On friday the 17th of November, I got online to view updates on the state of Nigeria and the 219 girls still in captivity after being kidnapped from their boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, on April 14th, 2014.
For 6 months and 13 days, 219 young women and girls have been held. Bound. Crushed, silenced, stifled and killed mentally, emotionally, spiritually by constant, overwhelming fear and dread. Steeped in complete and total darkness, and “married off” like mere playthings to men they’ve never before met, by men who claim that “‘Allah’ told [them] to do so.”
For 6 months and 13 days, 219 young women have lived without the touch of their parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. No human warmth. No rest.
For 6 months and 13 days, 219 young women have lived without the laughter, the chatter, the tastes, the smells, the songs and sounds of their hometown, Chibok.
Since April, approximately 8 major raids, bombings, and massacres have been committed against the people of Northern Nigeria, with countless smaller– yet no less traumatic or gruesome– attacks being made against villages in the Northern and Central portions of Nigeria. These raids, massacres, and terrorists attacks against Christians and non-Christians alike have killed hundreds, while thousands upon thousands of refugees have fled to surrounding states and nations, displaced, homesick and separated from their loved ones.
But days ago, a feeling of disbelief, cautious excitement, and wonder filled me as I read the day’s top headlines:
6 months. After 6 months of painful, discouraging, grievous headlines,
heart-breaking stories of love and loss,
nights worldwide of crying out in frustration and grief, yet, in hope,
painted protest signs,
“#BringBackOurGirls” on social media outlets,
strings of alphabet beads,
and heartfelt prayers to the Lord our God,
there was this— the news, the very words, we had only dreamed of being able to read during this tumultuous, horrific time. It seemed too good to be true.
In reality, it just might be. Only one day after these headlines were produced by major news organizations all over the world, breaking updates reported that the Boko Haram had been involved in 5 different attacks near Niger, killing 8 and “abducting others.” This seemingly broke the ceasefire agreement– putting the validity of these promises in serious jeopardy. Dishearteningly enough, since then, 60 women and girls have been kidnapped from 2 Christian villages in Adamawa state (on Thursday the 23rd), while 30 boys and girls in Northeast Nigeria have been ripped away from their homes over the weekend, with horrible speculations that they will be used as child soldiers.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” –Proverbs 13:12, NIV
This news, this disparaging, appalling complete change of events, leaves more than a nauseating, shocking taste in one’s mouth. It leaves more than a heaviness in the heart, or an outraged anger in the fists. The deferred hope is inexplicable; utter grief, completely unspeakable. This trauma of deferred hope and blatantly denied truth or justice rips up any human-founded hope whatsoever. It makes one to stop believing in hope at all.
This is a time of serious doubt; of vexation; of exasperation beyond measure. It’s a time where all people may ask, “Where is God in such fickle, bitter, evil situations?”– or, on a much more hurtfully blasphemous level, it’s easy to blame God for this sick turn of events, asking with burning and pointed hatred, “If there is a God, why is He so cold, so caustic, so cruel?”
I know how this hope sounds. I’m not a fool.
At this point, such strong hope in ever seeing these girls released sounds pathetic, ignorant, blissfully unaware, naive, a bit insane, and even disrespectful to the girls and their loved ones.
These are real lives we’re talking about. Real blood. Real death. Real loss. Real evil. It’s ugly, it’s full of rage, it’s sadistic, chaotic, and seemingly unrelenting, like a volcano that won’t stop erupting– like rushing waves that keep coming.
Yet, a midst this chaos and uncertainty, there is reason for hope.
Time and time again throughout God’s Word, it is affirmed that 1) God’s word is unshakable.
“Your word is forever, LORD; it is firmly established in heaven.” —Psalm 119:89, ISV
At the beginning of time– before the beginning of time– God’s Word rang true and created the world we live in. Not only does it ring true, it is the Truth. God’s Word is Him, Himself: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NIV). The Word of God’s authority is God’s authority; the creator of Heaven and earth, the God of life itself, is above us, unfathomably holy, fear-inspiring, and the Truth. He is the true reality. His word, being Himself, is completely equal in every regard to His nature.
The God of the Universe carefully, fearfully and wonderfully created us, and knows us deeply (Psalm 139:14, NIV); His Word carefully, fearfully and wonderfully created us, and knows us deeply. If that does not grant it The Utmost authority and trust in our minds, nothing will– but, no matter what the human mind may think concerning this Truth, like God, it remains Truth Eternal, “firmly established in heaven,” completely unmoved.
Only the incredible, awe-inspiring, reverent fear this Truth creates can be filled with the Great Love and Mercy of God. Reading the Word of God, we find promises that are unshakable, and fully reflective of this great Holiness, Justice and Mercy– His wrath for those who don’t trust in His son as their Lord and Savior; His great love, salvation and mercy for those who rely upon Christ for their salvation alone. As the beautiful hymn states, “T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear./ And Grace, my fears relieved./ How precious did that Grace appear/ The hour I first believed.” (Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1779). Trusting in the Lord as our Savior, He is the sure rock we stand upon. With this in mind, we must look to the nature of God, found in His Word, and how His nature is reflected by His truths.
2) God’s word proclaims all throughout that God dearly loves us, forever.
“Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” —Jeremiah 31:3, NLT
God’s word has much to say about His firm love for all people, beings so thoughtfully, beautifully, preciously created in His very image. His word declares that God, being Love, gave man freewill to love Him back. In doing so, God gave us freewill to not choose Him or to love Him; we made this choice, heart-breakingly, and it resulted in the death, destruction, and brokenness seen in all of mankind. Disgustingly enough, life without God through Christ ends in futility, weakness and decay; before Christ came, we had no other choice.
Yet, When God humiliated himself by becoming man in the form of Jesus Christ, we saw Love in the way He truly is: He so Loved us that He surely and decidedly determined that what we did could not interfere any longer with being in perfect communion with Him. He, Loving us as only He can, determined that we were worth the complete humiliation of not only becoming frail man, but dying at the very hands of frail man, His beloved creation. The enduring God of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, the All-Becoming One, is Love. Therefore, the love He has for us is equally unchanging, and eternally true. “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears” (1 Corinthians 13:8, NIV). This love is SO sure, SO unchanging, SO eternal, that the apostle Paul states,
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in
danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39, NLT)
This love is the Love God has for us.
This is the Love God has for His people, His sons and daughters all over the world, and all of His children within Nigeria. This is the love God has for those girls, both newly kidnapped and those held for months upon months– hurting. Bleeding. Starving. Ripped to pieces, yet still hanging on;
alone, bound by the stifling fear, violent sin, and emotional, mental, spiritual death of the enemy.
This love will never let go. It holds up the hands that are weak and the knees that give way. It sobs ugly, undeniable, ever flowing tears with those who sob violently; it holds on when it hurts. It grabs on all the more tightly when everything else in the world tells it to let go. It is completely vulnerable, yet strong; it gets hurt, but goes on loving, anyways. It holds broken shards of glass, knowing those will possibly make it to bleed quite heavily, but yet knowing that only it’s embrace will put the glass back together. It completely deems this sin and ugliness irrelevant; in fact, it charges into this sin and darkness in search of the one trapped by it. It is fierce, it is demanding, it is raw but gentle; it is comforting, overflowing, enlivening, and completely independent of anything that tries to move into it’s way– unstoppable in its resolve to keep audaciously fighting for whom it loves until it wins out.
And Love– Jesus Christ, our Blessed Lord and Savior– always wins.
And because this is the Love Jesus Christ has for all these beautiful, broken, precious, rare, unfathomably, fearfully and wonderfully created girls, boys, men, and women– muslims, Christians, Jews, Boko Haram members, victims, clergy, government officials, the vulnerable and violent alike–
a love freely given and fully supplied FOREVER and UNCHANGINGLY, because HE is the ONLY ONE WHO SAVES, NOT ANY OTHER–
we have a scandalously bold hope in Him. This love allows us to look at any situation– no matter the pain, the ugliness, the bleakest chance, or the grief– with the full assurance that our Rock stands firm forever, His word is the Truth, His promises are “yes and amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20), and we will not be shaken.
He, my beloved, is our reason for hope. I pray we look at and into Him all the more.