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Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman in Sudan, was sentenced to death for her faith this week. 8 1/2 months pregnant with her second child, she sits in shackles at this very moment waiting for a trial that will cost her life. Her husband, Daniel, a believer as well is doing all he can to save his wife from the unjust punishment. Everything within me wants to jump on a plane and save my sister-in-Christ. But tears filled my eyes as I read 1 Peter 2:18 today. Meriam is living out 1 Peter in real life. Her faith is being tested to the end. She is walking through the fire and coming forth as gold. Though shackles are on her feet, she is truly free.
“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it fi, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example.” (emphasis mine)
Did you get that? We have been called to suffer, like Meriam, for Christ. Twice the Scripture calls it a “gracious thing” to suffer for the gospel. Gracious? This word means “commendable, thank-worthy, precious in God’s sight.” God is pleased when we suffer because that is how we truly know Him. We fellowship with Christ when we suffer and have been called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Last January, my family’s life turned upside down in one day. I was traveling back from my honeymoon with my husband when we received a text from my dad saying my mom was at the emergency room. If you’ve ever had a moment like that, you know the feeling of having the entire world spinning out of control all around you. It is overwhelming. In just a few days she had lost all movement and feeling in her legs and was completely blind in her left eye. No one knew what was happening. My eyes are still stinging with tears thinking back on her suffering. Yet, through her pain and fear of the unknown, she shared the gospel. Every nurse that came into her room heard about Jesus and was prayed for. They fell in love with her because she didn’t complain about her suffering, but boasted about her God. (You can read more of her story and her thoughts on this experience here.)
Lately, it seems that suffering has surrounded me. After my mom’s diagnosis and physical struggles, my pastor was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer, a friend lost her husband and now another friend recently lost her son. In everything my heart has broken and my spirit cries out to God – yet He consistently answers me with His peace and His truth. Suffering shouldn’t be a surprise to us as Christians. Jesus told us that we would face suffering, just like He did. It is not a possibility, it is a certainty in this world. But we can cling to the cross of Christ and the joy of His salvation! We have the greatest news of all living in us, conquering fear, overcoming trials and trampling down the Enemy’s tactics. Through Jesus, we have overcome.
In 2010, I was able to travel to the Holy Land. As I walked down the Via De La Rosa, or the “Way of Suffering,” that Christ walked with the heavy cross on his back, my heart was gripped with the reality of it all. I am called to this. I am called to carry my cross every single day. To walk in the footsteps of Christ, dying to the world, living to Him. The way of suffering looks different everyday. For my mom, she has gone through physical suffering and pain (and still is not fully healed yet gives glory and praise to God). For Meriam in Sudan, she may lose her life for her steadfast faith in Christ. You may not lose your life physically, but you are called to give up the right to yourself and let Christ reign. Your attitude, your belongings, your job, your children, your husband, you home, your future…it is all Christ’s.
It is a gracious thing to suffer for Christ. Let us give thanks in all circumstances, by the grace and power of God within us. Today, would you get on your knees with me and pray for Meriam and the persecuted church? May we never take advantage of our freedom in America. We have been entrusted with freedom to share the gospel boldly. Stand firm in your faith and let’s support our sister through prayer and living unashamedly for Christ!
your sister, Gretchen