This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Ferenc Visky (Mr. Visky and his wife, both Romanian, write in a moving way about their life with the Lord despite heavy persecution), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
...You know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:9)
God never tests us without comforting us as well. But the comfort is not always what we expect it to be.
It was the sixth year of my detention and I didn't know anything about my wife and seven little children who had stayed behind in the vicarage. The eldest of the children was only ten years old when I left them.
One evening, another group of prisoners arrived at the Szamosujvar prison. They came from the Danube delta and among them was a pastor who recognized me. He came to me and softly said to me: 'I don't want to upset you, but I have to tell you something. On good authority, I know that your family have been deported to a temporary accommodation close by the prisoners' work area.'
At first, I was deeply shocked by this message: weren't they satisfied with the sentence of twenty-two years' imprisonment? Did they also have to intrude into the lives of my wife and children? My heart was craving for strength and comfort. In this awful inner struggle, the Lord answered me. Like a flash of lightning, the words came to my mind: '...your brothers are undergoing the same kind of suffering.'
An inexpressible joy filled my heart and I gave thanks to the Lord for the favor which he allowed my wife and children to share. They, too, had become bearers of Christ's wounds. Gratitude and peace filled my heart. To the present day, I experience what a rich source of blessing these four years of severe suffering have been in the lives of our children. If you say 'yes' to God's unusual comfort, your life, too, will be full of immeasurable blessing.
A moment of introspection: As intercessors, we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters--remembering those who are in prison "as if in prison with them." There, where the persecution occurs, we see our Christian family suffering. Early in the book of Job, Job's friends came upon him, and they were taken aback, "...for they saw that his suffering was very great." (Job 2:13b) We shudder, too, at the sight of suffering and pain of Christians attacked for their faith. We go there, for there we suffer alongside them. Paul encouraged Timothy to "...not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God." (2 Timothy 1:8)
As we come to suffer alongside our family of faith, we take part in the awareness that our "brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." Brother Ferenc had been incarcerated because of his faith in Christ. He entered the prison--seeing the effects of the "adversary the devil" prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking [and finding] souls to devour. (1 Peter 5:8-9) Yet he also met a fellow man of the cloth, who brought Pastor Visky some bad news. His family also had been arrested and imprisoned. How Satan tried to devour him, in the following moments. He questioned, in shock, the brutality of the prison officials; he struggled to make sense of the awful news. And... the Lord responded through the Scripture of 1 Peter 5:9. He described the feeling he received from the Scripture as "inexpressible joy" for the favor God had granted him. As a parent, he had tried to help his children understand what it meant to be a child of God living in Romania. Yet the Lord had another lesson in mind for Ferenc's family. They too were imprisoned for their faith. What God had begun in the stories and teaching of Ferenc Visky, He now completed with their own experience. Proverbs 22:6 entreats parents to "train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Both Ferenc and God had a lesson in mind in bringing the father's lessons into a personal reality. Their own love for God would be tested in the fire, and strengthened and inured through tribulation, thereby incorporating their own faith in the very fibers of their souls; their lives in the future would bear testimony to the power of God in the midst of the storm--a power to deliver and to save.
So how can we understand the inexpressible joy that Ferenc felt when he heard of his family being imprisoned? Perhaps James' words (James 1:2-4) came to mind: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Or perhaps Paul's reflection about suffering came to forefront of Pastor Visky's thinking: "... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5) Ferenc prayed when he "craved strength and comfort", for James reveals a tool to employ when suffering--"Let him pray". (James 5:13) God answered his prayer. God brought Scripture to mind, and does this today when one takes care to memorize God's Word. Scriptures go on to say that enduring sorrows while suffering unjustly, is a gracious thing when one is mindful of God. (1 Peter 2:19)
In this story of a Pastor's imprisonment and his learning that his own family have likewise been taken, we also struggle. God's Word tells us that our heavenly Father experienced His own Son's imprisonment, torture and execution. May we as well be found faithful in our own lives, amid trials and tribulations. God's Holy Scriptures encourage us, also, as we read in 1 Peter 4:12-14: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."
In the coming times, as the world struggles in sin, we may find ourselves facing the slings and arrows of life (Shakespeare, Hamlet) which have oft beset Christian martyrs in the past and in the present. We are indeed witnesses to the Truth, showing forth the Light of Christ in a darkening world. Let us set our face to live for Christ. If we are parents, may we also help our children understand what it means to live for Him--what it means to witness to the Truth. If we suffer and/or if they suffer, may we too know both a joy that cannot be put into words, and Christ's profound peace. It is within our grasp--God offers both. In this we can find encouragement (Philippians 2:1-9) and God's unusual comfort. Life in Christ? Let's get to it.