In February, we celebrated the release of Said Musa, our brother in Afghanistan who had been imprisoned for his faith in Christ. One of the crucial elements that led to his release was the publication of letters that he wrote while in prison. ICC worked with contacts inside Afghanistan to gain access to these letters and make them known to the world. Said’s nine letters (which you can find here) not only detail his experience inside prison, but they also collectively provide a picture of a man engaging with God to come to grips with suffering and learn to live as a light in the midst of darkness.
The Father has a way of making pearls out of immense pressure. There is much the Western church can glean from the lives of our brothers and sisters who are shaped daily by this kind of pressure. In addition to encouraging you to read Said’s letters, I want to share a few pearls I’ve drawn from a letter written last year by Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was arrested in October of 2009 and remains in prison today, facing the death penalty for his faith in Christ.
Pastor Youcef begins his letter by asking his brothers and sisters to remember him and “those who are bearing efforts for His name” in their prayers, but devotes the majority of his letter to encouraging the Church. Drawing heavily on Scripture, he reminds us that though “heaven and earth will fade, His word will still remain,” and encourages us to “commit [our] souls to the faithful Creator” and “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.”
We are reminded that trials are not to be considered strange in the life of the believer but counted as joy as we participate in Christ’s suffering:
“As we have learned from Him in Gethsemane, He surrendered His will to the Father, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.’ What we are bearing today is a difficult, but not unbearable situation, because neither has He tested us more than our faith and our endurance, nor does He do such. …Consider these bumps and prisons as opportunities to testify to His name.”
Giving us a clue as to the key to his own patience in suffering, Youcef writes,
“Have we not read and heard: because straight is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Many attempt to flee from their spiritual tests, and they have to face those same tests in a more difficult manner, because no one will be victorious by escaping from them, but with patience and humility he will be able to overcome all the tests and gain victory.”
Pastor Youcef signs his letter with a challenging question from Scripture, “As a small servant, necessarily in prison to carry out what I must do, I say with faith in the word of God that He will come soon, however, ‘when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’”