharmony, or in a body that seems to be letting us down, it is easy to feel abandoned by the force and power of love we call God.

Brother Christophe is reduced ultimately to silence. There is no obvious way forward for the monks. To leave is to abandon people they love, to stay is to live daily in the grip of danger. There is no solution, no obviously right course to follow. Brother Christopher sits in the dark of doubt with his heart broken.

Christmas announces that, it is right here, in the pain of our own poverty and powerlessness, that the God who came as an infant is most present. We need only to resist the temptation to flee.