I waited a long time to finally write this post. It has been swirling around in my head for a few weeks now. I have something in my heart I want to get out but how to put it into words is where things get difficult. How to write my thoughts without sounding dramatic or alarming? A subject close to my heart yet very hard for me understand. I want to understand… or maybe I don’t? I want know Christ, but is to know Him to know His sufferings? What does that mean for me?
This what I have wanted to write about before. Honestly my two previous posts have been lacking because of my procrastination in writing about this subject.
A few years ago I knew the Lord was leading me to read some books I had put off reading. They were books about persecuted Christians, martyrs and others who had been imprisoned and tortured for their faith. To be honest living in a Muslim country in a post 9/11 world I felt I had enough fears and I thought reading about those type of things were just too much for me. Now I am ashamed at my lack of faith in God.
I was a nervous wreck. I listened very closely to every word of caution other missionaries gave. They told stories and gave examples of what would be foolish or unheard of to do here. Things that would get us in trouble. Lists of what not to do. The lists were long, very long. I saw the fear in the others working here. I just knew the fear I was feeling was normal and it was ok to be afraid. I excused my negative and fearful thoughts and tried to make the best of life in a Muslim land. The people were kind and I began to really focus on learning the culture and language. Those things were and are important to me. Yet still my fear remained.
When I felt challenged to read the stories of faithful men and women of the past, some the not so distant past even, I knew God wanted to teach me something about faith. Something about who He is. These stories changed my life and helped in preparing me for things to come.
I started reading Richard Wurmbrand’s “Tortured For Christ” and his wife Sabina’s, “The Pastor’s Wife”. Those books changed my life. It just really put things in perspective for me.
Here is a seven minute testimony that can help you be familiar with Richard Wurmbrand if you are not already. He and his wife were both imprisoned for many years for their faith.
Next I read a book called, “I Found God in Soviet Russia” by John Noble. This is a story about an American imprisoned in Russia at the end of WWII. One thing that really stuck out to me in this book was something he said that God used to help get him through his time in prison while the Soviets were starving him. He became a believer in prison through the testimony of faithful Christians also imprisoned. He was not initially put in prison for being a Christian. He tells of a night he had decided to give up. He hadn’t eaten in days and his spirit was very weak. He said at the moment he thought to give up he felt God encouraging him. Telling him to think about what time it was in the West. In the West where he could be sure there were many Christian praying for their dinner meals or saying prayers before drifting off to sleep in the safety and comfort of their homes. In those prayers being spoken to the Father he was certain there were many believers praying for him. They would certainly be praying for the imprisoned brethren. The imprisoned members of their body.
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them: and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
He said he was sure that these prayers of his fellow believers in the West were what got him through. What helped his faith to be strengthened.
As I read those words, “the West” I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. What a responsibility we have to obey in this area. I am an American. I am part of “the West”. Not that my geographical location makes me more responsible. However I have come to understand more and more the freedoms I have been blessed with simply because of where I was born. The simple fact that I am not in bonds states my responsibility to pray for those who are.
I knew what God was showing me. I was willing to go to all lengths to avoid any kind of persecution. I wanted us to be as “careful” as possible. I spent my time worrying. I would allow myself to dwell on thoughts of what could possibly happen. I would play out worse case scenarios. Yet never had I stopped being so selfish to think and pray for those who were in the middle of persecution. Those imprisoned. Those truly living out all of my horrible thoughts. I remember hurting so bad inside. I felt overwhelmed by the sin of extreme selfishness.
I printed off pictures of two imprisoned Iranian girls just a little older than me who were be held for their refusal to deny Christ. I put their picture on my refrigerator and prayed for them daily until their release. I saw how God was changing me. He helped me take my thoughts captive and focus them on praying for those in places I could not imagine being in.
Through all of this and other personal experiences and the testimonies of close personal friends I have also come to another conclusion: Being comfortable cannot be my life goal as a believer. That is not a Christ-like ambition. To have a normal life. Though sometimes I think I want it, it is not really what I want! I have read about (and seen) that those who have experienced these horrible and extremely difficult things have been given the privilege to know my Savior in a special and amazing way. I want that. Though it is scary to say. I want that. There is great joy for those who suffer for His name.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
REJOICE, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
In writing all this the I want to remind you to pray with me for those in prison or suffering for their faith in our Heavenly Father. They are our brothers and sisters. Our prayers really do make a difference.
As a prayer tool I have added a list of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted.
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- Myanmar (Burma)
- Palestinian Territories
You may have seen Pastor Saeed Abedini on Fox news. Here is a link to a recent article about him. He is our new face on the refrigerator.
All in all God is teaching me so much about Himself through the testimony of these faithful brothers and sisters. I pray for myself and my family to be strong and ready for our challenges to come confidently knowing that though times may be very scary we will come out on the other side, wherever that may be, knowing Christ more.