Countless towns in Northeastern Nigeria are full of men, women and children with empty hands, bruised bodies, and busted, broken hearts. In recent months, approximately 130 towns in Northern Nigeria have been under Boko Haram’s seige, with nearly 1.5 million men and women having been forced to flee (source). While millions have fled Boko Haram, inumberable amounts of people have been forced to stay in these seized towns, due to illness, age, or mere lack of opportunity. Trapped by the intense violence found in their towns, these men and women, paralyzed by fear, undergo the traumatic experiences of being kidnapped, “converted” to Islam and forced into marriage or warfare, with execution as their alternative. Suffering the heartbreak of knowing they will most likely never see their loved ones again, they live, scared and oppressed, learning the ways of an evil worldview– both men and women being trained to kill and be killed in the name of allah.
Since their capture in April of 2014, many of the Chibok girls’ parents have suffered to the point of death because of the pain, stress, and utter chaos that has come in the wake of their daughters’ abduction. While at least four died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other fatal illnesses, at least 11 fathers of the abducted girls were killed by Boko Haram in July of 2014. Since then, over 300 more people have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, and the Chibok girls are rumored to have been “married off” to the terrorists after being forcefully converted to Islam. Though these reports mar all hope, seemingly ruining any chance of these girls– or the countless others who have been kidnapped– being released or escaping, I firmly believe there is still hope for their freedom.
Living without their loved ones, practicing muslims– both those abducted and those free (yet enslaved to the fear that their loved ones are lost forever) reach for a god who neither truly comforts nor truly loves. Though their god is one of holiness and righteousness, while being called a god of “peace and love” by moderate muslims, the Qur’an speaks of god only approving of or loving those who do good and follow him, while disapproving and hating those who do evil (Surah 3:31). Commenting on this passage of the Qu’ran, John Gilchrist, the author of this article, stated, “The hearer is exhorted to love God so that he may thereby obtain God’s love and forgiveness. …He seeks by this love fundamentally to turn aside God’s wrath and to gain his approval in its place. Now this is not the fruit of genuine love.” In such times of complete distress, muslims– and truly, all people– yearn to be comforted by a God who loves them unconditionally; yet, bound by the deception of Islam, many pine for the approval of allah, finding no relief or comfort in a god who demands legalistic obedience in exchange for a love based on how “righteous” or “unrighteous” the believer is. Finding no relief in allah himself, many grow bitter and cold, refusing to seek God at all; others, worn down by the sheer sorrow of their situation, attempt suicide, or, in worse cases, pursue martyrdom in hopes of recieving allah’s love and blessing. Each fate, uncomprehendingly dark, swallows people up, allowing satan to gain victory. Surely, this is much reason for grief.
But, the truth of the matter is that God, YHWH, Jesus Christ– the One True Living God of all things (Jeremiah 32:27; 1 Corinthians 8:6, NIV)— personally knows, deeply cares for, and yearns to save and interact with each of us in a Love relationship. From the very beginning, God expressed Himself to be “‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.'” (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV). Both perfectly Loving and Just, God made Himself manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, who, being perfect in nature, humbly and lovingly died for the sins of all mankind. The declaration of God’s love for us is this: that “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” and “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10, NIV). Contrary to the “truths” found in Islam and other world religions, the love and comfort of God is freely found in accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior– not in the amount of “good” or “righteous” works one does. Having this knowledge– that God is both omnipresent, nearby wherever one is, and also unconditionally, graciously, passionately, rawly, relentlessly loves each of us– gives one hope, unbelievable comfort, and steady strength to live through the pain of this life. No matter where one finds themselves, whether in bondage or liberation, the powerful Love of Christ Jesus is enough to break every chain, provide healing in every broken heart, and change even the most hate-filled, destructive lives into ones of love, compassion, and humble, joyful service.
It is of the most genuine, supreme comfort to know that nothing in this entire existence, whether Boko Haram, the powers of evil behind such terrorist groups, or the hundreds of miles separating people from their loved ones in such a circumstance– not even death itself– can overpower, nullify, or conquer the Love of Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-39, NIV). Pray that the people of Nigeria, bound and free alike, would experience such love in knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Pray that those in bondage, those oppressing and putting others in bondage, and those mourning their loved ones in bondage would know Jesus personally. Pray that Nigeria would see a revival and renewal in their love for Jesus as hearts, minds, and lives are changed by His love, mercy and grace.
Pray that God’s peace would surround and protect those in bondage. Pray that they’d be strengthened and kept from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3, NIV). Pray their loved ones would not lose hope; pray also that during this time of political strife, the Nigerian public would not forget the cause of those wounded and kidnapped by Boko Haram, as delays in voting have caused many opinions and allegations to be made across the political spectrum.
Pray that the Nigerian military, as they have united with Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, would be effective in raiding and defeating the Boko Haram. Pray that, as men and women within the military come to Christ, they would have bravery, wisdom, and skill in fighting the insurgency.
Pray that the Love of Jesus would change lives within Nigeria. Only the Presence of Christ– only His love alone– can heal what has been made broken.
Do you know Christ?
Jesus loves us exactly where we are at. Whether a religious man or an affirmed atheist, Christ calls us out of our lives, wooing us with His incredible grace and mercy. You may have heard about Jesus Christ; you may even be immersed in the culture that surrounds Him. But, it is a different thing to know Him personally.
Christ came to die for the sins of every human that ever was, is, and will ever be. We, in outright rebellion, chose to reject God and His precepts for our lives; in effect, we were eternally cut off from Him, deserving eternal separation from Him in the form of hell (Genesis 3:1-13; Isaiah 59:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:9, NIV). As the Word so lovingly states, the blood and sacrifice of Christ Jesus– and His resurrection three days later– cut the veil between men and God, declaring that we could have a Personal, life-changing relationship with God through believing in Christ alone (Acts 10:39-40; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Matthew 27:51-52, NIV).
In a saving Love relationship with Jesus, Jesus’ love fulfills, strengthens, and grows us into the men and women we were meant to be. Walking with Christ does not remove pain, loss, or trial from our lives– in fact, Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33, NIV)– but Jesus, in His great, unfailing Love, promises to love us, lead us into a deeper relationship with Him (leading us into all Truth), and walk with us every step of the way. Psalms 23 and 139 speak of God’s omnipresence, great love, protection, and encouragement in every area of our lives. While this means that Christ will sometimes lead us a different way than what we want, it ensures that, if we seek, trust, and obey Him, He will lead us by “green pastures and quiet waters (Psalm 23:2-3, NIV).” As we know and love Christ as our Lord, Savior, and friend, Jesus shows us step by step that the most joyous thing in this life (and the one after) is seeking and drawing nearer to Himself in all things.
You know of Christ’s love for you. Do you want to know and love Him back?
Learn more about how to enter into a relationship with Him by clicking here.