I was reading the September 2016 issue of The Voice of the Martyrs, where they feature a story about a persecuted Nigerian Christian. Fourteen year old Danjuma was almost killed by Islamists a little over a year ago, when they had attacked his Christian village. Though he has survived his brutal machete wounds, he is now completely blind in both eyes and will forever require the use of a walking stick (he has been cut in places I cringe to mention). Upon finishing his story, I bowed my head and began to cry. It was not his horrifying story that troubled me – it was his picture: Danjuma had been photographed smiling radiantly. I didn’t understand how he was able to do it: his village was burned down and attacked; his body was wounded to the point where neighbors went ahead and dug a grave for him; he can no longer see the world around him and is unable to freely function the way others do; we can also imagine that he lost friends and relatives. And yet Danjuma not only beams as though he is the happiest boy in the world, but even possesses the strength to forgive and pray for those who cruelly harmed him! Now that is something to admire. How is it even possible to have such a joyful response in the midst of such severity? The concept seems entirely foreign to us Christians on this side of the map, and we don’t even experience that kind of suffering!
Why Are We So Miserable?
When we take a spiritual analysis of us American believers, we have to admit that we don’t find ourselves radiating with that kind of jubilance in the midst of our first-world trials. Even when perils strike our modern nation or personal lives, we don’t showcase full confidence and strength in our Lord; we don’t hope in the promise that He’ll see us through to the end. Instead, our faith is wrecked the minute a tempest comes our way! I’ve seen it get so bad for some people that they’re routinely checking in at the doctor’s office just to find a way to cope with their circumstances. Is this to be our lot here on earth? That we scrabble at anti-depressants and drugs just to get ourselves through the days?
Now, we know that it is out of much affliction that Christians will enter the kingdom of God (see Acts 14:22). But does Jesus want us to be completely miserable while these afflictions last? I don’t believe so. If we read Acts 5, we find that the early disciples were imprisoned, put on trial, and then beaten for preaching the gospel… but they walked away totally thrilled that they had been shamed for Christ’s sake. So it’s possible (and Biblical!) to have joy within sufferings. So… why don’t we have it?
Christ Has Not Been All
I’m not suggesting that we do a victory dance the minute we see that our bank accounts are at zero, or smile giddily when those medical tests come back positive, but if it’s possible for a believer from Borno to declare, as she was bleeding to death, “I am a Christian and I am dying today, so to God be the glory,” then it’s possible for us to remain undefeated when a dark and stormy trial comes our way.
We must not lack in our faith. It is crucial that we live in true discipleship unto Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this is not true for many “believers” today. They are living a false life, calling themselves followers of the Lord, but the truth is, Christ is not their life. They do not esteem Jesus as their all; they are not looking forward to His being their all in all on a daily basis. He is simply not enough to them, and that is why He is never enough during their trials.
Unlike third-world countries, America has its witty inventions and conveniences; naturally we depend on those things to take care of us instead of God – and not only that, we crave these things in our lives more than we crave Him. The great contrast between Danjuma’s Christian faith and ours is that he has Christ and nothing but Christ, but we have Christ and then something along with Christ. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have certain things, but if we consider the things of the world as more valuable than Jesus Christ, then at the moment a fire strikes, we will find ourselves burned.
Look at our persecuted brethren – they have nothing of this world but they have everything because Jesus is literally their all in all. They’ll go through whatever they have to go through for His sake and they are honored to be taken from this world at any given moment because He truly means everything to them. But we, as long as the world before us remains our prize, will be unable to consider Jesus our prize, and so, when our trials come, He will not be greater than our trials.
Jesus Christ Must Be Everything
What defines a Christian is that their life is given to, and lived out for, Jesus Christ. If He is the object of our faith, then it is impossible for the Christian to be fazed by anything (you name it!) of this world.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NKJV
Christ needs to be our All in All: in sufferings, in persecutions, in sickness, in wars, in family issues and the like. Jesus Christ is to be superior to it all – and He will be, if we look for Him to be. If He is everything to us, then, no matter what we go through, the Lord will remain the center of our focus.
If He is our all, then we shall overcome all.
“Christians are meant to have the same vocation as their King, that of cross-bearers. It is this conscience of a high calling and of partnership with Jesus which brings gladness in tribulations, which makes Christians enter prisons for their faith with the joy of a bridegroom entering the bridal room.” – Richard Wurmbrand