Check out this 10 minute reflection, including thoughts on the Bible, suggested prayer and points to think through…
Imagine living in a place where following Jesus is considered so wrong that Christian children are taught to expect that a time will come when their parents will be arrested and taken away. Shocking isn’t it? but would you be able to cope if it happened to you? Would you be prepared?
You would come home from school or college, find the house in a mess and your parents missing. You wouldn’t know where they were, why the lap-tops had been taken or why there were books tipped all over the floor. Drawers and wardrobes would be emptied everywhere. There would be signs of a struggle. Things would be broken. It’d be devastating.
In Iran dozens of church leaders are imprisoned indefinitely, simply because they are committed to telling others about Jesus. Christian parents warn their children of what to expect. You see, being a Christian, especially a convert, can lead to arrest, or even death.
Lily’s* mum was a housewife, but she was also involved in leading a church.
“We started preparing our daughter Lily* for persecution when she was still in primary school. ‘Don’t worry,’ we told her. ‘The Bible tells us it is normal to be persecuted as believers. They will take us to prison, ask us some questions, and hit us. Then we will come back.’
“It was an early winter morning when the authorities came. Lily was 12 at the time and had already left for school. They searched everything. Then they ordered my husband and me to come with them.
“I insisted that I call my sister before coming with them. How could they let a 12-year-old come home to an empty house – a house she didn’t even have a key to? Reluctantly, they let me call.
“I knew what Lily would do when she was picked up from school by my sister – she would pray for us. And when she was afraid, she would pray more. She would also call a friend in our ministry like we had instructed her to do. This friend had promised to take care of Lily while we were in prison.”
“In prison, my husband and I were split up. I was allowed to call Lily four times a week. I was interrogated daily. Soon they found my weak point: my little girl. I told them everything they wanted to know about myself, but I refused to give the names of others. ‘Okay,’ they told me, ‘as long as you won’t give names, you can’t call your daughter.’ I was devastated. Back in my cell, I couldn’t stop crying.”
“I couldn’t sleep that night. On top of everything it was freezing cold. It was mid- winter with no heating and the windows of my little cell were broken. But while I was praying, all of the sudden I felt a warm wind stroking my cheeks. ‘Take it in,’ I heard the Lord saying.
“With every breath of warm air I took, I felt my body being lled with joy. I had to dance for joy and praise God. All night I was dancing for the Lord. I had the strength to put my beloved daughter in the hands of God.”
All night I was dancing for the Lord. I had the strength to put my beloved daughter in the hands of God.
“Not long afterwards I was released, as was my husband. I learned that on that cold night in prison, my fellow believers had been praying for me to receive peace and joy. I saw His light most clearly in the darkest of circumstances. He cared for me and he was working in me. He still does, I feel this very clearly every single day.
“I was very happy to see my little Lily again. She told me that she had been praying a lot for us. Spending these times in prayer and trusting the Lord in everything was a completely new experience for her. Looking back, she says that she never grew more in her faith than during that time we were in prison. I gave my Lilly into the hands of the Lord, and He had taken care of her.”
There’s so much in this story. There’s the fact that Lily and her parents knew following Jesus would cost them. Then there’s the fact that they were prepared to endure su ering and being split apart as a family because of Jesus. Then there’s the commitment – and amazing answers – to prayer.
For Lily and her mum, the times when they could have felt that following Jesus was ruining their lives were the times they chose to dig in, to depend ever more on Him and to pray. They were prepared. They knew Jesus was worth more than even the most precious relationships they had. Lily’s mum said: ‘I see his light most clearly in the darkest of circumstances’.
The challenge for us in the west isn’t prison. We’re not likely to be arrested, or executed, for choosing to follow Jesus. But Lily and her mum show us that following Jesus costs, and being prepared to follow Him means putting God above everything else – even the things we love most dearly. It’s about heart. It’s about truly knowing He is worth more, and being prepared to give it all for Him. We may never have to give up the things we dearly love for God – He is a loving Father after all – but we need to get our hearts in the right place, seeing Him as the most precious thing we could ever know.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. Psalm 23:5
Read all of Psalm 23
Thank you for my family around the world. Thank you for people like Lily and her mum who have stuck with You no matter what they faced. Thank you too that in the rough times they knew Your goodness, love and provision. I pray for many like them, for families pulled apart because of persecution. Be with mums and dads in prison. Be with the children waiting for their parents to be released. Give them strength, courage, protection and hope. Holy Spirit help me be prepared. Help me see that there is nothing as precious as knowing You. Help me know Your love in incredibly real and tangible ways. Help me depend on You above all else, no matter what the cost, what others think, or where You will lead. Even though these words make me a bit scared and nervous, I know You are loving and good. Help me always know that.
*Names changes to protect the identities of people in the story…
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.