Over a year ago, almost 300 girls ages 16-19 were kidnapped from their boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria. As violent men threatened these young women, putting them in open trucks, split-second opportunities emerged for many of them to escape. Whether hanging from tree branches above the vehicles or jumping from the truck beds onto the ground below, these opportunities for freedom required amazing amounts of courage, skill, and good– almost miraculous– timing . While we cannot even begin to imagine the thoughts and feelings of these young girls as they were being driven into lives of captivity, the last-minute decisions made by many of them to escape were surely made in a mix of both desperation and amazing, even divine, resolve. These women knew nothing of their futures if they decided to jump: uncertainty, even regarding their very lives, hung over them like the branches they were about to grab. Yet, they chose the uncertainty– chose the imminent danger of death, injury, or being re-captured and harshly punished– over the complete certainty of being kept alive (for at least a while) even in the face of captivity.
No one but the girls themselves can speculate on the reasons for why they chose to either jump or stay seated. But one thing is observable, at least for some of them: in that truck bed, fear was either succumbed to or met with its fiercest opposition in existence, faith. This seemingly small, yet important choice they were faced with– to either submit or to fight– would change their lives forever.
While we may be very far away from any active warfare or terrorism, we all face a battle daily. We can either be enticed to compromise and succumb to our temptations and fears, or, as the apostle Paul said, “…stand [our] ground, and after [having] done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV- “our” and “having” mine). One man in the old testament named Joshua knew this truth very well. Joshua, whose name means “Savior” or “Whose Help is Jehovah,” was chosen by Moses to lead Israel after his death. As one of the twelve men who spied out the Promised Land, Joshua was one of only two men who encouraged Israel to conquer the land despite its intimidating inhabitants (). Because of his faith, he and Caleb were the only two men of their generation who entered into the Promised Land after wandering around the desert for 40 years with the generation after them ().
In the book of Joshua, God gave Joshua a huge undertaking: Told to wipe out the entire population of Canaan in many different battles, Joshua was expected to be completely obedient, extremely courageous, and incredibly faithful to God as Israel’s leader (). Yet, God did not expect Joshua to accomplish this on his own. On the contrary, God consistently comforted, exhorted, and strengthened Joshua to carry out this amazing feat, as is seen in Joshua 1:
“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. …Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.“
(Joshua 1: 5, 7-9, NIV)
God did not command Joshua to build up muscle, train more soldiers, or study war plans of the past. His command was both very simple and very important: to obey and trust the Lord. As is seen here and all throughout Joshua, one idea is made very clear: as long as Israel submitted to, obeyed, and trusted in the Lord, victory would be theirs.
Though Joshua and all of Israel experienced victory through obeying these commands, they were not perfect. For example, after the stunning victory God gave them at Jericho, an Israelite named Aichan disobeyed the Lord by taking plunder for Himself after the Lord explicitly commanded the Israelites to devote all the plunder to God alone (Joshua 7). The consequences were atrocious: the Israelites experienced horrendous defeat at the hands of an army they could’ve easily overcome otherwise, and over 30 Israelites died. Though justice was served by stoning Aichan and his entire family, the Israelites, shocked by the sudden loss of both men and victory, were filled with terror, something that no doubt took much time to recover from (Joshua 7:25; 8:1). Despite these heavy consequences, there was comfort: God, having been repented to, turned back to His people and gave them victory once again. Though they fell, Christ picked them back up, strengthened them, and encouraged them to keep going (Joshua 8:1-3).
Believers have this same comfort. Jesus, dying on the cross, abolished the need to perfectly obey, as the Israelites had to. Christ, in the new Covenant created by His death and resurrection, promises us victory and joy through the simple act of believing Him. Yet, many today live their lives in defeat. Though the over 2,000 precious women abducted by Boko Haram did not end up there of their own accord, but are victims, they live daily harassed by intense fear, condemnation, and oppression by the enemy, both physically and spiritually. For those oppressed today, like the many women in western Africa held captive by darkness and terror– for those who face the fight of today with fear and faltering faith– Christ has words of amazing Love, comfort and strength:
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.”
(Exodus 14:14; Isaiah 41:9-13, NIV)
May all who love Christ take heart, and know the secret of true victory: When you fear (revere) and love Him alone, you need not fear anything else.
 video source, “Exclusive: One Woman’s Story of Escape from Boko Haram”
A year and three days after the one-year anniversary of the Chibok girls kidnapping, many of the men and women whose children are held captive have lost confidence in any man to save their children; at this point, they only have hope in God alone.
For those in grief over this situation, it takes courage just to get out of bed in the morning. Please pray with me, that the parents and loved ones of these beautiful people would not lose heart or hope. Pray that they’d be filled with the bravery needed to believe that their daughters’ situation is not beyond the saving hand of Jesus.
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.“
(Isaiah 41:9, NIV)
(Romans 8:29, NLT)
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.“
(2 Peter 3:9, NIV)
Meet Him– and His foreknown plan for your life– here.